Mississippi Flavor

The weather for Ole Miss baseball's trips to Jackson and suburban Pearl through the years for non-conference games against in-state rivals Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State has been mostly cooperative. This season is testing those norms.

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Auston Bousfield from Jeff Roberson on Vimeo.

Two weeks ago it was Ole Miss-USM that was washed out as fans and teams waited and watched before the game was finally called more than an hour and a half after the scheduled start.

Heavy rains are supposed to be out of the area before today's 6:30 p.m. start of the Governor's Cup between Ole Miss and MSU. Predictions have near 100 percent chances diminishing greatly by first-pitch.

It's not an easy thing dealing with this type situation for baseball programs and others involved. With both teams having to travel several hours to get there, field preparation being a factor, the Atlanta Braves AA team having at least some say in how playing on Trustmark Park's field might affect their team's playing surface, corporate sponsors, ticket holders, well, you get the picture.

Some may think it's as easy as just a phone call between two head coaches to decide whether a game will go on or not in a case like this. But there are numerous pieces of the puzzle to be sorted out. And throughout the day there will be a lot of phone calls, text messages, emails, and sit-downs at the stadium to try to figure out what to do.

But the plans are for the show to go on, and the teams will be traveling toward the capital city and its suburbs this afternoon.

Sometimes those involved make the best of it. For the UM-USM contest two weeks ago, the end results were some good-natured skits and dance-offs between the Rebels and Golden Eagles. Not only were the players and a couple of thousand fans who stuck around entertained, the whole world got in on the action as news outlets and internet videos ran rampant.

Keep On Hitting

Rain even forced the Rebels, 24-12 this season, into the Indoor Practice Facility Monday as they got ready for the Bulldogs. One thing they talked about was becoming more productive in scoring runs since they actually hit the ball well most games. Like 20 hits and only eight runs in a 8-3 victory at Georgia in that series finale.

"Just keep hitting," said Tanner Mathis, confident the Rebels are close to being even more productive at the plate.

The team's batting average is better than last season. With half a conference season to go, the Rebels are collectively hitting .315, led by Alex Yarbrough's impressive .421 average to date. Last year at season's end, the team average was multiple points lower at .282.

Mathis said the team knows they're better offensively and want to continue to improve on getting runners home when they get them aboard. He turns to a statement by the team's most productive hitter for at least some of the answer.

Sam Smith
Bruce Newman

"I know Yarbrough said a couple of weeks ago – and I think he's right – everyone talks about getting the timely hit, the big hit," Mathis said. "But if you just keep hitting, hitting more singles, then the doubles and home runs are going to come eventually. It's not a concentration thing or a confidence thing. We had 20 hits (in the finale at Georgia). We could have scored 16 it seems like. We had two or more hits every inning. So we'll keep hitting."

It Is MSU After All

Mathis said he understands the importance of playing and beating Mississippi State, even in the non-conference setting.

"I love playing them. It's fun. It's always a great game," the junior outfielder said. "It's a game that if you like baseball, you like to play in it. It seems to always be close. Both teams are chirping the whole time. The adrenaline's always running. There are a lot of fans at the game."

Mathis said they've tried to impress upon the young players the importance of the game, many of whom are from out of state.

"We've told them," he said. "We've talked to them a little bit. I've told (Auston Bousfield). It's a non-conference game, but it's still Mississippi State. You hate to lose to State. We've told them all. I think they understand. It means so much to the fans to beat them every chance we get."

Mathis said he was told when he arrived how important games against MSU and USM are.

"Tim Ferguson told me. Drew Pomeranz told me. Me and Pomz's lockers were side by side and he told me," Mathis said. "So I caught on pretty quick. It's a rivalry. Fans may hate each other. During the game you're enemies and it's a battle. After the game we're still going to say ‘good game' and shake hands."

A Closer Look

A couple of freshman right-handers will start for the teams tonight. Sam Smith is set to go for the Rebels, while Brandon Woodruff will start for State.

Smith will be making his seventh start of the season and 10th appearance. He's 2-2 with 23 strikeouts and only five walks allowed in his 30.0 innings of work and a 3.60 ERA. Smith has held opponents to a .294 batting average against in his time on the mound. Smith is coming off a win over Central Arkansas last week that saw him pitch 5.0 innings and allow one unearned run on two hits a walk and two strikeouts.

Woodruff has a 2.70 ERA and making his second start on the year this Tuesday. He's made one start in six appearances with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 13.1 innings of work.

The Bulldogs are 21-15 and got swept at South Carolina last weekend. MSU is hitting at a .270 clip as a team and is paced at the plate by Adam Frazier with a .347 average. Wes Rea leads the team in RBI with 28, while Trey Porter has hit a team-leading five home runs. The Bulldog pitching staff holds a 3.15 ERA this season.

In addition to state-wide radio networks for both teams, the game will be shown live on CSS.

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