STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State baseball team’s five-run collapse in the ninth inning of Saturday’s series finale at Ole Miss did more than secure a season sweep for the Rebels.
The loss also put the Bulldogs on the brink of elimination for the postseason.
Limping away from Oxford with losses in five of its last six games, MSU fell to 24-27 and 8-19 in the Southeastern Conference. The three losses to Ole Miss dropped MSU into last place in the SEC and made MSU’s chances of reaching the SEC tournament even more minuscule.
Asked after the loss about his team’s chances to bounce back and qualify for the annual event in Hoover, Alabama, MSU coach John Cohen instead focused on his team’s ability to put the 8-7 loss in the rear view mirror.
“Well, 18-to-22-year-olds bounce back a lot better than old guys like me,” said Cohen, who is on the brink of his second losing season in seven years at MSU. “We had a great meeting in there after the game and I told them, ‘If something like this doesn’t get you going, doesn’t make you work harder, I don’t know what will.’ ”
Entering a three-game set at Tennessee that begins Thursday night and will wrap up the SEC regular season, MSU is one of three teams vying for one spot in the conference tournament. MSU is percentage points behind Tennessee (8-18) in the league standings. Georgia (9-17) is No. 12, one game ahead of Tennessee and a game-and-a-half ahead of MSU. The top 12 teams qualify to play in Hoover.
MSU must win at least two of three games this weekend in Knoxville and hope Arkansas sweeps Georgia in Athens, Georgia. If Georgia wins one game, MSU must sweep in Knoxville. If Georgia wins twice, MSU is eliminated.
By virtue of Tennessee having a rained out game earlier in the season, the Volunteers have played one less game than the Bulldogs, so the teams can’t tie in the standings. But if MSU and Georgia finish tied for any reason, which would only occur if MSU wins twice and Georgia suffers a pair of canceled games, the tiebreaker would be win-loss record against the No. 1 seed or the next relevant common opponent. That tie would break in MSU’s favor, as the Bulldogs own a victory against No. 1 seed LSU, while Georgia went 0-2 against the Tigers.
Any such tie would require MSU winning the series at Tennessee.
Rea up for Ferriss Trophy
MSU first baseman Wes Rea was named one of five finalists for the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, given annually to the state’s top baseball player.
Rea, a senior from Gulfport, leads MSU in RBIs (35), slugging percentage (.490), and on-base percentage (.482).
In 27 SEC games, Rea is hitting .315 with 20 RBIs, ranking in the top five in league-games only in walks (20) and on-base percentage (.456). Defensively in SEC play, Rea has made one error in 301 chances, recording a .997 fielding percentage.
Ole Miss pitcher Scott Weathersby and Southern Mississippi senior pitcher James McMahon also were nominated.
Weathersby is 4-1 with three saves and a 2.39 ERA. In 49 innings, the senior right-hander has 48 strikeouts and 12 walks. Opponents are hitting .208 average against him.
McMahon is 10-1 with a 1.73 ERA in 13 starts. The converted reliever ran his scoreless inning streak to 14 2/3 innings Sunday in a victory against Charlotte. He allowed one hit in six innings. He also had a 23 2/3 scoreless streak earlier during the year, and has been named C-USA’s Pitcher of the Week twice and earned the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association weekly honor for top pitcher once.
Jackson State senior infielder Melvin Rodriguez and Millsaps senior infielder/pitcher Keith Shumaker round out the ballot.
Professional scouts and college coaches chose the five finalists. They also will vote this week. The coaches/scouts voting will make up 90 percent of the final vote. Fan voting, conducted by C Spire, will account for the other 10 percent. Fan voting will begin at 9 a.m. today and conclude at Sunday at noon. Voting will be done at www.csopavoting.com.
The C Spire Ferriss Trophy will be presented at a luncheon on Monday, May 18, at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Call 601-982-8264 for tickets or purchase online at msfame.com.
Mitchell, Heck up for awards
Senior pitcher Ross Mitchell and shortstop-turned-third baseman Seth Heck are both up for season-ending awards.
Mitchell was named a finalist for the 2015 Senior CLASS Award, Premier Sports Management announced recently. Mitchell is the first finalist in MSU baseball history for the national award, which recognizes those with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character, and competition.
In the classroom, Heck was named to the Capital One Academic All-District first team for District 6, the College Sports Information Directors of America announced this past Thursday. The reigning SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year received his degree in business administration this past weekend. He has earned a 4.0 grade-point average every semester since arriving in Starkville. As a result of being named to the first team, Heck will be added to the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-American ballot.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat