Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Today’s Theme: Moving Forward

March 27, 2009

Day 2 of spring drills for Mississippi State was different mainly because it wasn’t Day 1. Know what I mean? Dan Mullen does. Following Thursday’s session, he noted that difference: “I think practice moves a little bit smoother, practice moves a little bit better. But also, my expectations are much higher Day 2.” Indeed they are, as evidenced by the volume of his, um, instruction. Hey, most coaches yell, but it’s always interesting to watch how certain coaches handle a practice. Mullen’s intensity is unmatched, and nobody is exempt from his wrath, including assistant coaches. If you don’t know the drill, expect to get reamed out.

The thing that you have to like about Mullen is that he balances that intensity with praise. He cited the players’ efforts Thursday while emphasizing how much work lies ahead. “There were some improvements, but a long way to go. I think offensively, just the execution, I’m a little disappointed at the speed in which we’re picking things up right now.”

MSU returns to the practice field at 10 a.m. Saturday for fully padded, full-contact drills. Mullen expects to learn a lot about his team then.

Speaking of moving forward, I’m supposed to set up my new blog today at NEMS360.com, our new Web site. Hopefully, I’ll be posting stuff on it by this afternoon. Stay tuned to this blog for details.

As you can read in today’s Journal, MSU basketballer Jarvis Varnado is still pondering his future, while teammate Kodi Augustus has decided to stick with State. Speaking of players staying and going, Ole Miss starting center Malcolm White has left the team.

Finally, in baseball, the Bulldogs look to bounce back from a three-game sweep at the hands of Georgia and hope to find some runs at Arkansas this weekend. Today’s game starts at 6:35 p.m.

Cohen on Routt: Pitching ‘Amazingly Well’

March 26, 2009

Mississippi State’s pitching has been spotty this season, but two guys have been solid as starters: freshman lefty Nick Routt and junior lefty Tyler Whitney. Routt is 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA, eighth-best in the SEC. Whitney is also 2-1, with a 2.82 ERA. As they have in the first two SEC series this season, Whitney and Routt will start Friday and Saturday, respectively, against Arkansas.

“I think our kids really sense on weekends when Whitney and Routt are on the mound, we have a real chance to win the game,” MSU coach John Cohen said this morning. Routt has been especially sharp, with 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 31.2 innings. To Cohen, that’s beyond impressive.

“When you’re really good in this league, like Georgia, you take freshmen like Routt and you slowly involve him as a Tuesday or Wednesday type starter, and you get their feet wet, and as a sophomore and junior they’re ready to do well on weekends,” Cohen said. “We don’t have that luxury. He’s done amazingly well.”

Why has he done so well? Cohen said he throws a lot of strikes, has deception in his delivery, has a good repertoire – in general, “His understanding of his delivery and what he’s trying to do is so far beyond his age.”

Two problems for State (14-10, 2-4 SEC) have mitigated some of what Routt and Whitney have done: The rest of the pitching staff has been suspect, and the run support isn’t always there. The Bulldogs stranded 12 runners last weekend against Georgia – in each game. That’s 36 total for the mathematically challenged among you. MSU is 11th in the SEC in hitting (.287) and ninth in runs (141).

“We’re not an overly skilled offensive club,” Cohen said. “I thought our hitters in some cases were overmatched (against Georgia).”

More on the Bulldogs in tomorrow’s Journal.

Brian Johnson: Clock’s Run Out

March 25, 2009

Following Mississippi State’s loss to Washington on the NCAA tournament on Thursday, senior Brian Johnson said he was going to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. I can see why: He’s had to sit out two of the five years he’s been a collegiate athlete. He took a medical redshirt at Louisville his first year there (2004-05) and had to sit out after transferring to MSU (2006-07), per NCAA rules. So does he have a case?

Doesn’t look like it. MSU compliance guru Bracky Brett said Johnson would need an extension of his “five-year clock,” and that’s not likely to happen. “He does not meet the criteria for a clock extension,” Brett said. Why not? Because athletes are allowed two medical redshirts in their careers, and Johnson’s transfer season counted against that total. Sitting out for transferring is considered “under the control” of the athlete, Brett said, which just means Johnson had the choice to take that route.

