Exam Week

Two programs with recent College World Series success and longtime traditional winners find themselves in unfamiliar territory for the most part.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State meet in baseball three times in Oxford Thursday through Saturday with the goal of advancing past the end of the regular season on their minds.

The Rebels are in better shape to do that, standing at 11-13 in Southeastern Conference games and overall at 25-24, the latter obviously not in play as far as advancing to the SEC Tournament.

MSU has more work to do just to get to Hoover, Ala. The Bulldogs are 24-24 in all games and only 8-16 in conference action.

Both teams went 1-2 in their most recent action, both of them taking the third game of a SEC series. Ole Miss salvaged the finale at Missouri by a 4-3 margin, while MSU beat LSU 8-7 in 12 innings in Starkville.

The SEC Tournament takes 12 of 14 teams. Currently Georgia and Tennessee are in those last two spots, both with seven conference wins each. MSU and Alabama are next with eight wins apiece. South Carolina checks in with 10 league wins currently, while Ole Miss and Kentucky have 11 each.

That’s why there will be not only interest in the three games in Oxford beginning Thursday night at 7:30 but also in the other SEC series.

For the bottom five teams currently in the standings, if locale makes a difference, all are in hostile territory. While State is at Ole Miss, Alabama is at Auburn. Tennessee is at Arkansas, Georgia is on the road at Kentucky, and South Carolina plays at Texas A&M. All of these series are Friday through Sunday except MSU at Ole Miss.

Ole Miss defeated MSU a week ago in Pearl at the Governor's Cup by an 11-1 margin, a game that does not count in the SEC standings but does in the overall.

Pitching well

Jacob Waguespack, a junior right-hander, has become one of the Rebels' go-to guys this season. In a relief role, the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder said the Rebels win at Missouri Sunday was big as they move on to the final seven regular season games.

“As we get down the stretch, every win is important,” he said. “Especially in SEC play, every game is really important. Closing out that game was definitely big for us.”

The Rebels had gotten 3.2 innings out of starter Scott Weathersby, his second start in five days, and led 1-0. That’s when Waguespack entered and took the Rebels all the way into the eighth inning, before turning things over to closer Wyatt Short.

“I thought it went pretty well,” Waguespack said of his time on the mound in Columbia, Mo. “I strung together a few innings but I’ve still got to improve. That last inning I left a couple of guys on that ended up scoring. I need to shut the door and get better at that.”

There are no midweek games this week because of final exams. That should give the Rebels plenty of arm recovery time as the Bulldogs roll in.

“I think we’ll all be fresh,” Waguespack said. “We’ll obviously get some work in this week and be ready for Thursday.”

Leading Off

Connor Cloyd, a junior college transfer this season, has been in the leadoff position for a month now. And he’s given Ole Miss a solid lift offensively.

On Sunday in the win at Mizzou, Cloyd was 3-for-3 with a RBI, a walk and a hit by pitch. He had his third double of the season as well.

“Just consistent at bats,” he said of his improvement throughout the season. “Keeping the same approach each time.”

He had some sporadic participation early in the season. There were some DH games and some in the outfield. Lately in left field and in the leadoff role on a consistent basis, the 5-10, 185, junior from Maple Valley, Wash., has been the Rebels’ most consistent producer.

“Being consistent in the leadoff spot really helps my confidence and helps me feel like I can give the team a good chance to win,” said Cloyd, who is the only Rebel batting more than. 400 with his current .425 average.

Cloyd said the team is enjoying the challenge this time of the season brings and making a run toward the postseason.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I feel like our whole team is, just trying to come out with a win one game at a time mindset and do anything we can to be successful.”

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