March 30, 2010 9:29:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- A dramatic weekend behind them, the Mississippi State baseball team will try to bottle up what went right for it against Georgia when it takes on the University of Mississippi today for the Governor''s Cup in Pearl.
The Bulldogs (14-10, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) won their first SEC series of the season Sunday, rallying from an eight-run deficit in the final two innings to beat Georgia 11-10.
Today, they''ll look to win the annual Governor''s Cup against Ole Miss (19-6, 4-2) ahead of their weekend series at SEC East leader South Carolina.
The Rebels enter today''s game ranked No. 14 in the USA Today and NCAA coaches'' baseball polls and No. 11 in the Baseball America and the Collegiate Baseball polls following a series win against No. 2 Florida.
Needless to say, it''s a big week for MSU baseball.
Ole Miss won last year''s Governor''s Cup at Pearl''s Trustmark Park before dropping the SEC series against MSU in Oxford.
MSU coach John Cohen hopes the excitement from Sunday''s win coupled with the unity that has spawned from its 11 comeback wins can lift the team to a key win.
The rivalry between the schools will add another element, and though Cohen admits mid-week games have a "different feel" than SEC weekend ties, the Governor''s Cup is a big deal to MSU''s players.
"The weekend was kind of emotional for the kids," Cohen said. "I think your guys say no matter what the score is we have a chance to win. This is an opportunity to compete on a little bit different stage. Our kids, a lot of them grew up playing against each other, so they''re really excited."
The rivalry aside, today''s game presents the Bulldogs with another shot at a quality Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) win after missing out on three opportunities against Florida. MSU is ranked 30th in RPI and 10th in strength of schedule according to warrennolan.com, while Ole Miss has an RPI of 12.
The Bulldogs are 3-8 against the RPI top 50.
"When you play quality teams in the middle of the week it''s going to help you," Cohen said. "We have to take advantage of another good opportunity."
MSU''s offense, which has struggled this season but shown the propensity for late-inning fireworks, will face David Goforth (0-1, 8.31 ERA), who is earning his first start of the season after making 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Cohen said the Rebels'' will have solid defense behind Goforth, as the veteran team aims for its fifth win in its past six games. The Rebels are tied for second in the SEC West, and though today''s game won''t count against league records, UM could benefit from another high-RPI win.
"Ole Miss is a ball club with good balance, and they''ve done a nice job over the past four or five years of assembling the right guys to maintain a high level of play," Cohen said. "They don''t make mistakes defensively."
Cohen said he''s leaning toward starting freshman C.C. Watson for the first time this season. The left-hander enters today with a 1-0 record and a 2.08 ERA in eight innings. Should Watson earn the start, he''ll be the sixth MSU freshman pitcher to start a game this season.
Watson will face a lineup that''s second in the league in extra-base hits, led by Alex Yarbrough''s .358 average and Zach Miller''s 32 RBIs.
Watson hasn''t lasted longer than 1 2/3 innings.
The Bulldogs used Monday, normally a day off, to practice and will take Wednesday off to prepare for another South Carolina.
NOTES: Already without injured infielders Frank Rawdow and Jarrod Parks, the Bulldogs could be without freshman second baseman Sam Frost, who knocked his knee Sunday in a collision during a double play. If Frost can''t go, Johnathan Ogden will move to second base and Nick Vickerson will go to shortstop.