Conference powers square off with state’s Big Three this weekend|[03/23/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2007

Much will be learned about the Big Three college baseball teams as each faces a huge weekend in conference play.

Southern Miss opens Conference USA action tonight against No. 7 Rice at 6:30.

The defending Conference USA champion Owls are 17-8 this season and won all four meetings with the Golden Eagles a season ago.

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Southern Miss (16-6) enters the weekend series on a four-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles swept the three-game weekend series from Kent State last weekend before downing Louisiana-Monroe, 9-5, in Pearl on Tuesday.

Southern Miss is hitting .280 with 34 doubles, two triples and seven home runs. The Eagles are averaging 5.6 runs per game and 9.5 hits per game.

The pitching staff has a 3.29 ERA in 197 innings pitched, struck out 166 batters, walked 65 and holding opponents to .229 batting average.

Rice is hitting .287 with 54 doubles, seven triples and 19 home runs.

The Owls are averaging 6.2 runs per game and 9.8 hits per contest. The pitching staff has a 2.83 ERA in 225.2 innings pitched, struck out 209 batters, walked 86 and opponents are hitting .232 against them.

The Rice-Southern Miss series certainly is not the only quality matchups this weekend.

Mississippi State is scheduled to host No. 4 South Carolina with all three games being televised by SportSouth.

The Bulldogs have won two of their last three games, including taking a pair at Florida last weekend.

In Oxford, the Rebels play host to SEC West rival Alabama beginning tonight.

Vicksburg High products Justin and Jordan Henry are the top two hitters for Ole Miss, batting .449 and .377, respectively.

Sophomore Lance Lynn will get the start tonight as he tries to repeat his performance of last Friday against Vanderbilt. The hard-throwing righty carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and was honored as national pitcher of the week as selected by the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

On Tuesday, the Golden Eagles and Rebels will do battle at Trustmark Park in Pearl in a non-conference matchup. It will be the first of two matchups between the two schools.

Mississippi State will play a pair of mid-week games against Southern Miss on April 23 and 24.