By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
Near-perfect weather will greet the start of SEC baseball play this weekend, with Ole Miss and Mississippi State ranking among the nation’s elite.
Ole Miss (18-1), ranked No. 6 nationally by Baseball America, visits No. 15 Arkansas (11-5) to open the first weekend of league play. No. 13 Mississippi State (17-2), ranked as high as No. 3 before two recent losses, is home against No. 7 LSU (15-1.)
First pitch for both is set for 6:30 p.m. today. According to Weather.com, there’s a zero percent chance of rain in Starkville this weekend with highs in the mid 70s. In Fayetteville, Ark., it will be cooler – 65 on Saturday – and there’s a 40 percent chance of rain Sunday.
The Rebels have won 11 in a row since a Feb. 26 loss to Memphis. They’re third in the league in batting average (.310) and fifth in earned run average (2.21). Stuart Turner leads the SEC with a .492 average and 28 RBIs.
Mike Bianco is in his 13th season as Ole Miss coach and recently became the school’s career victory leader.
Mississippi State leads the SEC in batting average (.324) and is second in ERA (1.84) but comes into the weekend having lost two of its last three.
John Cohen is in his fifth season in Starkville, heaving led the Bulldogs to a NCAA Super Regional appearance in 2011 and the SEC tourney title last season.
Other series: No. 2 Vanderbilt at Auburn, No. 5 South Carolina at Missouri, No. 10 Kentucky at Florida, Georgia at Texas A&M and Tennessee at Alabama.
The SEC is aiming for its fourth national title in five years. MSU made its last College World Series trip in 2007; Ole Miss made its last trip to Omaha in 1972.