STARKVILE -- When Mississippi State softball coach Vann Stuedeman took over the program three seasons ago, her primary goal was to make postseason play an expected destination every year.
STARKVILLE -- Cody Walker wasn't sure how much more he would play this season. Before this weekend, the Mississippi State baseball team's third-string catcher had only played in three Southeastern Conference games. However, it was Walker, a .198 hitter, who earned a walk-off walk against reliever Andrew Lee to lift No. 21 MSU to a 4-3 victory against Tennessee in 12 innings at Dudy Noble Field.
For Columbus High School senior baseball player Michael Sturdivant, Saturday night quickly became more about celebration than dismay. "We did something Columbus High School has never done," Sturdivant said. "We were the best team that has ever come through this city. We were a special group of guys who really poured their hearts and souls into making it work. We won 23 games. We did things that had never been done before here and will probably be never done again. Making it to the third round of the playoffs is special. I am not bragging because the glory goes to God."
The New Hope High School baseball team is playing with the confidence of a defending state champion. "It's not a cocky confidence," New Hope senior left fielder Rooke Coleman said. "It's more of a confidence that comes from having been there and done that. Last season, our fans were doubting us and they didn't know if we could go all the way. This year is different. This year everybody expects us to (win a state championship)."
Tabitha Beard knew what to expect from seventh-grader Aspen Wesley. The New Hope High School fast-pitch softball coach compiled enough scouting reports on Neshoba Central's seventh-grade right-handed pitcher to formulate a game plan predicated on her hitters being aggressive early in the count and not swinging at any of Wesley's "junk."
Mercedes Mattix has passed possibly the biggest remaining hurdle in her high school career. For some reason, the New Hope High School senior has had difficulty in her career at North State meets. The latest one, which was Saturday in Oxford, was no different. You only have to ask Mattix about her times and a dissatisfied look covers her face.
The passage of time can go two ways when you are trying to attract attention to land an opportunity to play a sport in college. As college coaches sort through prospects and evaluate players, the process can be tedious, especially after an initial visit or a first tryout. But once coaches determine which players they want and the student-athletes decide if a school is the right fit, the process can pick up steam and be completed in a matter of hours.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State pitchers Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder earned a giant thank you from their coaches, players, and fans Saturday night.
NEW YORK -- Mississippi State All-American offensive guard Gabe Jackson fulfilled a lifelong dream by reaching the NFL as he was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 81st overall pick in the third round of the NFL draft on Friday night.
An injury can't slow a softball brain. In the case of Taylor Blevins, her brain is itching to tell her legs to go. For the longest time, though, torn ligaments in her left thumb prevented the New Hope High School senior from playing a key role on the school's fast-pitch softball team. After seeing significant minutes in the girls basketball team's run to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state semifinals, Blevins' injury forced her to miss most of her final high school fast-pitch season.
Mackenzie Harvey understands what it is like to be called a "baby." The term is one New Hope High School softball coach Tabitha Beard uses to describe the younger players who have come up through the slow- and fast-pitch programs and have grown into young ladies under her watch. It is a special word because Beard once was one of those "babies" for longtime New Hope softball coach Cary Shepherd.
Columbus High School baseball coach Jeffrey Cook knew this season could be special. With senior pitchers Trace Lee and Hunter Mullis and veteran standouts like Chris McCullough, Gevonta Webb, and Greg Sykes, Cook felt the Falcons would have the potential to make their fourth-straight playoff appearance.
STARKVILLE -- Ben Bracewell has seen it all in his five years at Mississippi State. From the lows of suffering season-ending surgeries to the heights of being a key contributor last year in a run to the College World Series, Bracewell is one of the few Bulldogs who has experienced every emotion at Dudy Noble Field.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School senior Alex Ross found one of his true passions in life by accident. Ross joined the Starkville High track and field team his eighth-grade year to stay in shape for soccer. Five years later, he will compete Saturday for the final time for the Yellow Jackets in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A, 4A and 6A state championships at Pearl High.
Before the 2014 dirt track season began, Neil Baggett had to choose between two motors: larger, heavier, and stronger, or smaller, lighter, and better for handling.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen keeps saying his players know what's at stake as they jockey for postseason position in final month of the regular season.
In most cases, championship puzzles take years to assemble. In addition to needing quality feeder programs to help their programs reload, coaches have to find the right blend of personalities and skills to make their teams click.
STARKVILLE -- Rick Stansbury may find himself coaching on the visitors bench at Humphrey Coliseum. The former Mississippi State men's basketball coach will be back on the Division I sidelines as an assistant coach. On Wednesday, multiple sources confirmed to The Dispatch that Stansbury had agreed to join the Texas A&M coaching staff as an assistant to head coach Billy Kennedy. The Aggies announced the decision Wednesday night.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy almost teared up this spring when asked what his first practice in five years was like without Gabe Jackson.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The No. 16 Kentucky softball team used a walk-off single from Nikki Sagermann to claim a 4-3 nine-inning victory against Mississippi State in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference tournament. The Bulldogs trailed 3-0 entering the top of the sixth before freshman Katie Anne Bailey tied the contest with a bases-clearing triple. The loss eliminates the Bulldogs from the SEC tournament.
1. Fast start carries Columbus basketball team past Oxford HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Lukabu takes over MSU linebackers COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Heritage Academy powers past Starkville Academy; SA girls win HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. No. 3 MSU women look for 20th win at No. 6 Tennessee COLLEGE SPORTS
5. New Hope's Melton signs with Northeast Mississippi C.C. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS