Southern Miss and Mississippi State rekindling regular season rivalry
In a January Twitter poll receiving more than two thousand votes on an NCAA fan page, Southern Miss and Mississippi State was picked as the top-ranked opening weekend series in all of college baseball.
Starting Friday, the Golden Eagles and Bulldogs will lead off the new campaign with a three game rematch of the 2017 Hattiesburg regional featuring a little bit of everything.
Back in June, MSU fought its way out of the loser’s bracket and beat the Black and Gold in a rain-filled double header to advance to a Super Regional. Thus renewing an in-state rivalry that hasn’t been to Pete Taylor Park in the regular season since 2010.
USM acknowledges the heartbreak of last year’s regional letdown, but isn’t necessarily drawing on that as its lone source of motivation. Southern Miss Head Baseball Coach Scott Berry said, “I don’t want us to focus on that opponent. If we were playing whoever else, I don’t know, Slippery Rock. I would want us wanting to beat Slippery Rock, in all honesty. So Mississippi State happens to be the opener and we all know the excitement that that’s bringing, obviously. But at the end of the day I don’t want emotion steering our team whether we win or lose. I want us to focus on playing the game and winning the game.”
USM Outfielder/Pitcher Matt Wallner said, “I can still remember staying up until four or five in the morning just watching that game, the State game last year after we lost in the regional, but like Coach Berry said we’re not focused on Mississippi State kind of, we’re focused on the season as a whole and that’s just a great way to get going.”
What’s been dubbed as the Mississippi Farm Bureau Classic has been sold out for almost two weeks.
Today, both ball clubs announced their starting pitching rotations for the upcoming series starting with a new look on Friday. Last year’s closer Nick Sandlin has been tabbed as the ace of the staff for USM while East Central alum Konnor Pilkington will go for the Bulldogs.
On Saturday, it’s Stevie Powers vs. Ethan Small and then J.C. Keys against Jacob Billingsley on Sunday.