By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
It won’t count in the SEC standings, but Ole Miss and Mississippi State will face off for the first time this baseball season tonight at 6:30 at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
The annual Governor’s Cup game will be televised on CSS.
The Bulldogs (22-14, 6-9 SEC) lost two of three at then-No. 25 Arkansas over the weekend, while the Rebels (23-14, 8-7 SEC) swept struggling Kentucky in Oxford.
While the game won’t impact whether either team qualifies for the SEC tournament in Hoover in late May, it’s an opportunity for each to pick up a quality non-conference RPI win.
The Rebels go into the game with an RPI rating of 32, the Bulldogs at 29.
“All the mid-weeks are big, and this one takes on a little bit of a different flavor because of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry. I know Ole Miss had a great weekend this weekend against a Kentucky team that’s struggling,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “They’re going to feel like they’re on a roll now, and in the middle of the week it’s different, of course, because you have to really take care of your pitching situation.”
Ole Miss will start left-hander Matt Tracy (3-2, 4.46). MSU will start Kendall Graveman (3-0, 3.45), but is expected to use several pitchers.
The Rebels were at Trustmark Park a week ago, losing 8-6 in 12 innings to Southern Mississippi. Tracy has been the Rebels’ primary mid-week starter but didn’t reach the fifth inning in that game.
Ole Miss is trying to find answers with new people in different roles in the bullpen and had some luck against Kentucky with the growth of freshman Bobby Wahl and the possible re-emergence of Brett Huber, last year’s closer.
Huber pitched out of inherited trouble and got the win against Kentucky on Friday, then threw two scoreless innings to record the save on Sunday.
Wahl’s development was slowed by arm soreness earlier this season, but he’s been cast in the role of closer while Jake Morgan is out with a shoulder injury. Wahl picked up saves on Friday and Saturday against Kentucky.
Mike Bianco’s team worked out at home Monday afternoon in advance of tonight’s game against the Bulldogs.
“They’ve played a lot of close games,” he said. “They’re having a good year down there, and any time we play them, whether in conference or non-conference, it’s always a great game. It’s great for both clubs to be there and play in front of a lot of fans.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.