Brett hasn’t yet talked with Johnson about it, but the coaching staff is aware of his intentions.

MSU’s football team began spring drills Tuesday, and so here’s the story on that. Dan Mullen and company return to the field Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Fan turnout yesterday was modest, with maybe 50 people in attendance at one point. Perhaps Saturday’s 10 a.m. session will draw better.

MSU greats Ron Polk and Rafael Palmeiro are among 10 selected to the 2009 National College Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Class. So that’s pretty cool. Speaking of baseball, the Bulldogs got whipped last night by South Alabama, 17-12. State hit three home runs in the ninth, which tells you how bad it really was. MSU is back in action today against Memphis, at home (6:30 p.m.), weather permitting.

Lady Bulldogs Open Tourney, Etc.

March 21, 2009

The Mississippi State women will see if they can do better than the men and win an NCAA tournament first-round game. The No. 11 seed Lady Bulldogs are about to tip off against No. 6 seed Texas in Columbus, Ohio. Here’s the preview. The game can be seen on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com.

As for the MSU men, though the season is over, there is a bright future to look forward to. All five starters back, a deep bench returning, Shaunessy Smith coming in – it ought to pay off.

To the baseball diamond, State lost 5-3 to Georgia despite collecting 14 hits. Tyler Whitney (2-1) took the loss. Today’s game in Athens starts at 2 p.m. Freshman Nick Routt (2-0) will start for MSU.

Still in Portland

March 20, 2009

Despite my best efforts, I’ve been unable to find an earlier flight back home. With two airlines and layovers involved in my scheduled Sunday flight itinerary, it’s a logistical nightmare. So I’ve switched to a cheaper hotel and, if I still can’t get out of town, will head back to the Rose Garden on Saturday and cover Western Kentucky’s game against Gonzaga. Why? Because Sergio Kerusch, a former ICC standout, plays for the Hilltoppers. Plus, hey, free basketball.

So anyway, here is today’s game story from MSU’s 71-58 loss to Washington, and here is the notebook. I’ll have a follow-up for Saturday’s Journal focusing on the Bulldogs’ bright future.

Let us not forget about baseball, and thanks to Parrish Alford for picking up my slack this week. MSU travels to No. 8 Georgia for its first SEC road series. Tyler Whitney and Nick Routt will pitch the first two games for State, with Sunday’s starter TBA.

A quick heads-up: The new blog is scheduled to go online next week, but the transition should be pretty quick and smooth. I’ll just post the new link on this site when the time comes, and I think y’all are smart enough to figure it out from there.

Better Late Than Never; & Much More

March 13, 2009

It’s a fair question: Where would Mississippi State be if Kodi Augustus had been in the lineup and playing like this sooner? Would the Bulldogs have gotten past LSU in that double-overtime game? Would they have given Auburn a better shot? We’ll never know, of course, but we do know that Augustus’ sudden rise makes MSU as much a contender as anyone in the SEC Tournament. His 19 points off the bench in yesterday’s 79-60 win over Georgia illustrated just what the Bulldogs are capable of with him on the floor. (Don’t ask me why the headline calls him a freshman. That’s not in the story.)

Augustus did it all in 17 minutes of work. Starter Phil Turner, who sat when Augustus played, doesn’t mind sharing the workload. Expect the two to split minutes again today when the Bulldogs (20-12, 10-7 SEC) battle South Carolina (21-8, 10-6) at 2:15 p.m. Central. The winner will face the Kentucky-LSU winner (noon today) in the semifinals Saturday at noon. It can all be seen on Raycom or ESPN360.com.

In other news, MSU and South Carolina will also match up on the baseball diamond today. State opens its SEC slate at Dudy Noble Field, and coach John Cohen hopes his Bulldogs aren’t too overmatched.

An interesting note from track and field: An injury to another athlete allowed MSU’s Marrissa Harris to enter the NCAA Indoor Track Championships, which start today in College Station, Texas. This will be Harris’ second trip to the NCAAs, where she will compete in the 60-meter hurdles.

And finally, you might be wondering what took me so dang long to post something. It’s because I didn’t turn out the lights until 1:30 a.m. Why? That little six-overtime affair at Madison Square Garden, that’s why. But it’s OK, I have coffee now.

