OXFORD – Hard to imagine a much better weekend for Mississippi’s college baseball teams – other than, well, the weather could have been considerably better Sunday.
As it is, Mississippi teams took a well-deserved day of rest after a remarkable Saturday, that included:
• Mississippi State’s once given-up-for-dead Bulldogs swept a doubleheader from third-ranked (USA Today coaches poll) Arkansas, and, with that, swept the three-game series from the Razorbacks. The Bulldogs soared 17 spots to No. 43 in RPI ratings. After winning 6-5 on Friday, State won 5-3 and 7-5 on Saturday. A wise man once said that there are no upsets in baseball, but the Bulldogs’ three-game sweep of one of the nation’s best teams is close.
• After losing a one-run game to No. 19 Georgia on Friday, No. 7 Ole Miss swept a doubleheader from the Bulldogs on Saturday. Captain Will Golson slammed two home runs in the Rebels’ 8-4 nightcap victory after a 5-2 victory in the first game. The sweep and series victory was huge for Ole Miss after the 32-9 Rebels had lost two straight SEC series to State and Vanderbilt.
• No. 16 Southern Miss, which has now won five straight, swept a three-game series from Middle Tennessee State and made it look exceedingly easy, out-scoring the visitors 28-3. Best news for USM? Nick Sandlin, the Eagles’ best pitcher and one of the best in the country, returned from an apparently minor shoulder injury. He pitched five nearly perfect innings in the third-game, 8-0 victory, allowing only one hit and striking out 12 of the 16 batters he faced. Sandlin, 5-0, has now struck out 87 batters while walking only six in 54 innings. That’s other-worldly.
•No. 5 (Division II) Delta State swept a doubleheader at North Alabama 5-2 and 11-8, thus sweeping the three-game weekend series and moving to 35-7 on the season. On the subject of other-worldly, Zack Shannon blasted home runs in both games and now has hit a nation-leading 27 on the season, breaking Dee Haynes’ old school record of 26 set in 1999.
• Jackson State, 23-13, took two of three in a weekend series with SWAC East rival Alabama State and the two teams are now tied at the top of the division with 15-6 conference records.
With only four weekends left in the D-1 regular season, the Magnolia State teams appear to be heating up at the right time. All have busy weeks ahead.
State and Ole Miss will play each other Tuesday night at Trustmark Park in the annual Governor’s Cup at 6 p.m. Ole Miss will try to even the season series after losing two of three games to State recently.
After that, the Rebels host LSU for a Thursday-Saturday series. State brings nationally ranked Texas A & M to Starkville for a Friday-Sunday series.
Southern Miss will host long-time rival South Alabama in a big RPI game Tuesday night at Pete Taylor Park. South Alabama, which beat the Eagles 10-9 at Mobile in the first week of the season, has a 24-13 record and a No. 28 RPI. That’s the highest RPI team remaining on the USM schedule. USM will then play a weekend series (Fri.-Sun.) at Old Dominion.
While on the subject of RPI, Mississippi State, with its sweep of Arkansas, also helped the RPIs of both Southern Miss and Ole Miss and helped the Rebels move into a first plae tie with the Razorbacks in the SEC West. USM, which swept State in the first weekend series, really has received a boost from State’s weekend success. The Golden Eagles moved up 18 rungs last week on the RPI ladder from No. 55 to No. 37.