Bulldogs to meet Rebels in three-game softball series

MSU's Sarai Niu, left, shares a light moment with pitcher Holly Ward.
Staff Writer

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Friday-Saturday-Sunday, a Saturday-Sunday-Monday, or during any other day of the week. There’s a little extra emphasis when Mississippi State and Ole Miss match up in any sporting event.
The next athletic competition between the two rival schools will take place on the softball field over the next few days.

If weather permits, the Bulldogs and Rebels begin a three-game Southeastern Conference series Saturday night in Oxford. The time for first game has already been pushed back to a 7 p.m. start, while the Sunday and Monday outings are still set for 6 p.m. After SEC Network+ (on-line only) takes today's game, Sunday will be ESPN2 and Monday will be on the SEC Network.

MSU has more wins over Ole Miss than any other SEC opponent with a 39-26 record all-time, but the Rebels have won six of the last seven meetings.

Every weekend in the SEC is important to State head softball coach Vann Stuedeman, but she also understands how much more emphasis are place on games against Ole Miss.

“This is a big series for our fans," Stuedeman said. "It means a lot to (Mississippi State President) Dr. (Mark) Keenum and to the people of Mississippi State.

"It will be a dogfight. It always is. It doesn’t matter if one is better than the other team ever. That’s disregarded in this series. There is a lot of emotion in this series and a lot on the line with state pride. It will be a lot of fun to go up there in hostile territory. Instead of toughness Sunday, it might be toughness Saturday, Sunday and Monday.”

Both teams are looking to make a move up the conference standings and have struggled to win games within the SEC.

After making postseason noise last season with a championship of the SEC Tournament, the Rebels have records of 21-16 overall and 4-11 in the league this year.

The Bulldogs got off to an outstanding start this season in the non-conference and stand 30-11 overall. It has been a tough run in the SEC for MSU with only a 4-8 mark after four series.

With each game and opportunity, the Bulldogs are focusing on bringing their best effort into the action.

“What we talk about is just keep fighting and keep throwing punches,” MSU senior Calyn Adams said. “We’ve had some stuff not go our way and we’ve had some stuff go out way, so you just have to keep getting back up and keep fighting. I think that’s the mentality we are taking this weekend. That’s what’s going to drive our success in the future.”

MSU is led offensively by freshman Mia Davidson, who leads the SEC in total bases at 112, slugging percentage at .868, home runs at 14 and home runs per game at 0.34. She is batting .419 with 12 doubles and 36 runs batted in.

In the circle, Holly Ward has been the most consistent Bulldogs. She has an 11-4 record with a 1.50 earned run average in 107.1 innings pitched.

Ward got the win during a midweek 11-0 victory over Alcorn State and Stuedeman looks forward to getting her back into the action soon.

“We tried to mix some things up in a different little set in what we’ve been practicing and I think it’s important to get a lot of confidence going into the weekend,” Stuedeman said. “Our league is tough and every hitter is good and every hitter is hard to get out, including our hitters and including their hitters. She didn’t pitch a whole lot this past weekend against A&M, so I wanted her to get some work in besides the bullpen. She’s feeling good and feeling strong.”