Defensive lineman Pernell McPhee has looked like a man among boys the first three days of Mississippi State spring football practice. McPhee’s 6-4, 270-pound frame was impressive enough without pads, but when the Bulldogs put them on for the first time Saturday, he really had the appearance of a giant. The former Itawamba Community College player, from Pahokee, Fla., could probably play in the National Football League right now. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is glad to have him on his side, even if it’s only for two seasons.
Lil’ Wayne and Lump proved to be a difficult tandem to contain Thursday night. It’s a good thing, too, because the Caledonia and West Lowndes High School baseball teams could have played all night. Better known as Demetrius and Devin Malone, the Panthers played key roles in the bottom of the ninth inning to help West Lowndes earn a 5-4 victory.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State junior second baseman Jet Butler said one thing has given the Bulldogs problems on the road. “We haven’t been able to execute our game plans, but we’ll get better,” Butler said. “We’ll keep scratching and clawing.” MSU faces another road challenge this weekend when it travels to Arkansas for a series of games at 6:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. The Bulldogs (14-10, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) haven’t had the kind of start they wanted in coach John Cohen’s first year, mainly due to a 1-8 record in road and neutral-site games.
STARKVILLE — Jarvis Varnado still hasn’t decided if he will return for his senior season with the Mississippi State men’s basketball team. Varnado will explore the possibility of leaving Mississippi State and turning professional. Varnado and MSU coach Rick Stansbury met Thursday, but no decision was made. Stansbury said there is no rush because the deadline for early-entry candidates to apply for the NBA Draft is April 26.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg probably doesn’t mind a three-hour practice one bit. The work gives the former Heritage Academy player more time to prove himself on the field. After signing with the Mississippi State football team in 2008, Swedenburg, of Columbus, sat out a grayshirt year that enabled him to enroll as a part-time student and to keep his four years of eligibility. Swedenburg finally made it to the practice field Tuesday when the Bulldogs kicked off spring practice. He was back on the field Thursday for the second workout.
The bar has been set higher. The Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s mission for the 2009-10 season is to live up to those standards. “It will be up to them,” MSU coach Sharon Fanning said Thursday. The Lady Bulldogs will begin individual workouts next week that they hope will help set the tone for next season. That season has the potential to be the best in the program’s history, not just in victories but in the deepest move into the NCAA tournament.
STARKVILLE â€” March Madness ended early for the Mississippi State basketball teams. But Jerald Harkness was in Starkville on Tuesday to celebrate the spirit and the history of the MSU menâ€™s basketball program and the NCAA tournament.
Among the 75 or so spectators at Mississippi Stateâ€™s first day of spring football practice on Tuesday were coach Dan Mullenâ€™s wife, Megan, and his 1-month-old son, Canon. Canon was born Feb. 13 and the smile canâ€™t be wiped from coach Mullenâ€™s face whenever he talks about his son.
Itâ€™s time to move on. As much as University of Mississippi football coach Houston Nutt would love to enjoy the fruits of a 9-4 season that ended with a six-game winning streak and a victory against Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, heâ€™s ready for another ride.
STARKVILLE â€” Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen is looking for players who will give a consistent effort every time they step on the field. If Cohen can get that effort from a freshman, he will go that route. On Wednesday night against the University of Memphis, two MSU freshmen showed they could be a key to the programâ€™s future.
WEST POINT — The ability to work out of trouble is essential for any pitcher. Sometimes that trouble materializes after a bloop single or an error. Other times, an ill-timed walk quickly can put a pitcher in a jam that is difficult to escape. Cole Vaughan showed Tuesday afternoon he’s capable of living dangerously and then finding a way to avoid the big inning. Vaughan scattered six hits in a complete-game effort to help the Heritage Academy baseball team defeat Oak Hill Academy 6-3.
STARKVILLE — Blake Dawkins hoped for another opportunity. The Starkville High School catcher struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth inning against Tupelo on Tuesday night, and the Yellow Jackets left three on base that inning. In the seventh, the bases were loaded again with Dawkins at the plate. This time he singled in Jayson Keel to lift Starkville to a 3-2 victory. Tupelo (6-3, 1-1 Class 5A, Division 2) walked Daniel Forde in front of Dawkins twice. Starkville (10-2, 3-0) didn’t take advantage of the first situation, but did on the second.
Sharon Fanning already is thinking about the 2009-10 season. One of the first jobs Fanning took to prepare for next season was to watch Mississippi State’s 64-58 loss to Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday again. The veteran MSU coach knew the outcome wasn’t going to change. She also knew her confidence in her players wasn’t going to diminish one bit.
STARKVILLE –– It has been a long seven months for Mississippi State offensive lineman Tobias Smith, of Columbus. After breaking his left leg during two-a-days and having surgery last August, Smith went through rehabilitation and rejoined the Bulldogs for the first day of spring practice Tuesday. MSU coach Dan Mullen was happy Smith could be a part of his first practice in Starkville. Smith a graduate of Columbus High School, was excited to get back on the field, even if it was just a practice.
Ron Polk believes he wouldn’t be Hall of Fame material if not for the players he has coached. That’s why he is glad to be inducted into a Hall of Fame with one of his former Mississippi State players. Polk and Rafael Palmeiro will be two of 10 players and coaches who will be inducted to the College Baseball Hall of Fame on July 3 in Lubbock, Texas.
Prior to the start of the season, Courtney Gordon believed the University of West Alabama had the potential to have a good softball team. Gordon must have known something. West Alabama (27-5) is off to its best start in school history after sweeping a doubleheader at Stillman College, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Tuesday. The Lady Tigers won the opener 18-0 and the nightcap 17-2. Gordon, a 2005 graduate of New Hope High School, is a senior shortstop for the Lady Tigers who has played an instrumental role in the team’s fast start.
At 8 a.m. April 4, the streets of Columbus will be filled with runners on a 6-mile course that will take them past the many faces of the city. To promote tourism in the city, the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau decided to sponsor a race in the middle of Pilgrimage, the annual tour of the antebellum homes in Columbus. The race is used to promote tourism in Columbus. The event, which starts and ends at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, shows off the Mississippi University for Women, the city’s antebellum homes, and the river walk.
STARKVILLE — It was a good night to get a one-hitter from two freshmen. Frustrated that his Yellow Jackets left 12 runners on base, Starkville High School baseball coach Danny Carlisle liked that Nick Brooks and Hayden Higginbotham combined to give up only one hit Tuesday night in a 5-1 victory against West Lowndes.
Austin Braddock is branching out to all fields. Always considered a dead pull hitter, Braddock has discovered this season that hitting is a lot easier when you change your approach at the plate.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi are well represented among the finalists for the Cellular South Bailey Howell and Peggy Gillom Trophies. The awards, which go to the state’s top men’s and women’s college basketball players, will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson.
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