Bulldogs tapped as nation’s top team|[3/21/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

STARKVILLE – The phenomenal start to Mississippi State’s baseball season has it in places unseen in Starkville since 1993.

The Bulldogs (15-0), who defeated Tennessee in two straight games last weekend, earned the top ranking as chosen by Baseball America magazine. It’s the first time the team has been ranked tops in America since the 1993 season.

&#8220We’re honored to be ranked No. 1 by Baseball America,” said Ron Polk, in his 27th season as MSU head coach and his 33rd as a collegiate head coach. &#8220It’s a great tribute to our kids and to the staff. We know there are many, many challenges ahead of us. Hopefully we can continue to play well.”

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The Bulldogs, who entered last weekend’s series with Tennessee carrying a No. 6 national ranking, defeated the fifth-ranked Volunteers 8-2 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday. The Sunday game was postponed because of bad weather.

Saturday’s victory established the school record for season-opening wins and tied the MSU mark for consecutive wins.

The Bulldogs hosts UAB on today at 6:30 p.m. and Jacksonville State on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The team is scheduled to play at LSU in a three-game series starting on Friday.

This is the fourth Ron Polk-coached Mississippi State team to earn a No. 1 ranking. Previous top-ranked teams include the celebrated 1985 team that finished third in the NCAA College World Series, the 1989 SEC championship team that won a school-record 54 games, and the 1993 edition that opened the year with a 16-1 start.

MSU opens the week as the last remaining unbeaten NCAA Division I college baseball team.

Collegiate Baseball magazine, the other Division I baseball poll, has the Bulldogs ranked third behind Florida State and Nebraska.

SEC teams joining Mississippi State in the Baseball America ranking include No. 7 South Carolina (17-3), No. 9 Florida (17-7), No. 11 Arkansas (17-3), No. 12 Tennessee (14-5), No. 15 LSU (17-5), and No. 25 Georgia (14-5).

Freshman right-hander Matt Lea (2-0 with a 3.27 ERA) is scheduled to pitch tonight against the Blazers.