On the Links: Day 1

March 12, 2009

Today’s the day: Day 1 of the SEC Tournament. Gotta win four times in four days to be the champs. Mississippi State is riding a two-game winning streak into Tampa, and it was sparked by a closed-door meeting last week. After State lost badly to Auburn, Coach Rick Stansbury stressed the need for better teamwork and energy, and he let a few players have their say, too. “After we had that Auburn loss, he really gave it to us. We needed that,” said junior Jarvis Varnado.

Also in today’s paper is an SEC Tournament notebook. Remember, today’s game is at 2:15 p.m. Central and can be seen on Raycom. From the Tampa Tribune, here’s an overview of the wide-open tourney. And the Atlanta Journal Constitution asks who might be this year’s Georgia.

In baseball, the Bulldogs swept a pair from Valparaiso. Luke Adkins‘ RBI groundout brought home the winning run in the ninth and capped a rally from 4-0 down in Game 2. More on the Diamond Dawgs in tomorrow’s Journal, as they prepare to open SEC play against South Carolina this weekend.

Cohen’s Candor: We’re Not Very Good

March 9, 2009

One thing I already love about Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen: his candor.

His team went all the way to Hawaii to lose three of four games to the Warriors. It was a trip Cohen reluctantly took – it was scheduled two years ago – and the Bulldogs’ pitching got touched for 28 runs (23 earned) in the three losses.

“To be real honest with you, we’re not a talented ‘stuff’ pitching staff,” Cohen said. “Stuff” being, of course, baseball parlance for the quality of a pitcher’s repertoire. The bright spots were Tyler Whitney – one run, three hits in 6.1 innings in a 3-1 win – and Nick Routt – two earned runs, two hits in 5 innings of a 7-4 loss. Cohen said those two have made strong cases for weekend starting roles. Then there was Chad Crosswhite, who had a 0.00 ERA in nine innings of relief work but made his first start in Sunday’s 11-5 loss. He yielded five earned runs on seven hits in 2 innings.

“Chad was a victim of circumstance,” Cohen said, citing a blown double play chance. “I think if we give him six or seven days off and get him back out there to start, he’ll be fine.”

Offensively, State managed only 17 runs over the four games. Junior outfielder Luke Adkins shined, going 6 of 13 with two doubles and a grand slam.

Don’t let that 7-1 start State had fool you. Cohen said a ton of work lies ahead. “I’m not trying to make excuses for our players or for us, but I’ve been watching this for months now, and we’re not a very good ball club by any standards.” It should be noted that Cohen always has plenty of positives to say about his team, like, “I can tell you this, nobody’s going to out-compete us.” He’s just being honest, which is great.

MSU (8-4) hosts Valparaiso on Wednesday in a day-night doubleheader, then opens SEC play on Friday against South Carolina. More on Cohen’s Bulldogs later in the week.

Late Night: Hoops & Hawaii

March 7, 2009

Here are updates on the MSU women’s basketball team and the baseball squad, as I try to shake out the cobwebs from a late night of moving watching:

• The baseball boys lost 7-4 to Hawaii on a walk-off home run. Lee Swindle (0-1) struck out the first two batters of the ninth inning, walked the next two, then gave up a three-run blast to Vinnie Catricala. The Bulldogs (8-2) played the Warriors (4-6) again today at 5:05 p.m. Central. Oh, and the softball team is down there, too. The No. 25-ranked Lady Bulldogs beat Hawaii 14-11 after losing 2-0 to Oregon State. They also split two on Thursday.

• At the SEC Women’s Tournament, the Lady Bulldogs faced an LSU team they’d beaten twice in the regular season. This time, though, the Lady Tigers prevailed, 63-58. Allison Hightower had a big second half and finished with 23 points for LSU. Now MSU will take its 22-9 record back to Starkville and wait for a likely NCAA tournament invitation. The latest ESPN bracket projections, made before the SEC tourney, has State as a No. 10 seed.

On the Links: Postseason Hoops; Aloha

March 6, 2009

Neither Mississippi State nor Ole Miss are likely to make the NCAA tournament, and even the NIT is no lock. As I write in today’s Daily Journal, though, there are other options once the SEC Tournament’s over. There is the second annual College Basketball Invitational, and the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Both are 16-team events. But would the Bulldogs or Rebels – who meet Saturday – be interested? State AD Greg Byrne was pretty vague, saying, “We’re going to do what’s best for our basketball program, and that’s obviously a combination of experience for our student-athletes and financial parameters, too.”

