STARKVILLE -- Safety is, "second nature," to Mississippi State's J.T. Gray. "It's what I've been growing up on." It was the position that got him to the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and to the second round of the playoffs in his senior year of high school.
STARKVILLE -- In a matter of weeks, the summer of transformation is set to begin for Mississippi State men's basketball. It's the summer where the youngest team in America is supposed to make the big jump expected of freshmen and sophomores, in theory enough to compete among the top of the Southeastern Conference.
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker leads the Southeastern Conference in nine offensive categories and is on track to have the greatest season by any player in the conference since new bat standards went into effect in 2011. The redshirt junior first baseman might look back at Saturday as his signature performance. He hit three home runs, including a grand slam, and went 4-for-4 with six RBIs in a 10-6 victory against Kentucky.
STARKVILLE -- Hunter Stovall did everything he could to be ready for his much-awaited return. A finicky hamstring injury doesn't give one many options, but Stovall found one: standing in the batter's box during live bullpen sessions, which allowed him to keep his eyes trained to track pitches. The one thing he couldn't prepare for: the curveball.
STARKVILLE -- Jake Mangum knew he was going to have a bigger role as a sophomore. But Mangum didn't know how being asked to pitch was going to affect his hitting, so he set a goal not to let success or failure in one area impact the other. The No. 22 Mississippi State baseball team is glad Mangum strayed from that idea a bit Sunday.
STARKVILLE -- The transition began in March. The Mississippi State football team knew its offensive line was going to have a new look following the graduation of Jamaal Clayborn, Devon Desper, and Justin Senior. But the absence of Clayborn, Desper, and Senior from spring practice was just the beginning.
STARKVILLE -- Morgan Bell's two-run home run to right-center field in the fourth inning Sunday sparked the Mississippi State softball team to a 5-2 victory against South Carolina at Nusz Park. The victory helped MSU (29-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) secure its first SEC series win of the season. South Carolina slipped to 23-16 and 3-8.
STARKVILLE -- Nick Fitzgerald has never thrown four interceptions in a game as Mississippi State's quarterback -- he's never thrown more than two.
STARKVILLE -- All things considered, Dan Mullen was impressed with the run game.
STARKVILLE -- Alexis Silkwood never imagined it would end quite like this.
STARKVILLE -- In 5 2/3 innings, Kentucky's starting pitcher Zach Logue had allowed Mississippi State first baseman Brent Rooker to hit a single, a first-pitch grand slam and a solo home run.
STARKVILLE -- Two general commonalities arose in the six consecutive Southeastern Conference baseball games Mississippi State won as it climbed to its position as No. 22 in Baseball America's rankings: limiting stranded runners and limiting walks.
STARKVILLE -- Andy Cannizaro has never minced words when talking about his bullpen. In the past, the Mississippi State baseball team's first-year head coach's focused on injuries and how they depleted his pitching staff. Of late, though, Cannizaro has talked with pride about his bullpen, even after it took a shot in the last 48 hours.
STARKVILLE -- The final week of spring practice, as Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham sees it, ends the period of learning. The only thing left is mastery of what has been taught.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State sophomore softball player Sarai Niu enjoys tailgating before football games. A native of California, Niu has been blown away by the passion and celebratory nature of Southeastern Conference football weekends. "Nothing is as exciting as a football weekend," Niu said. "There are so many people and so many things to do. The passion for football is not something I am used to being from the West Coast. Here it's so different. Every weekend is exciting."
STARKVILLE -- The city of Starkville and Mississippi State will celebrate a historic 2016-17 women's basketball season during Super Bulldog Weekend festivities.
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State softball team went looking for a pick-me-up Wednesday night. MSU found what it needed in a 14-0, five-inning victory against Jackson State on a blustery night at Nusz Park.
STARKVILLE -- Brent Rooker wanted to save Spencer Price's arm. Price, the closer for Mississippi State's baseball team, already had thrown 2 1/3 innings Wednesday when Rooker stepped to the plate in the 10th inning. If Rooker didn't help Jake Mangum score from first base, Price would have to go back to the mound to make his longest appearance of the season.
STARKVILLE -- Cameron Dantzler's redshirt year had a different feel than most -- and not by design. Most redshirts spend the fall on the scout teams to advance their development and to prepare the starters for that week's opponent. Dantzler's time in that role lasted less than a week.
STARKVILLE -- A sweep of Ole Miss last week in Oxford helped the Mississippi State baseball team climb to the upper half of the Southeastern Conference standings and move into the Baseball America's Top 25.
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