STARKVILLE, Miss. — It was the bottom of the eighth inning, Southern University was trailing just by on run and felt it had a chance to upend Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field last season.
The Bulldogs rallied with a four-run inning, highlighted by some not-so-clean moments for the Jaguars. That was the story of coach Kerrick Jackson’s first season — but the tables have turned.
Southern (32-22) enters Friday’s Starkville regional with some swagger, gained from the experience in having played the likes of LSU, Memphis and Southern Miss. A lot of the late losses that happened last season have turned into late wins. It’s a team that’s playing with a lot more confidence in year two under Jackson.
“You look at this team and there is no quit in anybody in that dugout,” sophomore outfielder Hampton Hudson said. “When it comes down to the end of the game and we may be down two or five runs, there’s no quit in us. We know as long as we play the game and there are outs on the board, there’s a chance to win.”
SU welcomes new scenery
Jackson and the Southern players were relieved to get some new scenery, heading to Starkville rather than playing again at Alex Box Stadium.
“It’s a great opportunity for everybody that’s here. It’s not about just getting out of Baton Rouge; it’s about experiencing a different atmosphere,” said Hudson, a Baton Rouge native. “How does it get any better than Starkville?”
The postseason atmosphere at Dudy Noble is something Jackson hasn’t experienced with his team yet. Not even at Alex Box Stadium or their last trip to Starkville a year ago.
“This is going to be a different beast for them,” Jackson said. “Even when we played at LSU midweek, you get five or 6,000 people; you don’t get 13 (thousand). That part of it is going to be our toughest opponent to get in this environment and stay in between the lines.”
Ginn, Bohannon to start
Mississippi State's J.T. Ginn, a first-round draft pick who turned down the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, will start Friday as the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year.
With 100 strikeouts on the season, Jackson is expecting Ginn to come right after his players.
“I know that he’s a competitor. He’s proven that he can punch some guys out, so when you get to two strikes, buckle up,” Jackson said of Ginn. “We just want to be competitive with him. The one beauty about our game is that is when the pitcher is on the (mound) and the batter is in the box, that’s the only time you’re competing against the other guy.”
Southern plans to start junior left-handed pitcher Jerome Bohannon III against MSU. Bohannon will make his team-leading 14th start. He carries a 3-5 record with a 6.63 ERA in 58⅓ innings. He has 49 walks and 37 strikeouts.
“When he’s on, he has a really good three-pitch mix. He throws a (changeup) at any time, can spin the breaking ball, pitches both sides of the plate and can field his position,” Jackson said of Bohannon. “If he can go out there, get in his rhythm early and establish his ability to throw strikes consistently, we’re going to be in a good situation.”
Friday's game will begin at noon on the SEC Network.