Last year at this time, the Ole Miss Rebels were nationally ra

Last year at this time, the Ole Miss Rebels were nationally ranked, trying to move up in the SEC Western Division standings and hoping to play impressively enough to get a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Oh yes, they were also hosting a struggling Mississippi State team for a three-game series.

This year, it’s Mississippi State that’s nationally ranked, trying to move up in the SEC Western Division standings and hoping to play impressively enough to get a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

And oh yes, they are hosting a struggling Ole Miss team for a three-game series. The first game of the series, sponsored by Cellular South, begins at 7 p.m. today.

“They are a mystery team and they are dangerous,” said Mississippi State coach Ron Polk, whose club carries a 34-16, 15-9 mark into the contest. “They’ve got a couple of solid starters in (Mickey) Callaway and (Dan) DeYoung and they’ve played good defense.

“The only thing they haven’t done is hit the ball well in SEC games. They’ve hit it in the non-SEC games and they come in here with no pressure. They can relax and enjoy being the spoiler in these last six SEC games.”

Ole Miss coach Don Kessinger understands the role reversal this year.

“I know exactly how they feel. We were at home last year and State won two of three over here and really played well,” he said.

For history to repeat itself, the Rebels (21-27, 4-20) must play better than they have against SEC competition. Plus, the Bulldogs are coming off a solid 8-4 win over Ole Miss in Monday’s Mayor’s Trophy Game in Jackson.

The Rebels, despite the disappointing play in the SEC, have gotten a solid season from first baseman Todd Mensik (.315, 9 HR, 40 RBI) and shortstop Jason Huisman (.308). On the mound, Callaway (5-6) has impressive SEC wins over Alabama and Auburn.

The Bulldogs, hitting .312 as a team, have three red-hot hitters in infielders Adam Piatt (.348), Rob Hauswald (.347) and Brian Clark (.346). Clark is hitting .391 in SEC play and is coming off a 6-for-11 showing last weekend against Arkansas.

On the mound, MSU’s starting rotation of Eric DuBose, Keith Dilgard and David Hooten are averaging eight innings per start. When help is needed, relievers Van Johnson and Scott Polk have been impressive.

“They (MSU) impressed me defensively, especially in Jackson,” Kessinger said. “They haven’t surprised me. We’ve got to play well, but I know our players are excited about what can happen in these final six games (final series with Arkansas) this year.”

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