March 30, 2012 8:56:33 AM
STARKVILLE - Without further ado:
Item No. 1 - Mississippi State baseball news -
Mississippi State (17-9, 2-4 SEC) will begin a weekend three-game SEC Western Division series at 24th-ranked Auburn tonight.
Friday's series-opener, pitting MSU right-hander Chris Stratton (5-0, 2.21) against Auburn sophomore righty Derek Varnadore (1-2, 4.23), is set for a 6 p.m. (CDT) start at Samford Stadium-Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park. The teams square off against Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. The radio broadcast of this weekend's games will be carried on the MSU Baseball Radio Network and offered online as a subscription-based audio streaming (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).
Auburn, ranked as high as 24th nationally after taking two of three games from LSU last weekend, becomes the third consecutive ranked SEC opponent in as many weekends of league play for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs opened league play at then-No. 10 LSU and last weekend hosted No. 3 Arkansas.
MSU leads the Southeastern Conference rand ranks second behind Miami, Ohio with 33 double plays. State's pitching staff takes top honors in the league this week with 244 strikeouts, fourth-most in the NCAA to open the week. Stratton, leads the league with 53 punchouts, also the fourth-best mark in the NCAA.
MSU's last series win at Auburn was a two-of-three showing in 2004.
Auburn has been paced offensively by Co-SEC Player of the Week Ryan Tella, who enters the weekend among the SEC leaders in batting average (.415, second), slugging percentage (.533, 10th), on base percentage (.513, second), hits (39, tied-second), triples (2, tied-third), total bases (52, 10th), walks (18, tied-fifth) and steals (8, fourth).
The Auburn pitching staff has had two solid weekends to open up SEC play, surrendering just eight runs over three games in a series win at No. 12 Ole Miss and then had a 1.29 ERA in the series win over No. 8 LSU.
Item No. 2 - Mississippi State men's basketball coaching search news -
The Mississippi State men's basketball coaching search process reached a full two weeks Thursday on a confusing note.
The school's Director of Athletics released a statement Thursday that according to sources connected to the search was intended to 'calm the troops' and instill confidence in a restless fanbase wanting to know why the process has dragged on for nearly a month.
Thursday's words from Stricklin which were first introduced on his Twitter page, represented the first public comments from the school's highest athletics officer since speaking minutes after former MSU coach Rick Stansbury's retirement press conference.
"Like Bulldog fans everywhere, I eagerly anticipate the hiring of Mississippi State's next men's basketball coach," Stricklin's statement read. "However, from the beginning of this process, no deadline has been imposed on the search. It's important that we hire the right candidate to lead our program, a person of integrity who will instill discipline, character and accountability into the men's basketball program at Mississippi State. Thank you for your patience. Hail State!"
Stricklin's statement was released minutes after a CBSsports.com reported Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller is the latest candidate for the opening.
The statement is another instance where Stricklin has answered the fan unrest himself after not initially naming an interim head coach during the search process saying instead he would be the one possibly contact recruits and current players to keep them informed on the process.
"Obviously the message there is to ask for patience while we're going through this process and Mississippi State is still a great school, we've got great facilities, and we compete in a great league," Stricklin said on March 15. "And we're going to hire a great coach, be patient until we get through this process."
Stricklin is still expected to interview a host of candidates at the Final Four in New Orleans, the site of the annual coaches' convention.
Item No. 3 - Mississippi State volleyball news -
Mississippi State University volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood has announced the addition of Taylor Evans as an assistant coach on the MSU volleyball staff.
The Alamo, Calif., native will coordinate MSU's volleyball recruiting, work closely with player development and handle on-court coaching responsibilities in addition to a wide array of additional duties within the Bulldog volleyball program.
"We are very excited to welcome Taylor to the Bulldog family," said Hazelwood. "He is the perfect fit for our program and will be a great addition to our staff. His high-energy, great work ethic and his playing experience on a national championship team as a student-athlete will definitely help take the Mississippi State volleyball program to the next level."
Evans, 30, joins the MSU staff after serving the past year as an assistant coach at the University of Denver, which notched the program's first win over a ranked opponent last fall. Previous coaching experience includes a year on the staff at the University of Utah in 2010, where he helped train the 2010 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, and two seasons in a similar capacity at American University in Washington D.C., where he assisted in the Eagles' advancement to Patriot League titles and NCAA Tournament berths both seasons.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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