STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men's tennis is back. With back-to-back wins against the University of Alabama and Auburn last weekend, MSU clinched the Southeastern Conference Western Division title, snapping the University of Mississippi's nine-year stranglehold on the division. Up until last weekend, MSU hadn't won a division or league title since 1996, when it won the SEC tournament.
Defending state champion Justin Verner dips his hands in a bucket of chalk to combat perspiration.
Anna Holley and Brandi Brantley break into big grins when asked to relate their favorite "moments" with New Hope High School softball coach Tabitha Beard.
STARKVILLE -- Mark Alexander is back in Starkville, and he has no plans to leave. The Mississippi State graduate and former sports reporter transitioned from working in journalism to coaching basketball five years ago and found instant success in Tennessee and at Manchester Academy in Yazoo City. On Wednesday, Starkville Academy announced Alexander as its new boys basketball coach effective at the end of the current school year.
STARKVILLE -- Linda Bell was anxious to organize efforts to honor her son's memory. The mother of Nick Bell, the late Mississippi State football player, Linda started the Nick Bell Mentoring Memorial Foundation at the beginning of the year to keep alive Nick's passion for education and mentoring. On Wednesday, Linda and her daughter, Monica, visited MSU and started a pair of scholarships through the school's Alumni Association.
The University of Alabama will add more history to campus on Saturday when a statue of Nick Saban is unveiled beside likenesses of other Crimson Tide football coaches who won national titles.
STARKVILLE -- The bats are alive and well. Throughout much of the Starkville High School baseball team's season, its offensive numbers have dipped and its effectiveness with runners in scoring position hasn't been up to a game-winning standard.
Senior Anna Holley made sure the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team survived a slow offensive start Tuesday night. Holley had two hits and drove in three runs as New Hope sealed a Class 5A, Region 3 title with an 8-1 victory against West Point at Lady Trojan Field.
The Junior Sunbelt Classic will honor one of its founding fathers in June when former New Hope High School baseball coach Stacy Hester is inducted to the National Sunbelt Classic Hall of Fame.
OXFORD -- Less than a week ago after a particularly disappointing practice, Mississippi linebacker D.T. Shackelford was among the team's most outspoken players, pushing his teammates to raise their performance. The coaches weren't surprised. Houston Nutt called him one of the unquestioned team leaders. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix marveled at how a still relatively young player could command so much respect. But now that leadership almost certainly will be lost for the upcoming season. Shackelford, a 6-foot-1, 244-pound junior, has a torn ACL in his right knee and will be out six to eight months.
STARKVILLE -- Changes are on the horizon for the Mississippi State baseball team's pitching rotation. MSU coach John Cohen has been encouraged by the solid innings junior Nick Routt has provided since sliding into the Sunday role, but ultra-talented junior Devin Jones has faltered as the Friday starter in league play. Cohen said Monday he and his staff have discussed the possibility of bumping Routt to Saturday and current Saturday starter Chris Stratton to Friday. The moves are being contemplated in an effort to protect the bullpen, which is lauded as the strength of the team.
Taylor Stafford leads the New Hope High School baseball team this season with a .397 batting average. New Hope coach Lee Boyd said Stafford's work in center field is equally impressive. The freshman (4-2, four saves) also has excelled on the mound and shown an ability to protect leads. Good job, Taylor. Now go get the balls.
Relentless is great way for a coach to describe a player. Tyler Aldridge has earned that moniker from East Mississippi Community College baseball coach because he is living up to standards higher than he set for himself.
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team's struggles with runners in scoring position continued Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the No. 4 University of Florida in the final game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series. MSU (21-11, 5-7 SEC) was 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position Sunday, and 3-for-21 for the weekend.
It's not easy to be patient when you're the center of attention. But Nashedra Barry wanted to make a change, so she knew she needed to take things slowly.
STARKVILLE -- The name says it all. Dylan Favre spent his first season as a Mississippi State quarterback tucked behind Chris Relf and Tyler Russell.
STARKVILLE -- For the second straight day, a team's leading pitcher in the Mississippi State-Florida series was chased far earlier than expected.
This time, New Hope High School senior Zac Nagy meant to swing. One day after his bloop single drove in two runs against Saltillo, Nagy helped seal a 17-7 non-district win against Columbus High on Saturday afternoon with his first home run of the season.
CALEDONIA -- Brandon Fikes is far from intimidating on the mound. His stature more closely resembles a pinch runner than a starting pitcher for one of the state's perennial baseball powers. Then he throws his fastball -- far from the fastest, but it gets where it needs to be.
The Mississippi State football team's freshmen are are eager for their first appearance at Davis Wade Stadium this Saturday during the Maroon-White Spring Game.
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