Ole Miss AD Pete Boone was stronger in his comments, though. Among other reasons, he said Ole Miss would have “no interest” in anything below the NIT because, “What are you trying to accomplish? The season has obviously been less than successful by most people’s standards.”

I also spoke with former coaches Jim Phelan and Rich Zvosec, who are on the CollegeInsider.com selection committee, and Dan Loney, communications director for the Gazelle Group, which runs the CBI. Give it a read.

If you went to bed early, then you woke up wondering how MSU’s women’s basketball team fared in the first round of the SEC Tournament in North Little Rock. Well, the Lady Bulldogs beat South Carolina, 49-39. State climbed out of an 18-0 hole; it didn’t score its first points until the 9:30 mark of the first half. Alexis Rack led State with 12 points. MSU, the No. 6 seed, plays No. 3 LSU today in another 9 p.m. start.

Playing even later into the night were the baseball Bulldogs. Well, late for us. They beat Hawaii 3-1 in the first of four games against the Warriors. Starter Tyler Whitney (1-0) allowed one run on three hits in 6.2 innings, and Chad Crosswhite earned his third save. MSU is now 8-1.

Mullen Tour Resumes; Byrne Blogs; Etc.

March 5, 2009

MSU football coach Dan Mullen has set his 17-city tour of the Southeast – a.k.a. the “Road Dawgs Tour” – which will begin in late April. In-state stops include Clarksdale, Columbus, Corinth, Greenwood, Jackson, Laurel, McComb, Natchez, Ocean Springs and Vicksburg.

AD Greg Byrne posted his weekly blog today, and he spent quite a bit of it pontificating on the whole Nicholls State fiasco. Some great detail in there, including, “The Nicholls coach’s (Chip Durham) final words were that our team would be the only one on the field.” And there was this: “[T]he spirit of college athletics and the competitive nature of what we do were compromised.”

And then there is this: MSU junior center Jarvis Varnado was named to the NABC District 21 second team, along with “teammate” David Huertas. Once again, our state is disrespected.

Also, a statement from basketball coach Rick Stansbury regarding Elgin Bailey, who’s lost for the season with a dislocated ankle: “He was absolutely playing one of the best games of his career. He’ll be missed. Number one, we’re just thankful there’s no more damage than what’s already there. It’s still a serious injury, but it could have been a lot worse. But if anybody can handle this in a positive way, it’s Elgin. He was really playing with the toughness and energy we knew he could bring. With him being out, it’s really going to hurt our bench. But the other guys are going to have to step up now.”

Stansbury also spoke today about the passing of Lake Kelly, one of his coaching mentors. Kelly was a former Austin Peay head coach and Kentucky assistant: “his is so hard to believe. If not for Lake, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He gave me my first chance at coaching, and I’ll forever be grateful. You know, as great of a coach as he was, and there was no one better, he was even a far greater person. This was a man that loved basketball and talking Xs and Os, almost to a faut. He was more than a coach to me. He was like a father. We did everything together, golfing and fishing. … I owe him everything for where I’m at today.”

Links Aplenty

March 5, 2009

Oh, where to begin? I guess with the big news from Wednesday: Maurice Langston‘s arrest and subsequent suspension from the football team. This look bad for Langston, and it’s a blow to MSU if he isn’t reinstated to the team. Langston was expected to help shore up the cornerback position, which is thin on experience and talent.

To brighter news, here is my account of the Bulldog basketball team’s 80-71 win over Florida. It now becomes very simple for State: Beat Ole Mis on Saturday, and you earn the No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup with Georgia in the SEC Tournament; lose, and it’s a No. 4 seed and a game with Vanderbilt, which stunned LSU last night. Speaking of wacky results, Georgia beat Kentucky. But back to MSU, I failed to note in my story that point guard Dee Bost set a school freshman record for single-season assists. His four last night gives him 130, breaking Jamont Gordon‘s mark of 129 (2005-06).

There was, of course, some bad news last night for State: The severely dislocated ankle suffered by Elgin Bailey. He had X-rays last night and was to see doctors this morning to determine the need for surgery. We should know the answer to that within the next couple hours.

On the women’s side of things, MSU opens SEC Tournament play at 9 p.m. today against South Carolina. More on that later.

Finally, on the baseball front, MSU is in Honolulu getting ready for a four-game set against Hawaii. They better enjoy it, because coach John Cohen probably won’t schedule this trip again. Junior lefty Tyler Whitney will start today’s game, which begins at 10:35 Central. Also, the MSU softball team is there playing for the first time.

NCAA Confirms “No Contest” Ruling

March 2, 2009

Just got off the phone with Jim Wright, director of statistics for the NCAA. He confirmed that the NCAA has ruled Sunday’s game between Mississippi State and Nicholls State, which was called off, goes down as a “no contest” and not, as MSU claimed, a forfeit. And it wasn’t the pictures of Dudy Noble Field that NSU sent to the NCAA that led to that ruling.

“It appears the field was playable. (But) there is no provision that would allow for anything but no contest, because there was no game official on hand.” Nicholls coach Chip Durham said that the umpires couldn’t make it from Birmingham, but even that was irrelevant. (See the below posts for further details.)

The only way the game could have been ruled a forfeit, according to Wright, was if the umpires were there, told the Colonels to take the field, and they refused. “Until a game official has assumed jurisdiction, there can’t be a forfeit,” Wright said.

Two rules come into play here. First is Rule 5-14-a: “There shall be no forfeit of a contest until the umpire or other appropriate contest official has assumed jurisdiction of the contest in accordance with the applicable playing rules.” There were no umps in Starkville. Then there is 5-14-b: “When a team does not appear (e.g., due to weather conditions, accidents, breakdown of vehicles, illness or catastrophic causes), a forfeit is not recorded.” The latter rule was originally inserted into the basketball rulebook about 30 years ago to address basketball teams who couldn’t make a game due to inclement weather. It now applies to all sports.

“The intent of this rule is to say if this game never took place, regardless of the circumstances, it’s a no contest,” said Wright.

Also, Wright said that this game will not factor into NCAA regionals selections, nor will it affect anyone’s RPI.

NCAA: No Contest

March 2, 2009

I had no sooner posted the blog entry below than Bobby Galinsky, Nicholls State’s director of compliance, called and said that the NCAA has ruled in the Colonels’ favor. The baseball game that wasn’t played yesterday has been ruled a “no contest.” Said Galinsky, “According to them, they said that’s the bottom line. As of right now, their ruling was that it was a no contest.” I have left a message with the NCAA asking for confirmation.

He cited Rule 5-14-a, which I cited below: “There shall be no forfeit of a contest until the umpire or other appropriate contest official has assumed jurisdiction of the contest in accordance with the applicable playing rules.” So apparently Jay Logan, MSU’s coordinator of events management and facilities, did not qualify as an “appropriate contest official.” Galinsky also cited 5-14-b: “When a team does not appear (e.g., due to weather conditions, accidents, breakdown of vehicles, illness or catastrophic causes), a forfeit is not recorded.” Galinsky said they took pictures of the field and sent them to the NCAA. He said the field conditions were so bad, they decided to leave early.

NSU coach Chip Durham “said there was no way from the pictures that he took and standing water that they could play that game,” said Galinsky.

Durham also told Galinsky, “We lost by two runs each night, three runs. It’s not like we were scared to play them.”

Sure hope we can resolve this soon. It’s not even an SEC game, for cryin’ out loud.

Forfeit or Cancellation? Coaches Speak

March 2, 2009

The Mississippi State/Nicholls State baseball saga has yet to be resolved. I just spoke with MSU coach John Cohen, whose Bulldogs were expecting to play a game at 1:30 p.m. yesterday against Nicholls State. The Colonels, of course, left town under the impression that the game had been canceled due to field conditions. So, does MSU get a win (and NSU a loss)? As soon as an SEC official calls me back, perhaps I can shed some light on that for you. Cohen said it’ll probably be decided by the NCAA.

