State’s college baseball teams must heat up

Notes, quotes and an opinion or two…

As we move toward income tax deadline, our college baseball teams face pressing deadlines, as well. Ole Miss, State and USM must get hot in a hurry to be considered seriously for NCAA Tournament at-large berths.

Southern Miss is the closest to being hot at present. Tuesday night’s 6-5 victory over Ole Miss was the Golden Eagles’ third straight and 11th in their past 16 games. Still, the Eagles’ RPI sits at No. 93 in the land. Losing two of three to Oakland (Mich.) University at home still stings. USM has several opportunities to raise that RPI over the next couple weeks.

Ole Miss, at No. 40, has the highest of the state’s RPI ratings, but the Rebels are now 16-17 overall and badly need to pile on some victories.

State, at 21-14, has a much better record but a much poorer RPI at 125. The Bulldogs could raise that dramatically in a three-game series this weekend at Texas A & M, which has the nation’s No. 2 RPI. That said, the Aggies are 31-2 for a reason. They are really, really good.

Asked about the RPI ratings Tuesday night, USM coach Scott Berry responded, “Honestly, I can’t figure it out. I really can’t. If you figure it out, tell me.” . . .

I can’t.

Bottom line: All three need to win. Win. And win again…

Hard to explain USM’s dominance over Ole Miss the past three seasons. Berry’s club has now won six straight and 9 of 10 against Ole Miss. Perhaps the best explanation is the one Ron Polk always used: “That’s baseball!”

Translation: Go figure.

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Kudos to Southern Miss senior golfer Casey Fernandez, who shot a tournament-record (by two shots) 11-under-par for 54 holes to win the Old Waverly Collegiate Classic at West Point. It was his third victory of his senior season and puts Fernandez in serious contention for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Afterward, Fernandez credited USM’s new short-game practice facility at the Hattiesburg Country Club.

“I relied a lot on my short game,” said Fernandez. “I chipped and putted really well. I have to say that the new short game facility is helping out a lot with that. I just got the ball rolling and it went from there.”

USM coach Jerry Weeks said hard work has been the key for Fernandez, who chipped in on the final hole for the victory.

“Casey has worked so hard on his putting and his chipping, and it’s paying off,” Weeks said.

Ole Miss had a strong team showing, finishing third, led by Blake Morris, who finished one shot off the pace of Fernandez. In fact, Morris’s 10-under score was a shot better than the previous tournament record.

Host Mississippi State finished fourth in the in the 15-team field. USM was 14th.

•••

A Masters pick? Gotta go with Rory McIlroy. He’s too good not to have won The Masters. His game seems perfectly suited for Augusta.

Tiger? Hard to come back from the low point in your career and extended idleness under the pressure of The Masters. Honestly, I’d be surprised if he makes the cut. But then, he is Tiger Woods.

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As announced earlier in the week, we at your Mississippi Sports Hall Fame and Museum are excited to welcome Bill Blackwell to our team as Chief Operations Officer. Blackwell, former GM of the Jackson Mets and Jackson Generals is a pro and knows the Jackson and mid-Mississippi market. He’s a great addition.

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Mississippi’s Greatest Athletes, a coffee table book authored by your’s truly with a foreword from Archie Manning, remains available here at the museum or at fine bookstores throughout Mississippi. Expatriate Mississippians can order from here by calling 601 982-8264.

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We have a limited amount of playing spaces available in the First Commercial Bank Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Golf Tournament April 20 at Annandale. Those interested can find more information at this link.

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