Before I hit the road to Atlanta this morning, an update on MSU's NCAA Regional opponent, Southern Miss. MSU and USM play at 2 p.m. Friday on CSS.
Soutnern Miss enters the Atlanta Regional with some major issues, including the academic ineligibility of weekend starting pitchers Geoffrey Thomas and Jonathan Thompson. As far as Friday's game with Mississippi State goes, though, the loss of those two is not a big issue, because ace Todd McInnis will be on the hill for USM.
However, a couple of position starters are battling injuries: Outfielder Tyler Koelling (hamstring) and first baseman Adam Doleac (foot). Koelling, who won the Ferriss Trophy this year, leads the team with a .367 average but has missed the last three games – all of which were Conference USA Tournament games.
USM went 1-2 in the tourney.
"We missed his presence there. He's been our most consistent hitter all year long," head coach Scott Berry told me yesterday.
Koelling has said he'll be ready to go Friday, and Berry seems to think so, too. The key is to continue being cautious with the injury and making sure Koelling can "turn it loose" on game day.
"Is he going to be 100 percent? No. But is he going to be enough to contribute and bring something to the table for us? I certainly (think so), and he does, too," Berry said.
Doleac, who's missed one game, could still play as a designated hitter. His .338 average is third on the team, and he has 39 RBIs. He's not swung a bat in a week, and Berry wants to continue to rest him as much as possible.
"What role he's going to play, I'm not sure yet. We'll just have to wait and see."
I'll have more on USM and its rematch with MSU in Friday's Journal.