Two of the best leadoff hitters in the SEC will be at Trustmark Park in Pearl for tonight’s Governor’s Cup. Unfortunately, fans may see only one of them in the game, the 40th renewal of this classic clash that began as the Mayor’s Trophy at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1980. Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, the school’s all-time hits leader, is expected to be atop the Bulldogs’ lineup, as usual, but Ole Miss’ Ryan Olenek sat out the Rebels’ weekend series at Auburn because of a lingering hip injury. Perhaps he’ll be back in the 1-hole for tonight’s game, which doesn’t count in the SEC standings but means an awful lot to everyone involved. Both Mangum and Olenek were first-team All-SEC picks and Ferriss Trophy finalists in 2018. Both were drafted last June – Mangum for the second time — but opted to return for their senior season. And both have been catalysts for outstanding clubs in 2019. Mangum is batting .383 with 47 runs, 32 RBIs and 19 steals in 41 games for the 32-9 Bulldogs. Olenek is batting .370 with 32 runs, 26 RBIs and six bags in 36 games for the 27-14 Rebels. He emerged as a potent leadoff man in the high-scoring sweep of Florida on April 5-6, going 7-for-11 in the three games. The Mangum-Olenek matchup would be a compelling sidebar, though this game seldom lacks for storylines. MSU leads the Trophy/Cup series 21-18, having won three straight before standing-room-only crowds at the TeePee.
8,480 – Listed capacity of Pearl’s Trustmark Park, which will be exceeded in tonight’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State game.
6:30 – Time of first pitch, changed to accommodate the SEC Network broadcast.
36 – Meetings in the Mayor’s Trophy/Governor’s Cup series, with each team winning 18 times.
246 – Wins for State in the all-time series.
205 – Wins for Ole Miss in the all-time series.
5 – Wins by State vs. Ole Miss in nine games at Trustmark Park.
3 – State’s ranking in the Baseball America poll (and two others).
9 – Ole Miss’ ranking in the BA poll.
0 – Career starts for Ole Miss freshman Ryan Cyr (1-0, 0.00 in 12 innings), who gets the ball tonight.
8 – Career starts for State junior Chad Smith, who is 3-3, 4.99 in 11 appearances overall.
7 – Home runs by Gavin Collins, State’s leader.
5 – Home runs by Colby Bortles and J.B. Woodman, Ole Miss’ leaders.
.397 – State’s team on-base percentage.
.362 – Ole Miss’ team OBP.
39 – First-inning runs scored by Ole Miss (to 15 by its opponents).
122 – Two-out RBIs by State hitters.
3.84 – State’s staff ERA.
3.07 – Ole Miss’ staff ERA.
In April of 1984, a newcomer to Mississippi ventured out to Smith-Wills Stadium to watch a college baseball game. The newcomer had a hard time finding a parking place. The newcomer was stunned to see that the Jackson ballpark, which seats about 5,000, was practically full. For a college baseball game. Where the newcomer came from, no one would have believed this. That 1984 game matched Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the fifth renewal of what used to be known as the Mayor’s Trophy Game. It’s now called the Governor’s Cup and is played at Pearl’s Trustmark Park. The Mississippi Braves’ home stadium, which can accommodate 7,000-plus, will be packed when the Bulldogs and Rebels meet there Tuesday night. Both teams are nationally ranked, but that doesn’t matter. The fans would show up regardless. The tickets are pricey — $12 for general admission, $25 or more for a reserved seat — but that doesn’t matter, either. The fans will pay. Even lousy weather won’t keep them away. Ole Miss-State is that kind of rivalry. In a recent issue of Baseball America, a columnist built a case for Clemson-South Carolina as the best current college baseball rivalry. The columnist ought to make a trip out to the TeePee on Tuesday night. Like that newcomer to Mississippi back in 1984, he might be impressed. He might change his mind on that rivalry thing. P.S. The Rebels are coming off a series loss to LSU, though they outscored the visiting Tigers 8-7 in three tense games. State is coming off a series sweep at Missouri. Ole Miss took two of three from State in Starkville just over a week ago, outscoring the Bulldogs 23-11.