Bulldogs welcome Ole Miss to town

Published 11:30 am Friday, April 11, 2014

In the insanely competitive Southeastern Conference, coaches and players are often wise to live by the cliché that every series is equal.

Sometimes, though, one comes along that has a little more zip on its fastball.

Mississippi State hosts archrival Ole Miss this weekend in what is sure to be a pivotal and festive three-game series at Dudy Noble Field.

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For MSU, it’s Super Bulldog Weekend. The school’s football team will play its spring game Saturday afternoon, and thousands of fans and alumni will flood the campus. The baseball games with Ole Miss will likely draw sellout crowds of about 10,000 fans each day.

Mississippi State's Gavin Collins throws to second base during a game against Southern Miss Tuesday at Trustmark Park. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Mississippi State’s Gavin Collins throws to second base during a game against Southern Miss Tuesday at Trustmark Park. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

“Super Bulldog Weekend is something really special at Mississippi State. Then you throw Ole Miss on top of that and it’s even more exciting for our kids,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “It’s hard to say it’s just another SEC weekend when we have a chance to break the on-campus record for attendance in a game. This is why you come to Mississippi State, is to have opportunities like this weekend.”

On the field and in the standings, it’s a key series for each team. Nearing the halfway point of the SEC schedule, all 14 teams are within three games of first place overall. Ole Miss (27-8, 7-5 SEC) has a one-game lead on Mississippi State (21-13, 6-6) for second place in the Western Division.

The chance to gain some ground — or fall behind — in such a tightly-packed race has added some tangible importance to a series that is already circled on most fans’ calendars.

“Every weekend is a war in our league, becaause everybody’s good and everybody’s capable of winning every game,” Cohen said. “There’s no question you have to get wins when they’re available, especially when you’re at home.”

Mississippi State is also trying to right the ship after a disastrous series against LSU last weekend. The Bulldogs scored a total of five runs while being swept by the Tigers.

The Bulldogs did have 10 hits in a 4-3, 11-inning win over Southern Miss n Tuesday night in Pearl, which was encouraging to Cohen.

“We did swing the bat better. I was looking at our hard-hit chart and we hit balls really, really hard,” Cohen said. “We hit a ton of balls hard, but we’ve just got to let the game come to us. We didn’t do that.”

Some of MSU’s best production has come at the bottom of its order. Catcher Gavin Collins, the No. 9 hitter, is 9-for-20 (a .450 average) in his last seven games. Center fielder Derrick Armstrong, who floats in the lineup between the sixth and eighth spots, is 12-for-25 (.480) with five runs scored in his last eight games.

Armstrong’s surge has helped raise his average to a team-best .333.

“I’m just seeing the ball really well. Earlier in the SEC I was hitting line drives right at people. I’m finally starting to find some holes, so I’m pretty happy about that,” Armstrong said.

Ole Miss at Mississippi State

Radio: 1490 AM (Ole Miss) and 105.5 FM (Mississippi State)

Friday: 6:30 p.m.

Saturday: 3 p.m. (TV: SportSouth)

Sunday: 1:30 p.m.

Series notes: MSU will debut a special “code cream” uniform for Saturday’s game … Ole Miss and MSU will play again April 22 in the annual Governor’s Cup game at Trustmark Park

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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