A Capital Classic

Josh Laxer gets to pitch at home tonight. Not actually, but it will be close in proximity, at least.

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The sophomore Rebel right-hander, a Madison Central High School product, gets the starting nod as Ole Miss plays Mississippi State in Pearl at 6:30 p.m.

"You gotta love it," he said of his own opportunity to pitch in front of the home folks – some in red and blue and some in maroon. "Obviously it's where I'm from. Hopefully some people who followed me from high school will come down there."

There's a good chance of that. A crowd of some 8,000 is expected as the arch rivals meet. Ole Miss leads the series played in metro Jackson 17-16 over State.

The game has been called The Governor's Cup since moving to Pearl's Trustmark Park from Jackson's Smith-Wills Stadium prior to the 2007 meeting. Mississippi State's won three and Ole Miss three at the park in Pearl. When it was called the Mayor's Trophy game and played in Jackson beginning in 1980, Ole Miss won 14 of 27 games.

Last year the Rebels prevailed 6-3.

Ole Miss is 23-9 and has lost five games in a row, all of them Southeastern Conference contests. The Rebels are 4-8 in league play, and tonight's game does not count in the SEC race.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said his team seemed to play better Sunday, which was a good sign for a ballclub that had been struggling, especially to score runs.

"We've got to play like we can play," he said. "I have no doubt we will play like that on Tuesday night against the arch rival. If we play like (Sunday in an 11-inning 7-6 loss to No. 2 Vanderbilt), we're going to win a lot more games."

Laxer has become the Rebels' midweek, go-to guy. He's made four starts and sports a 2-0 record.

"I feel like I've done alright," said Laxer, who has a 2.45 ERA this season in 25.2 innings of work. "I struggled at the beginning of the year a little bit filling up the strike zone. But a couple of good outings lately have helped me with my confidence quite a bit."

Stuart Turner
Bruce Newman

Laxer said tonight's encounter is a big one in terms of, well, everything.

"It's a big game for us, No. 1 because it's Mississippi State," Laxer said. "And No. 2, we need a win."

Mississippi State is 26-9 and is coming off a series win at home over Florida. The Bulldogs won the first two games of the series before the Gators came back to win the finale on Sunday.

Hunter Renfroe of Crystal Springs and a product of Copiah Academy leads MSU with a .417 batting average, 38 RBI and 10 home runs to pace the offense.

As a team, the Bulldogs hit at a .296 clip with 17 home runs, 198 RBI and 224 runs scored.

Wes Rea of Harrison Central High in Gulfport and Brett Pirtle of Tyler, Texas, are the only other Bulldogs with more than one home run this season.

As a pitching staff, MSU's ERA is 2.56 with 292 strikeouts, 125 walks and a .208 opponent batting average.

Sophomore RHP Brandon Woodruff of Wheeler High School in northeast Mississippi gets the start on the mound for MSU. He is 1-1 on the year with a 4.15 ERA, and he has 15 strikeouts and nine walks in six outings. Woodruff has combined for one shutout on the season and allowed 11 runs (8 earned) in 17.1 innings.

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