By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss freshman Auston Bousfield will get his first taste of the Rebels’ rivalry with Mississippi State tonight, and he hopes it’s a carry-over from the weekend.
Bousfield hit .571 for the Rebels last week and was even better against Georgia, hitting .583 with a 7 for 12 series.
The Rebels (24-12) dropped two games in the series, although Bousfield – an Oakland, Fla., native who has been the starting center fielder since opening day – had multiple hits in each game.
The big weekend helped him lift his average to .291.
Bousfield said he was able to apply the instruction from hitting coach Cliff Godwin.
“He knows my swing. He watches video on all of us. He’s told me what I needed to work on, and we’ve been doing it. I got lucky a couple of times this weekend and found some holes. Hopefully I can keep doing it,” he said.
It doesn’t take longer for a newcomer, no matter his state, to sense a difference when the Mississippi State game appears on the schedule.
“I know it’s a big deal. All the guys talk about it, and to Coach B (head coach Mike Bianco) and everyone here it’s always a big deal. It’s an in-state rivalry thing, a pride thing,” he said. “It’s my first one, so hopefully it will be fun.”
Tonight’s game does not count in the SEC standings but will impact the RPI status for each team.
Crowds have swelled since the game moved from Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson to Trustmark Park, home of the Southern League’s Mississippi Braves. This will be the sixth meeting in Pearl.
“I think it’s great. We get to play in front of a lot of people. The crowds have been great, and it’s an outstanding ballpark. It kind of breaks up the mid-week monotony so to speak,” Bianco said.
The Rebels’ previously scheduled April 3 game against Southern Miss in Pearl was rained out but has been reset for May 1.
Ole Miss had won two straight against MSU in Pearl before losing 6-1 last season.
“It’s a non-conference game, but it’s still Mississippi State. You have to approach it like it’s just another game, but you hate to lose to State,” junior left fielder Tanner Mathis said. “I love playing them. It’s fun. It’s always a great game. Both teams are chirping the whole time, and adrenaline’s flowing. It’s great.”