OXFORD – Mississippi State didn’t get the sweep, but it left Swayze Field with a good vibe.
The Bulldogs lost 8-1 to rival Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon, a day after securing their first series victory over the No. 7 Rebels in six years.
For a team that has won only one other SEC series this season and won’t make the tournament field, it’s a pretty sweet consolation prize.
“We played relaxed, and the past two nights were a lot of fun, especially to come here and win,” said senior center fielder Grant Hogue. “We don’t really have a lot to play for, but it’s always fun to beat these guys.”
MSU (23-27, 8-18 SEC) closes out the season with a game at Memphis on Tuesday and then a home series with LSU.
State coach John Cohen, who’s 17-11 against Ole Miss skipper Mike Bianco and has beaten him in all four SEC series where they’ve faced off, wasn’t putting too much stock in the thought of this weekend being a harbinger for future success.
He expects that to come with the aid of something more tangible.
“I think winning a series on the road anywhere in the SEC is big, against a rival, is pretty important. But I think confidence comes from having skill,” he said. “I think we’re going to gain some skill, we’re going to gain some confidence.”
Bittle should be ready
– Bianco said he expects to have All-American pitcher Scott Bittle available for this week’s final regular-season series at Arkansas, but Bittle won’t be in the starting rotation.
The senior right-hander had won four straight starts before being scratched just prior to game time at Auburn on May 1. He was not part of the 25-man roster this weekend.
“Scott’s feeling better every day. We’ll test him out early in the week, probably on Tuesday, to get a better read. He won’t start next week, but just to get him back as one of the bullpen guys will be a good thing, and we’re pretty confident that will happen,amp” Bianco said.
Bittle, who spent the first two weeks of SEC play as the closer, is the league’s top pitcher in SEC only competition with a 1.89 earned run average, a .156 opponent’s batting average and 12.79 strikeouts per nine innings, all league highs.
– True freshman Frank Rawdow started all three games at shortstop for MSU, the first time he’d done so this year. For the weekend, he went 3-for-12 and played errorless defense. … Ole Miss first baseman Matt Smith was 1-for-10 on the weekend before his two-run homer in the seventh. … After allowing just three runs in six innings of work over the first two games, MSU’s bullpen yielded five in 2.1 innings Sunday. … MSU batters struck out 33 times for the weekend, while Ole Miss hitters whiffed 19 times.
Brad Locke and Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal