March 19, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Dudy Noble Field, Mississippi State''s baseball surface, has had the reputation of being one of the nation''s best draining fields.
But the system is showing its age.
The surface and drainage system has been in place since 1990, when MSU coach John Cohen played for the Bulldogs.
"The drainage we have is still functional, but we''ve probably got the oldest surface in the conference," MSU sports turf manager Bart Prather said. "It could use some improvements, but it''s still a good baseball field. It''s something coach really wants to do, and that is something we want to focus on when we have an opportunity to do it."
There has been some conversation on upgrades, but they are in the preliminary stages.
In the meantime, Prather, assistant Brandon Hardin and staff are committed to making Dudy Noble Field the most playable situation possible.
"When it''s game time, we are going to try and have it ready for play," Prather said. "Our staff does a good job, and they deserve all the credit."
Sometimes those efforts are challenges, especially last weekend when four and a half inches of rain fell prior to the South Carolina series.
After Friday night''s rainout, Prather''s crew went to work once the precipitation ended.
"We came in Saturday morning and hand-pumped out about 250 gallons of water off the center-field and right-field areas," Prather said. "We used a lot of surface (diamond dry), but the tarp helps. The outfield is the wettest area of all."
Prather didn''t have to worry about the weather Wednesday. The temperature was 73 degrees at the start of the game against Alabama-Birmingham, with sunny skies.
MSU men''s tennis coach Per Nilsson knows he has a player who can outthink an opponent.
Senior Ryan Farlow was honored last week as the male winner of the Newsom Award, which recognizes the top scholar-athletes at the school.
With a demanding spring schedule due to practice time and matches, Farlow said he must find a balance to excel academically.
"It''s all about being dedicated and setting your priorities," Farlow said. "While I''ve been in school, academics has been my first priority and tennis has been second. Even though I''ve been missing class with tennis in going to matches and tournaments, I''ve been able to do my schoolwork on the road."
Farlow was a big part of the Bulldogs'' 4-3 upset victory against 20th-ranked Auburn last week.
After falling behind 4-1 in the final set of his singles match, Farlow won the final five games of the match.
Farlow was glad to be instrumental in such a key moment, and hopes it is the start of something positive for the program.
"It was a big win for us, and our first big win of the season," Farlow said. "It was the first big win against a top-25 team. All we needed was four points in that match and I was lucky enough to get the last one. It was another step in the direction we are trying to take this program."
Farlow is the only senior on the team, which is building for the future.
Nilsson said Farlow''s determination is something the younger players can use to see what it takes to be successful.
"It was great for the other guys to see Ryan take over," Nilsson said. "It was a veteran move, and what he did was incredible."
Farlow is one of 15 student-athletes recognized by academic and student services offices for their academic performance.
"It''s extremely difficult to compete in the SEC athletically," MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne said. "It is just as arduous for those young men and women to compete at a high level in the classroom."
The other top academic male athletes were Riley Benock (basketball), Grant Hogue (baseball), Derek Sherrod (football), Noah Goldman (golf), Robert Scribner (cross country), and Daniel Simpkins (track and field).
Softball player Samantha Joe Bailey was the top female academic athlete, while Mary Kathryn Govero (basketball), Mallory Batson (golf), Leanna Baldner (soccer), Radka Ferancova (tennis), and Simone Domingue (cross country) were recognized.
One person''s misfortunate became an opportunity for MSU women''s senior track athlete Marrissa Harris.
Harris had already accepted the fact last week that she had not done enough to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships.
MSU track coach Al Schmidt got the word at noon on the Thursday before the meet that one of the other participants sustained an injury, which opened the door for Harris.
"We did an express mail and got her over to nationals," Schmidt said.
Harris ran the 60-meter hurdles in College Station, Texas, and finished 15th with a time of 9.22 seconds.
Harris'' problem was she approached the second hurdle too fast and tripped.
"That''s what can happen," Schmidt said. "She was in such good shape, but if you get to the hurdles too fast that you are not used to, you can crash. She got to the second hurdle faster than she ever has, which is a good sign, but it caught her off guard and crashed the hurdle."
Schmidt said Harris is a better outdoor hurdler than indoor, but it still will be a couple of weeks before she can show that ability.
Harris isn''t expected to do very much when the women''s open the outdoor season at the Rhodes College Invitational in Memphis.
After only throwing the javelin and participating in relays at the Rhodes meet, Schmidt said Harris will do the heptathlon at the Alabama Relays
"We are limiting what the kids do outside because we have Alabama Relays next week and the Texas Relays after that (and) we''re going to run a couple of relays that are NCAA qualifying," Schmidt said. "Wendy Copeland and Priscilla Gaines scored in the SEC in the triple jump, so we are putting them in there, and we have a junior college transfer Kendrick Poullard we are putting the triple jump. Those are really the only events."
Real spring break
MSU athletics doesn''t have the full schedule this weekend as it has had in past weeks or will have later this spring.
Farlow and the men''s tennis team begin play at the Blue-Gray National Classic at 4 today against Notre Dame. The tournament-style event in Montgomery, Ala., continues Friday.
The only activity for the women''s tennis team was this morning''s home match against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Lady Bulldogs were attempting to improve their 8-0 non-conference record.
Along with track in Memphis, the baseball squad travels to Georgia for its second Southeastern Conference series Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The softball squad plays host to LSU with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday and single game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The men''s golf team won''t play until Monday at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate.
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