Usually the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry on its own is enough to draw interest throughout the state.
The added incentive of both clubs fighting for their postseason lives makes the setting for this year’s series even more intense.
The three-game series between the Bulldogs and Rebels gets underway tonight at 7:30 p.m. and continues Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. all on the SEC Network.
“Both of us are in a position where we’ve got to win so it’s going to be even more competitive this year,” said MSU reliever Ross Mitchell. “Both teams haven’t had the seasons they’ve wanted but you know it’s going to be a good weekend. Both teams have got something on the line that they’re playing for.”
The Bulldogs at 24-24 overall and 8-16 inside the conference are battling for a spot in the SEC Tournament. MSU currently holds the final spot to qualify for Hoover with a half-game lead over Georgia.
“We have six games left and our kids know what’s at stake every time we go out there,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “I think they are looking forward to this opportunity.”
Ole Miss on the other hand is 11-13 in league play and are a likely lock for the NCAA Tournament if it can keep its overall record above .500. The Rebels enter the series with a 25-24 ledger.
Ole Miss has its final two SEC series at home while the Diamond Dogs are on the road concluding with Tennessee.
The Rebels routed State 11-1 last Tuesday in the Governor’s Cup at Trustmark Park in Pearl and have won the previous two series against the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State leads the all-time series 244-201-5 but trail by two games in Oxford, 94-96-3.
“This is huge for us,” said MSU reliever Zac Houston of Poplarville. “I want this weekend as bad as every other player in our locker room. This is our rivalry game and is everything to us. We really want this weekend and will do everything it takes to come out on top.”
Houston, who was also offered by Ole Miss, has been huge for the Diamond Dogs of late tossing 13 scoreless innings in his last five outings against top 25 opponents. Houston is limiting his opposition to a .146 batting average over that span with 16 strikeouts.
“It just all boiled down to my confidence,” Houston said. “I was able to tweak a couple of things and that kind of gave me the confidence I needed on the mound to do what I needed to do.”
Senior southpaw Lucas Laster will take the mound for MSU tonight. Laster pitched twice against the Rebels last year logging 7 1/3 innings and allowing three earned runs with three strikeouts and a walk.