Before I quote Cohen, let me relate an e-mail reply from Nicholls coach Chip Durham, who confirmed that the game, from his perspective, was a cancellation and not a forfeit. Wrote Durham:

“We met at 11 a.m., the same time their team was supposed to take the tarp off. There was still snow on areas in the outfield on top of the 5 inches of rain that we got Friday, which made it very saturated. They couldn’t take the tarp off at that time because of the ice and snow still on the tarp. The umpires that we had on Saturday’s doubleheader were from Birmingham and would not come because of iced bridges, so John was going to have to get some local umpires. I was not going to risk injuries for our team with conference starting next weekend just because John wanted to play. If they played an intrasquad game, that’s great for them. I hope they got better doing it and nobody got hurt, but they weren’t going to do it at the expense of risking injuries to our team. We did not forfeit, I canceled the game because their field was not in safe playing conditions due to recent bad weather.”

Here is how the NCAA rulebook defines a forfeit (Rule 2, Section 34): “A game declared ended and awarded to the offended team by the umpire-in-chief.” The rulebook reiterates, in Rule 3-7, “The umpire-in-chief has sole authority to forfeit a game…” According to Durham, the umps never showed, so that would seem to back his claim that it was a cancellation.

We ain’t done yet.

From Rule 4-2-a: “The coach and the director of athletics (or representative) institution shall decide whether a game shall not be started because of unsatisfactory conditions of weather or playing field, except for the second game of a doubleheader.” Obviously, Cohen thought the field would be OK.

But wait, check out Rule 5-14-a: “There shall be no forfeit of a contest until the umpire or other appropriate contest official has assumed jurisdiction of the contest in accordance with the applicable playing rules.” Emphasis is mine, and here’s why: Cohen said Jay Logan, MSU’s coordinator of events management and facilities, was there and apparently qualifies as an “appropriate contest official.” Since the umps weren’t there, the decision fell to Logan. Game on, said he.

Now, back to Cohen. He said he spoke with Durham on Sunday morning. He didn’t offer specifics of the conversation, but told me, “He basically said they were leaving at 11:00, which is 2 1/2 hours before game time.” And furthermore, “The opposing team does not have the authority to cancel a baseball game. I think that’s why we have an issue right now.”

The Bulldogs made do by holding a three-hour intrasquad scrimmage. Since they’re off until Thursday’s trip to Hawaii, Cohen was wanting to get some playing time for certain people.

“Win, lose or draw, I’m disappointed our kids didn’t get to play,” he said. “We don’t get to play until Thursday. I needed to run some people out there.”

No Baseball; Bad Basketball

March 1, 2009

UPDATE (9:40 p.m.): I missed a call back from Nicholls State coach Chip Durham, but he said in the voicemail, “We did not play the game because of field conditions. We did not forfeit that game.” I in turn had to leave a voicemail for him. Still no call back from Cohen. This is indeed a strange little situation.

UPDATE: Despite Nicholls’ State attempt to call this a cancellation, Joe Dier confirmed to me that “it was a forfeit. Trying to find out how we handle it.” If it’s ruled a forfeit, then MSU gets a win and improves to 8-1. Cohen has not returned a voicemail.

As you’ve likely heard, today’s baseball game between Mississippi State and Nicholls State, scheduled for 1:30 p.m., ain’t happenin’. The Colonels forfeited, and I’m still trying to find out exactly why. MSU team spokesman Joe Dier said no specific reason was given for Nicholls’ forfeiture. State beat the Colonels twice yesterday. MSU coach John Cohen said, in a press release, “Our team was ready to play and our players and coaches were dying to play. I feel like we missed out on a perfect opportunity to play.” The Bulldogs instead are holding an intrasquad scrimmage at 2. Their next game is Thursday, the first of four against Hawaii – in Honolulu. Lucky!

On the basketball court, the Bulldogs might as well have forfeited their game Saturday. As coach Rick Stansbury said after the 76-58 loss to Auburn, “When you don’t play hard, you’ve got no chance.” At 17-12, 7-7 in SEC play, you can forget about an NCAA at-large berth. But, there’s always Tampa. Two regular-season games remain before the SEC Tournament (March 12-15): Wednesday vs. Florida, Saturday at Ole Miss.

