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MSU to scrimmage on first day of practice


Danny P Smith



STARKVILLE --┬áToday will be a super Sunday of a different sort for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 


And it has nothing to do with football. 


Today will be the first day of spring baseball practice for the Bulldogs and first-year coach John Cohen. 


"It''s going to definitely be a busy day," Mississippi State sophomore infielder Ryan Collins said. "It''s going to be nice to get the season started. We ready for it to hurry up and get here." 


The Bulldogs have been going through individual workouts the past three weeks in preparation for the today''s start of practice nationwide. 


"They are preparing hard with our strength and conditioning and individual skill instruction, but it kind of gets elevated a notch Sunday, and we''re excited about it," Cohen said. "The kids have given us a great effort, and I was really pleasantly surprised how good a condition they came back from the winter break. I''m excited about this group, and they are given us everything they have. I expect us to compete very well." 


The Bulldogs are anxious to get a jump on trying to better last season''s 23-33 record. 


"We''re looking forward to what coach Cohen is going to have us doing," said Mississippi State senior outfielder Nick Hardy. "It sounds like we''ll be scrimmaging on day one, so he''s ready to get after it." 


The Bulldogs take the field at 12:30 p.m. today and will hold a public scrimmage at 1:30 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field. 


"We''ve got an attitude of we''re ready to get after it and ready to attack the game with practice starting up," Mississippi State junior infielder Jet Butler said. "We''re not picked to do very well, but we see that as a challenge." 


LSU (No. 1), Georgia (No. 4), Ole Miss (No. 11), and Florida (No. 23) are ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Preseason Coaches Poll. 


Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and South Carolina are also receiving votes in that order. 


After taking over for coach Ron Polk, Cohen knows the players still will need to adjust to his style of doing things. 


"When you are in a program for a two-, three- or four-year period so many of your players already understand a signal system," Cohen said. "Because it''s new for everybody, it''s a much longer process. We''re always in a hurry to get through everything. I like the way things are coming together." 


Butler said the Bulldogs are embracing Cohen''s style. 


"We''re buying into it, excited, and think it''s going to pay off," Butler said. "I really think we''re going to surprise some people." 


Whether Butler will play at shortstop or second base will be one of the questions preseason practice might answer. 


The players say it''s refreshing to start practice under new direction. 


"I think we all like the coaching staff and the changes that were made," Hardy said. "I think it''s going to be good for the team, and I think you''ll see a big difference. Maybe it will be a positive difference." 


The just-completed practice field south of the Palmeiro Center should help the Bulldogs adjust even quicker. 


"We haven''t gotten to use it much," Hardy said. "The only thing right now the players are worried about is double-the-tarp duty." 


Mississippi State begins its 119th season Feb. 20-23 when it plays host to North Florida and Northern Illinois in the inaugural BankFirst Baseball Challenge at Dudy Noble Field. 


Mississippi State launches the new season Feb. 20 with a 6 p.m. game against Northern Illinois. In a Saturday twinbill, MSU tests North Florida at 12:30 p.m. and Northern Illinois at 4 p.m. It closes the three-day Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Sunday against North Florida. 


n In related news, baseball season ticket sales have climbed past the 5,000 mark for the eighth consecutive year. 


Through Thursday''s sales and with three weeks remaining before the season-opening BankFirst Baseball Challenge, the Mississippi State Athletic Ticket Office reports the sale of 5,019 season tickets. 


A school-record 5,596 season tickets were sold in 2002. 


Also, tickets ($30) are also on sale through the MSU Athletic Ticket Office (662-325-2600) for the 12th annual "First Pitch/Meet the Team" celebration Feb. 19 at the Palmeiro Center. 


Cohen will be the featured speaker at the event, which begins with a 6 p.m. buffet-style meal in the adjoining Griffis Boardroom.  






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