REBS SEEK END TO SEC WOES; MSU HITS ROAD
Who: LSU at Ole Miss
Where: Oxford-University Stadium
When: 7 p.m. tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Who: Mississippi State at Alabama
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
When: 7 p.m. tonight, 4 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
By Chris Burrows
There are no reminders necessary for the Ole Miss Rebels. Don Kessinger, his staff and team are well aware their SEC record is 1-14 at the halfway mark of the conference race.
“Our kids know it and are embarrassed about it. Hey, we’re all embarrassed,” Kessinger said. “But one thing is certain. Our team hasn’t quit and we know there is still a lot to play for.”
The Mississippi State Bulldogs also have plenty to play for. Ron Polk’s club opens a three-game series in Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide and both clubs have identical 10-5 conference marks.
That leaves them in a three-way tie for the Western Division lead with LSU. Obviously, the fortunes of both Mississippi schools could benefit or fall pending each other’s weekend performance.
“We’re through with the Eastern Division teams,” Kessinger said. “We’ve got half of the conference schedule remaining and it’s against teams in our own division. We can have a lot to say about the SEC.”
The Rebels (16-17, 1-15) have shown the capabilities of being a spoiler. Kessinger’s club has been as dominant in non-conference play, going 15-2 against non-SEC teams, including nine straight wins.
Southern Mississippi, an upper division contender in the Conference USA race, was swept in Oxford earlier in the week. The Rebels did it with a pair of solid pitching performances and more importantly, with some timely hitting in the late innings.
“We got some clutch hits in the critical situations,” Kessinger said. “Our pitching has been better, but we haven’t scored many runs, especially in the conference games. If we get that done, we’re a good baseball team.”
Mickey Callaway (3-5) and Dan DeYoung (4-3) are guaranteed starting assignments, with DeYoung scheduled for Sunday. Offensively, Ole Miss is led by first baseman Todd Mensik, who is hitting .400 in SEC play and a team-high .321 overall.
LSU (30-8, 10-5), the league’s most successful team this decade, features Nathan Dunn, a .381 hitter who has a league-high 14 homers. The Tigers have the league’s best ERA as a staff, 2.71. Chris Demouy is tied for the league lead in wins with seven.
Mississippi State at Alabama: The Bulldogs (23-10, 10-5) and Crimson Tide (26-11, 10-5) enter the series on hot streaks. Mississippi State has won eight of the past 10 starts, while Alabama is 7-3 over the same time frame.
Left-hander Eric DuBose heads the MSU pitching staff with a 6-1 mark, including 94 strikeouts in 65 innings. The Bulldogs are hitting .309 as a team, No. 5 in the league. David Hayman, Blake Anderson, Rob Hauswald and Brad Freeman carry hitting streaks of at least six games apiece.
Alabama is led by Joel Cosgrove (4-1) and Chris Eilers (3-3) on the mound. Dax Norris is second in the league in hitting, at .396, including six homers and 29 RBI. The Crimson Tide have five starters hitting at least .300, including West Point native Drew Bounds.