Don’t forget, the Lady Bulldogs (20-8, 7-6 SEC) wrap up their regular season today at Alabama (13-15, 1-12). The SEC Women’s Tournament begins Thursday in North Little Rock.

Baseball Rained Out

February 27, 2009

Spokesman Joe Dier just informed us that today’s scheduled baseball game between Mississippi State and Nicholls State has been postponed due to rain. A doubleheader for tomorrow is set for a noon start. So that nixes my idea of covering both baseball and hoops. Gates will open at 10:30 a.m., and there’ll be 20 minutes between game.

To review, Ricky Bowen will start Game 1, Nick Routt in Game 2. Sunday’s starter is TBD, and the game begins at 1:30 p.m.

On the Links: One Up, One Down

February 27, 2009

While the Mississippi State men’s NCAA tournament hopes are fading fast, the Lady Bulldogs are well on their way to earning a berth. They won their 20th game of the season last night, fighting off a scrappy South Carolina squad, 58-41, at Humphrey Coliseum. One game – at Alabama on Sunday – remains for MSU (20-8, 7-6 SEC) before the SEC Tournament in North Little Rock, Ark. (March 5-8).

As for the men, not looking good. The Bulldogs (17-11, 7-6 SEC) have lost four of their last five, and that can be blamed largely on youthful inconsistency. Up next is a 5 p.m. home game with Auburn on Saturday; the Tigers beat State 91-76 on Valentine’s Day. More on that game in tomorrow’s paper. Also, in case you didn’t see it in Wednesday’s Journal, the Ole Miss game next Saturday is set for 4 p.m. No television.

On the baseball front, no word yet on whether today’s game against Nicholls State (4 p.m.) has been postponed. I’ll let you know if it is.

On the Links: Hoops and Baseball

February 26, 2009

Mississippi State is officially in a slide. The Bulldogs fell to Tennessee, 81-76, last night. It was their third straight loss and fourth in five games. Scotty Hopson scored a game-high 21 points (on 7-of-11 shooting) to lead the Volunteers (17-10, 8-5 SEC). MSU (17-11, 7-6) never led in the second half. Barry Stewart was solid with 20 points and four assists, and Ravern Johnson scored 18. Point guard Dee Bost offset his 17 points and five assists with six turnovers (State had 17 turnovers to UT’s 10). Jarvis Varnado struggled, getting just eight points, six boards and three blocks. The Bulldogs shot pretty well – 47.2 percent from the field, 36.7 from 3-point range – but the defense was not there. State has given up 80-plus points in four of its last five games.

Big picture, this means MSU is losing its grip on second place in the West and the first-round bye in the SEC Tournament that comes with that. With Auburn beating Ole Miss, the Bulldogs and Tigers are now tied for second. They meet Saturday in Starkville (Auburn won the first meeting). I’ll have more on the Bulldogs in tomorrow’s Journal.

I’ll also have something on the Lady Bulldogs, as I’m covering their game tonight against South Carolina. Final home game of the year.

To the baseball diamond, MSU pulled out a 4-3 win over Mississippi Valley State yesterday. Brent Brownlee‘s pinch-hit double in the eighth inning broke a 3-3 tie. Reliever Justin Bussey (1-0) earned the win with 1 1/3 innings of work. True freshman David Hayes, who learned about four hours before game time he would start, gave up a run on two hits in 1 2/3 innings. Greg Houston and Lee Swindle also pitched for MSU.

Baseball: Instant Reaction

February 24, 2009

Mississippi State improved to 4-1 with a 5-1 victory over a tough South Alabama squad earlier today. Forrest Moore, a sophomore left-hander, got the start and improved to 2-0, giving up one run on five hits in six innings. He struck out six, walked two and threw 90 pitches. Pretty dang efficient.

This was Moore’s first start. He tossed three scoreless innings of relief in Friday’s season-opening win over Northern Illinois. And senior righty Chad Crosswhite had another solid relief outing tonight, allowing one hit in three innings. In two appearances, he has recorded five scoreless frames.

I blogged earlier today about freshman Nick Routt making a strong case for himself as a weekend starter. Moore certainly has as well, and while Crosswhite could see some starts, I think he’ll settle into the closer’s role.

MSU returns to action at Dudy Noble Field tomorrow at 4 p.m. against Mississippi Valley State.