Instate Feud

It's a battle of two undefeated ace pitchers as the instate baseball series begins tonight in Starkville. There's much on the line for both teams as Mississippi State hosts Ole Miss.

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Two finalists for the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Award square off. Bulldog junior right-hander Chris Stratton (7-0, 2.71), who shares the SEC lead in wins and is tied for third in the NCAA with 88 strikeouts, will be matched with Rebel sophomore righty Bobby Wahl (5-0, 2.15), third in the SEC in earned run average. Both have been accorded national pitcher of the week honors during the 2012 campaign.

Wahl was also named Thursday to the most recent in a long tradition of players who have competed with USA Baseball during the Mike Bianco era at Ole Miss. He is the seventh player in the past 12 seasons to go on to compete with the organization's national team, joining former Rebels Seth Smith, Stephen Head, Zack Cozart, Lance Lynn, Cody Satterwhite and Drew Pomeranz in selection to the squad.

"I get to pitch against Chris Stratton, who is having probably the best year of any pitcher in America," Wahl said. "He's having an All-American type season. He's one of the best pitchers in the country, and I'm really excited to have the opportunity to pitch against him and compete against him."

The Bulldogs have won four games in a row since they lost to Ole Miss 6-3 in Pearl. MSU swept Tennessee and defeated USM in Pearl Tuesday. The Bulldogs are 25-16 overall and 8-10 in SEC play.

Ole Miss, 27-14 and 9-9, is coming off a setback Tuesday in Memphis but also a series win against Arkansas last weekend in Oxford.

"I think we feel really confident going into the weekend," said Alex Yarbrough, leading the Rebels in batting at an impressive .429 and one of the candidates to be named SEC Player of the Year at season's end. "To take two out of three against such a quality team like Arkansas last weekend was big. Overall we're feeling really confident."

It's Wahl's first visit to MSU for baseball. The Rebels hosted State last season when he was a freshman.

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman

"I got my first taste of it last year," said Wahl. "It really is a true, rich rivalry with them. People care more than anything about us playing State. I'm real excited about the opportunity to play another good team in the SEC and a great rival of ours."

Wahl said after a bit of a bump in the road, so to speak, with tired arm a couple of weeks ago, he believes he's back now.

"I'm doing a lot better than I was a couple of weeks ago," he said. "At Kentucky I had a little arm soreness. At Georgia wasn't great. Against Arkansas I started feeling like myself again. Felt good and then the rain hit. But I'm feeling good now, and my arm's feeling as good as it did in the beginning of the season."

Brett's Ready

Closer Brett Huber had been experiencing some arm soreness recently. He threw a bullpen Thursday and Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it went well.

"He's good. That's the first time he's thrown off the mound in, I can't remember, it might have been last weekend. He's ready to go this weekend. He'll be with us."

In addition to Wahl, the Rebels will start sophomore Mike Mayers Saturday. The Sunday starter has yet to be determined.

MSU has announced junior RHP Kendall Graveman will start Saturday and also a TBA for Sunday.

Winning Road Decade

It was the last weekend of the 2002 regular season, and Ole Miss needed to win one game to get to the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Mississippi State had to win three games.

The two instate rivals were meeting in Starkville. It was Mike Bianco's second season with the Rebels; Ron Polk was in his second tenure at MSU and a three-decade veteran of the rivalry.

The Bulldogs swept the Rebels that day, and Ole Miss stayed home from postseason play. But since then, the Rebels haven't lost a series at Mississippi State and swept the Bulldogs two years ago. In 2004, 2006, and 2008, Ole Miss won two of three games.

Game times this weekend are at 7 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

All three games will be televised. Tonight and Saturday are on SportSouth, while Sunday is on CSS.

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