02 Mar

road trip

Mississippi’s Big 3 Division I schools, who have a 20-5 combined record, have played one road game between them this season. It’s time to buckle up. All three are scheduled for a significant road test this weekend. Southern Miss (7-1), which lost to Alabama in its only game away from Taylor Park, is at nationally ranked Louisiana-Lafayette for a Friday-Sunday series. USM is averaging 10 runs a game, led by Hunter Slater (.467), Taylor Braley (.464) and Dylan Burdeaux (.333, four homers, 13 RBIs), among others. With the exception of Kirk McCarty (2-0, 1.46 ERA), USM’s starting pitching has been erratic. The Ragin’ Cajuns (4-3) have a 2.25 staff ERA, though they have been somewhat challenged with the bats (21 runs total). A winning series might get the Golden Eagles some attention in the polls. Mississippi State (6-3), which makes the long trip to Eugene, Ore., this weekend, has been hitting a ton at Dudy Noble Field, having scored 76 runs. Familiar names like Jake Mangum (.474), Ryan Gridley (.447) and Brent Rooker (.394, three homers, 17 RBIs) are off to hot starts. The Bulldogs’ pitching hasn’t been as sharp with a 5.31 ERA, though sophomore Peyton Plumlee is 2-0, 0.64. Oregon (4-3) is not a traditional powerhouse but has put up seven straight winning seasons. The 2017 Ducks have been hampered by an anemic offense (.240 average, only two .300 hitters). Ole Miss, 7-1 and ranked in various national polls, heads off to Houston for the loaded Shriners Hospital for Children Classic. The Rebels will face three good Big 12 teams: Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU, the latter ranked No. 1 in some polls. UM has hit (.319) and pitched (3.50 ERA) well at Oxford-University Stadium, a sloppy 9-6 loss to Memphis on Tuesday notwithstanding. Freshmen Thomas Dillard (9-for-18) and Cole Zabowski (.417) and veteran Will Golsan (.355, seven RBIs, nine runs, eight-game hit streak) have shined at the plate, David Parkinson (2-0, 2.77) and Dallas Woolfolk (three saves) on the bump. The Rebels should get a good read on their club in this event. P.S. Jackson State makes the trip up to Itta Bena this weekend for a SWAC series against Mississippi Valley State at Magnolia Field. The Tigers are 4-4, coming off a home loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday. Lamar Briggs (.433), the reigning SWAC player of the week, and C.J. Newsome (.370) have paced the JSU attack. Valley is 1-4, its last two games cancelled because of weather, including a contest against Delta State on Wednesday.

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