This year it is more important than usual, even though both teams have struggled to get wins. Tonight in Pearl is a big game, and not just so the winning team and its fans have the right to brag for a couple of weeks until the regular season series between the two teams in Oxford comes along.
Ole Miss is 23-22 overall. Mississippi State is 23-21 this season. In Southeastern Conference play, which tonight’s game is not a part of, the Rebels are 10-11, while the Bulldogs are 7-14 in league play.
A lot of times both teams are ranked, or at least one of them is. This year, that isn’t the case. Both are not that far removed from spectacular success, however.
Last year Ole Miss finished third in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The year before that, it was MSU which had a run in the Elite Eight of college baseball, finishing second.
The non-conference stage is Trustmark Park, home of the AA Atlanta Braves minor league team. The winner tonight will certainly be in better shape heading into the SEC weekend upcoming. The Rebels go to Missouri, while State will host LSU.
“Every game matters,” said senior catcher Austin Knight, the Sumrall High School product who knows what Ole Miss-Mississippi State playing each other in anything means. “Obviously they’re our rival and we really want to go down there and play well and beat them. It’s a big game.”
The Rebels are in better shape than the Bulldogs when it comes to postseason hopes. MSU’s 7-14 conference record has them slightly ahead of 6-14 Georgia and tied with 7-14 Tennessee. At 8-13 is Alabama, while South Carolina is 9-12. Kentucky is 10-10. Along with Ole Miss, Auburn is 10-11.
Everyone else in the SEC is above .500 in league play with three weekends left.
Ole Miss has a big RPI advantage over MSU today. That’s a good and bad thing for the Rebels. They face MSU four times in their final 11 regular season games. As of today, MSU’s RPI is 100, while Ole Miss sits at 34. The Rebels are helped in a big way by having today’s No. 1 strength of schedule in the entire country.
Knight said the Rebels’ series win against Alabama last weekend was big for this team as it heads into May.
“You keep everything in perspective, and obviously (Sunday’s loss) was disappointing,” he said. “But getting two of three and playing as well as we did (in games one and two) is a good sign.”
Veteran pitcher Ross Mitchell, a senior left-hander, is the scheduled starter for Mississippi State. He's compiled a 3-2 record this season and has a 4.30 ERA.
Senior right-hander Scott Weathersby, making his first college career start for the Rebels and with 13 relief appearances this season, has a 2-1 record and an ERA of 2.16 coming out of the bullpen. He has 47 relief appearances in his UM career.
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