STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State sophomore pitcher Holly Ward knew the enormous expectation of becoming the first player to pitch in the new Nusz Park.
Ward didn't disappoint.
Firing a one-hitter and her first career shutout, Ward looked brilliant in MSU's 6-0 victory against Georgia Southern on Thursday in the opening game of the Bulldog Kickoff Classic and the 2016 regular season.
The games count for real now.
For the past two decades, the Mississippi State softball team has been a model of consistency. On an annual basis, the team has won more games than it lost and, more often than not, has made postseason play. It has earned a few national rankings, but it hasn't reached elite status in the Southeastern Conference.
WEST POINT -- New Hope High School senior basketball player Willie Ousley brings a high level of energy to the court.
New Hope High School senior Carlos Brooks liked the mind-set of his team Friday night.
"We knew we had to be mentally tough to win this game," Brooks said. "The first time we played (Oxford). We simply weren't tough enough. We knew that would be the key to having a better outcome."
The Trojans had a better attitude and a much better 3-point shooting touch in a 72-65 victory in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 boys basketball game at Trojan Gym.
WEST POINT -- Oak Hill Academy basketball coach Brian Middleton made a couple of suggestions at halftime Saturday night.
Those suggestions included guarding harder, forcing some turnovers, and getting the transition game going.
In the second half, the Raiders down their coach's wish list and knocked each item off with perfection.
Oak Hill Academy erased a halftime deficit with a near-flawless effort on defense to post a 54-46 victory against Columbus Christian Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA, District 2 tournament championship game.
STARKVILLE -- When Starkville Academy senior Carter Wood was ready to pick a college, he had a large support group to consult.
Wood played three varsity seasons under coach Jeff Terrill, who had previously coached in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges at Itawamba Community College. Wood also knew he would have the love and support of parents, Bart and Rebecca Anne Wood.
New Hope High School senior basketball player Heratio Jackson felt like his game had been off lately.
During a successful basketball career at Ridgeland High School and West Point High School, senior point guard A.J. McFarland has always believed in playing one game at a time.
In her first news conference of the season, Mississippi State softball fifth-year head coach Vann Stuedeman threw out an interesting statistic.
Stuedeman pointed out that last season Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky won 17 percent of its conference games and still played in a super regional.
Stuedeman said Kentucky finished 4-20 in league play but a top 30 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) was enough to help the Wildcats earn an invitation to the NCAA tournament. From there, Kentucky won a regional at South Bend, Indiana, before falling to Florida in a Super Regional in Gainesville, Florida.
Columbus High School first-year boys basketball coach Luther Riley expected some early season adversity.
He also hoped his team would be clicking on a high level when the calendar turned to February.
If Tuesday night was any indication, the Falcons might be on their way. Columbus scored the game's first 15 points and cruised to a 70-45 victory against West Point at the Falcon Lair.
Several teams in our coverage area could contend for a state championship as we enter the final four weeks of the prep basketball regular season.
We should have a large group of participants headed to Jackson from the Mississippi High School Activities Association's six classifications.
In the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, the Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy boys are ranked among the best in the state. We also know the Starkville Academy girls, both teams at Oak Hill Academy, and the boys team at Columbus Christian Academy have a chance to advance, too.
MACON -- Caledonia High School senior Coby Coleman likes his team's chances when the defensive switch is thrown.
WEST POINT -- West Point High School boys basketball coach Brad Cox knew little about A.J. McFarland's ability to fit in with his basketball team when he arrived on the school's campus in August.
McFarland's father had played at West Point and his family still had ties to the area. However, finding a fit for the 5-foot-10 senior point guard was going to be a work in progress for the transfer from Ridgeland High.
Turns out, McFarland has grabbed the leadership role and the Green Wave have followed quite nicely.
Olive Branch High School girls basketball coach Blake Jones has a new holiday tradition.
"My favorite games of the season are the games we play in the Travis Outlaw tournament every year," Jones said. "(Starkville High) coaches Kristie Williams and Greg Carter put on a great event. It is the best tournament in the state. I don't know how more people haven't found a way to get here and play. It's just an overall incredible experience."
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State freshmen basketball players Malik Newman and Quinndary Weatherspoon are aware of the recent struggles of the men's basketball program.
As we ring in 2016, here is hoping to another exciting year in the world of sports.
Neshoba Central High School boys' basketball coach Jerry Byrd knew the challenge of facing the state's second-ranked team on its home floor.
Mississippi State sent senior quarterback Dak Prescott out a winner Wednesday.
STARKVILLE -- Olive Branch High School junior Myah Taylor feels right at home at Humphrey Coliseum.
STARKVILLE -- When all else was failing, Starkville High School senior Keith Harris had a plan.
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