Rivalry Renewed

Two teams that appear to be headed in different directions take to the diamond at Dudy Noble Field this weekend as Ole Miss (30-13, 11-7 SEC) meets Mississippi State (20-20, 5-13) for three games.

Hopefully for three games, that is. A repeat of last weekend's storms is in the forecast. As this weekend moves on, the chances appear to increase for inclement conditions.

But throw out the records, as they say, when these schools get together. Look no further than last season when Ole Miss made it all the way to a Super Regional after winning the SEC Championship, and MSU didn't make it to the eight-team SEC tourney.

But the Bulldogs claimed the series in Oxford with two wins.

Currently Ole Miss is in the midst of a seven-game win streak, including a sweep of LSU at home last weekend and two mid-week wins against Murray State and Tennessee-Martin.

Mississippi State, meanwhile, has had rough going this season and certainly lately. Competitive in basically every game, the Bulldogs have simply had trouble winning.

MSU had no midweek games this week because of semester exams, which came early this spring at State. The Bulldogs were swept in three games at Alabama last weekend.

One Mississippian involved, the Rebels' recent Sunday starter David Goforth, said make sure to throw those records out. He knows the Bulldogs can play.

David Goforth

"Everybody in this league can beat anybody," said the hard-throwing right-hander from Neshoba Central High School. "That's the way baseball is. It doesn't really matter who's in the other dugout. You have to still play."

Senior left-hander Tyler Whitney (0-1, 5.72) returns to State's weekend rotation, drawing his fourth start of the year and the 29th of his career in Friday's opener against the Rebels.

Ole Miss will counter with junior lefty Drew Pomeranz (6-0, 1.90). Whitney earned the win in the 2009 series-opener in Oxford. Pomeranz leads the SEC with 93 strikeouts while limiting opponents to a league-best .161 batting average.

MSU junior outfielder Jaron Shepherd (.291) enters the series with a team-leading six-game hitting streak, having driven in 10 runs and hit at a .429 clip over the span. Bulldog first baseman Connor Powers (.399) continues to rank near the top of the league in most of the offensive statistical categories.

Powers leads the conference in RBI (60) and slugging percentage (.764), ranks second in total bases (113) and doubles (16), fourth in on-base percentage (.503), fifth in walks (30), tied for fifth in home runs (12) and sixth in batting average (.399).

A pair of freshmen, right-hander Chris Stratton (4-3, 4.97) and lefty Luke Bole (2-1, 6.89), are set to open on the mound for State Saturday and Sunday.

Aaron Barrett

Ole Miss counters with Aaron Barrett (6-2, 3.36) Saturday and actually has TBA listed for Sunday.

"Whenever you play State in anything, as far as our state is concerned, there are so many eyes watching," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said.

"Some of our players and their players grew up playing baseball against each other. We realize it's more than a conference game. It's a big deal. We'll be excited to go down there."

Pomeranz walked an uncharacteristic nine batters last week against LSU and was pulled early. Bianco said Pomeranz appeared to be back to his old self this week.

"I think it was a combination of a lot of things," he said of last Friday night. "Some of it was mechanics and he just didn't feel comfortable. But he was real sharp (this week), and it was just a combination of a lot of things last Friday night from the hype to the wind, everything."

Goforth said the Rebels know they'll have to play their best to accomplish what they want to this weekend.

"It's just like any other weekend," he said. "The SEC is made up of 30 battles and one big war. You've got to take them all the same. Although they are our in-state rivals and it would be good to sweep them or take two out of three from them, you still have to take it one game at a time."

Gametimes are 7 p.m. today, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Ole Miss has won the last three series between the teams in Starkville, claiming two of three games in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

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