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Sports Column: State-Ole Miss matchup an important one

By Staff
The scenario at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville this weekend will be a pretty cut-and-dried one.
For Mississippi State to have a chance at making the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament which is set for Hoover Metropolitan Stadium near Birmingham on May 22-26 the Bulldogs have to sweep the Ole Miss Rebels.
Now that makes a storied rivalry even more interesting.
Top it off with the fact that the Ole Miss Rebels enter the three-game set, which begins today at 6:30 p.m., with a little something to prove, and it is easy to see why this should be a fun weekend on the campus of Mississippi State.
Would it be more fun if both of the teams were fighting for the SEC Western Division championship? Sure.
But does this series still have a lot of meaning? absolutely.
But, let's be honest. If the two teams were winless in conference play this one would still mean something. There is just too much baseball history at both of the two schools to ignore.
And although this regular-season ending series may not have had the drama many had hoped for before the season began, it still has drama plenty of it.
Tonight's game will be followed by a 3 p.m. showdown on Saturday and and a 1:30 p.m. meeting on Sunday.
Going into the series, Ole Miss is tied with Auburn for third in the West with a 14-13 mark, while Mississippi State is last at 11-15, a game behind Arkansas.
Alabama leads the West at 20-7, while LSU is second at 16-10 and Arkansas which swept Ole Miss in Oxford last weekend is 11-13.
Should MSU somehow pull off the sweep, then it would be the 16th consecutive trip to the SEC Tournament for the Bulldogs. Only the top eight teams in the SEC East Division and West Division combined qualify for the tournament.
The Bulldogs have now lost seven straight SEC games, and things are certainly looking grim. The slide began with a Sunday loss to Vanderbilt, followed by being swept by Florida at Dudy Noble and then Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Ole Miss has struggled a little as of late, and going into Tuesday night's win over McNeese State, the Rebels had only won three times in their last 10 games.
But, the Rebs, who are 35-16 overall, are looking to finish strong and solid a spot in the NCAA Tournament when the bids are announced followed the SEC Tournament.
The sweep by Arkansas was the first time a team had come into Swayze Field and swept a three-game set from the Rebels since South Carolina turned the trick in 1999.
South Carolina leads the SEC East with an 18-8 league mark, while Florida is next at 17-10, followed by Georgia at 15-12 and Tennessee at 10-17.
In other SEC action this weekend, Alabama is at LSU, Auburn visits Arkansas, Florida travels to Kentucky, Georgia hosts South Carolina and Vanderbilt travels to Tennessee.
The top seed in the SEC Tournament will be giving to the divisional champion with the highest conference winning percentage, while the number two seed will be the other divisional champion. The other seeds 1-8, will be determined solely by conference winning percentage.
If the season were over today, Alabama would be the top seed, while South Carolina would be second.
The five teams who have clinched spots in the SEC Tournament field are Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, LSU and Georgia.
Ole Miss and Auburn need just one win each to get in the tournament, leaving the final spot up for grabs. Arkansas is the front runner for that spot now, need any combination of three wins or MSU losses to put the Razorbacks in.

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