By Adam Brown
The No. 6 Ole Miss Rebels step back into conference action this weekend as they travel to Starkville, Mississippi to take on the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs in a three-game series. The first pitch of the series is set for Friday at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Ole Miss (25-8, 8-4 SEC) is tied with their in-state rivals Mississippi State for second in the West coming into the weekend, after losing a heartbreaking series to No. 1 Arkansas last week. The Rebels bounced back on Tuesday with a 13-1 win over Austin Peay.
Against the Razorbacks, Ole Miss scored 30 runs over the weekend and 58 runs over five games last week. The Rebels are second in the SEC and rank fourth nationally with 253 runs scored.
A total of eight Rebels hit .400 or better last week, while left fielder Kevin Graham’s .368 average made a total of nine Ole Miss sluggers over .350.
Ole Miss has recorded 335 hits this season that propels them to a .302 team batting average which is second in the conference and 16th nationally.
Mississippi State (25-7, 8-4 SEC) comes into this series after sweeping Auburn last weekend and defeating Arkansas State on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs are currently on a six-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs are led by Tanner Allen with a .333 batting average, 38 hits and 34 RBIs on the season.
As a team last week, Mississippi State had a .338 batting average and slugged .591 with 10 doubles, one triple and nine home runs.
The pitching matchup for this series will have Gunnar Hoglund (Friday), LHP Doug Nikhazy (Saturday) and Drew McDaniel (Sunday) on the mound for the Rebels.
This season, Ole Miss’s pitching staff is averaging 12.1 strikeouts per game, which has them ranked at No. 3 nationally and third in the conference.
Mississippi State will match up with LHP Christian MacLeod (Friday), RHP Will Bednar (Saturday) and RHP Jackson Fristoe (Sunday).
These two programs are no strangers on the diamond, as this series will mark their 464th all-time meeting. The Bulldogs hold a 248-210-5 lead. Mississippi State holds the upper hand in the series as of late, winning the last six meetings and 14 of the last 16. The Bulldogs have also won each of the last four weekend series between the in-state rivals.
Ole Miss last won a series over MSU in 2015, a three-game sweep in Oxford. The Rebels last won a series in Starkville, taking two of three at Dudy Noble Field in 2014 en route to the College World Series.
Game times for this series are Friday (6 p.m. SEC Network), Saturday (2 p.m. SEC Network+) and Sunday (1 p.m. SEC Network+).