Softball

Mississippi State softball set to face No. 24 Ole Miss in SEC Tournament

Photo: Kelly Donoho/Mississippi State Athletics

Samantha Ricketts and her Mississippi State softball team struggled throughout most of the season, especially against conference opponents. But that wasn’t the case over Mississippi State’s final 10 games.

While the Bulldogs went through bulk of the 2021 softball season without getting a win over a Southeastern Conference foe, Mississippi State got hot at the right time and tore through its final 10 games, winning eight of those games, including seven in a row.

That’s a drastic improvement over how MSU did for most of this season.

And it showed up in State’s SEC standings.

After the Bulldogs beat South Carolina, taking the series from the Gamecocks on May 2, MSU was dead last in the SEC standings, sitting at No. 13. Now, Mississippi State stands at No. 9 in the SEC after having won seven in a row and will face off against the 24th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels, who come into the SEC tournament at No. 8 in the conference.

Here’s what you need to know about the match up:

What happened the last time these teams faced each other?

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The Bulldogs had three awful outings against Ole Miss earlier this year. The series, which was the SEC opener for both teams, could not have gone much worse for Mississippi State. In three games against the Rebels, Mississippi State managed to score just one run.

In game one, Mississippi State was shut out and lost 6-0. The Bulldogs were only able to get a pair of hits in a total of 24 at bats. The Rebels, meanwhile, managed to score six runs off of six hits, and looked unstoppable in the SEC opener.

Game two wasn’t much better for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State scored first and looked like it would at least be able to put up a fight against Ole Miss. But still, the Bulldogs ended up losing by a score of 1-4.

And then game three rolled around and everything fell apart for Mississippi State. In incredibly frustrating fashion, the Bulldogs dropped the game by being run ruled, losing 8-0 in just five innings.

So yeah, it couldn’t have gone much worse for Ricketts and MSU.

How have they performed against their recent opponents?

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But while things were rough against Ole Miss back in March, things have turned around for the Bulldogs as they closed out the season. State has won eight of its last 10 games, (including the last seven straight) all of which were against SEC foes and five of those wins came against teams that were ranked at the time.

And Mississippi State has looked really, really solid during that stretch. It wasn’t just that the Bulldogs were winning, it’s that they were winning and looking like a complete team throughout the end of the season.

Here’s how the past 10 games have gone for the Bulldogs:

  • Win 8-1 vs. Texas A&M
  • Lose 1-8 vs. Texas A&M
  • Lose 7-8 at South Carolina
  • Win 6-2 at South Carolina
  • Win 7-1 at South Carolina
  • Win 2-1 vs. Tennessee
  • Win 6-2 vs. Tennessee
  • Win 4-2 vs. Georgia
  • Win 4-2 vs. Georgia
  • Win 4-3 vs. Georgia

Check out Mississippi State’s full schedule by clicking here.

Over its last 10 games, Ole Miss has a record of 6-4. The Rebels really had no issues beating UT Martin or UCF and took two of three from Auburn, but competing on the road against Alabama was an issue for Ole Miss.

Here’s how the past 10 games have gone for the Rebels:

  • Win 8-0 vs. UT Martin
  • Win 1-0 vs. Auburn
  • Win 6-1 vs. Auburn
  • Lose 1-3 vs. Auburn
  • Win 8-2 vs. UCF
  • Win 5-4 vs. UCF
  • Win 10-0 vs. UCF
  • Lose 0-8 vs. Alabama
  • Lose 7-11 vs. Alabama
  • Lose 1-6 vs. Alabama

How do the two teams compare at the plate?

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Ole Miss sits around the middle of the pack in the SEC when it comes to hitting. The Rebels are productive and consistent hitters, but they haven’t hit many home runs when compared to other SEC teams and haven’t scored as many runs as other teams in the conference.

So far this season, Ole Miss is batting with a .286 average (good for 6th in the SEC), but has a slugging percentage of .431 (12th in the SEC). Ole Miss has hit just 41 home runs (10th in the SEC), has 235 runs batted in (10th in the SEC), and 381 hits (7th in the SEC).

The Rebels are productive and do get runs across the plate, but they’re not exactly the best in the conference when it comes to hitting.

To be fair, Mississippi State isn’t either, but the Bulldogs have scored more this season than Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs have a .272 batting average (9th in the SEC) and a .462 slugging percentage (7th in the SEC). Along with that, Mississippi State has hit 64 home runs (tied for 5th in the SEC), has 246 runs batted in (6th in the SEC), and 385 hits (5th in the SEC).

It is worth noting that Mississippi State has 1665 plate appearances this year (most in the SEC) while Ole Miss has 1614 (3rd in the SEC).

What about in the circle?

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Here’s where Ole Miss has shined and State has struggled at times this season. The Rebels’ pitchers have been really, really good so far this season and that could present some issues for Mississippi State in this match up just as it did earlier this year.

Ole Miss, as a team, has a 2.33 ERA (6th in the SEC) while Mississippi State has a 3.31 ERA (11th in the SEC). The Rebels have allowed just 80 walks so far this year (1st in the SEC) while Mississippi State has allowed 151 (10th in the SEC). The Rebels have allowed 142 runs (6th in the SEC) while State has allowed 207 (10th in the SEC).

That said, Mississippi State’s pitchers have shined at moments and have come together as a group down the stretch, which will hopefully give the Bulldogs an opportunity to take down Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs have struck out 102 batters looking (1st in the SEC) and have struck out 389 opposing batters (2nd in the SEC) while Ole Miss has struck out 94 batters looking (2nd in the SEC) and struck out 295 opposing batters (8th in the SEC).

Interestingly enough, Mississippi State’s opponents are batting with a .239 batting average (9th in the SEC) while Ole Miss’ opponents have a .253 batting average (12th in the SEC).

Final thoughts:

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While that series earlier this season was a major mess, there’s a good chance that this time out will be a bit different for a couple of reasons.

First, let’s start with the location. The last time State and Ole Miss faced each other was in Oxford. The Rebels are a dominant force at home and have only lost three games in Oxford. They’ve won 24 games on their home turf.

But, they’re a bit of a different story when playing away from home. In away games, Ole Miss has a record of 6-12. In neutral site match ups, the Rebels are 4-4 so far this season. Meanwhile, Mississippi State is 9-15 on the road and 1-1 in neutral games.

State should theoretically fare a bit better in this game because of that, and also because of how the teams are doing lately.

Ole Miss is fresh off of a frustrating sweep at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide, a series that was played in Tuscaloosa. While Mississippi State is far from being as good a team as Alabama, the Bulldogs have been on a tear and have won seven straight games, which includes five wins over then ranked Tennessee and Georgia teams.

For the first time all season, Mississippi State has some momentum rolling their way. The Bulldogs have needed that and its come at just the perfect time.

This match up has the potential to be a solid one and it seems like it could go either way.

I’m happy with those odds given that it seemed like MSU wouldn’t have any chance at all against any SEC team at the beginning of this month.

For more independent Mississippi State news and commentary, follow The Underdog Tribune on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Ethan Lee on Facebook and Twitter.

All stats via SECSports.com

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