MSU at Ole Miss: Recent History Meets Present Urgency

Recent history really doesn’t mean anything when it comes to this weekend’s MSU-Ole Miss baseball series in Oxford. But the numbers are worth looking at anyway.

The Bulldogs (30-18, 11-13 SEC) have won only one SEC series against the Rebels (27-21, 11-13) since 2003. That happened in 2009, John Cohen‘s first season in Starkville. That was an upset.

From 2004 through 2010, Ole Miss was 15-6 against MSU in league play. Toss in the Governor’s Cup (née Mayor’s Trophy) and SEC Tournament games, and the Rebels are 21-10 against State over that time span.

However, MSU won the meeting in Pearl this season, 6-1. And if you want more trivial data, remember what I pointed out a few weeks ago about the Bulldogs dominating the Rebels on all fronts this past school year? In the big three sports, State is 4-0 against its biggest rival.

But let’s look at this matchup specifically. MSU sends sophomore Luis Pollorena (6-3, 2.61 ERA) back out tonight for his second career start. He wasn’t exceptional by any means last week against a free-swinging Tennessee squad, but he got the win and said he feels quite comfortable being back in a starter’s role.

“It’s just more of a (matter of) relaxing, knowing it’s the same game coming in from the bullpen or starting the game,” Pollorena said. “Now I’ve got to keep my pitch count low and throw strikes.”

It’s been mentioned once or twice that a lot hinges on this series, what with both teams holding 11-13 SEC records. Take two or three games from the Rebs, and MSU is in dandy shape for the SEC Tournament – assuming it doesn’t get swept at home by LSU next weekend. Even then, it might only be a matter of seeding.

Ole Miss is 20-8 at Swayze Field this year, including 7-5 in SEC play. It’s coming off a big series win over South Carolina, taking two of three at home.

“I think that they’re feeling good about their club, and rightfully so,” Cohen said.

The Rebels will be without senior captain Matt Smith, who’s hitting .305 and has a team-leading seven home runs. He’s got a broken hand and also missed last weekend, so obviously Ole Miss found a way to get by without him.

MSU is feeling good about things, too, having won five in a row, including last weekend’s sweep of Tennessee. That series brought State’s SEC road record up to 5-7; the lone time it was swept this season was on the road, against Georgia.

Can MSU get over the hump and get back in the SEC Tournament? Cohen thinks so, and he’s seen a determination among his players to get there.

“I think it started a long time ago. I think this group of older kids on our team, these seniors, they said, We’ve gotta do this. This is something we have to do.”

First pitch is 6:30 p.m., and it can be seen on ESPNU.