Diamond Dogs Test No. 14 USM In Atlanta Regional Opener

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Coach John Cohen speaks with the Diamond Dogs during their Thursday practice at Georgia Tech Thursday afternoon.
Photo Courtesy of Joe Dier

ATLANTA, Ga. - Mississippi State returns to NCAA postseason baseball competition for the first time since 2007 Friday when the Bulldogs (34-23) square off against instate rival Southern Miss (39-17) in opening round competition of the 2011 NCAA Atlanta Regional.

First pitch at Georgia Tech's 4,157-seat Russ Chandler Stadium is set for 2:06 p.m. CDT, with live regional cable television coverage throughout the tournament provided by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS). Ninth-ranked tourney host Georgia Tech (40-19) takes on Ohio Valley champion Austin Peay (33-22) in the 6:06 p.m. nightcap of Friday's twinbill.

Live free audio streaming of the MSU Baseball Radio Network broadcasts is available by visiting www.mstateathletics.com/m2mlive and clicking on the audio icon at air time. The call of the regional tournament games by veteran MSU sportscaster Jim Ellis will also be heard on the 18 affiliated radio network stations.

Sophomore lefty Luis Pollorena (6-5, 4.44 ERA) will take the hill for his fourth start of the campaign in Friday's tournament opener. No. 14 USM will counter with senior right-hander Todd McInnis (8-2, 2.61 ERA).

The Bulldogs conducted a 70-minute practice in 95-degree heat Thursday afternoon and later conducted interviews with more than a dozen media outlets on hand for the pre-tournament practice session.

"We've had a great week of preparation, working in the hottest part of the day to get ready for a very good Southern Miss ball club," said head coach John Cohen. "Our players and coaches have worked very hard preparing for this tournament and we're looking forward to getting it started Friday."

Mississippi State claimed a 5-4 win over the Golden Eagles when the two teams met Apr. 5 at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. In his lengthiest relief effort of the season (5.2 innings), Pollorena retired 16 of the 18 batters he faced and registered a season-best six strikeouts en route to his third win of the campaign.

This year's advancement to the NCAA Tournament is the 31st all-time for Mississippi State, the 25th during the 37 years that the NCAA has used the regional tournament format and the second in Atlanta. State competed in the 2004 NCAA Atlanta Regional but never met the host Yellow Jackets in that event. MSU dropped two games to Big 12 foe Texas Tech and topped Jacksonville State in the 2004 tournament.

The opening game of the Atlanta Regional features all three finalists for the 2011 Cellular South Ferriss Trophy. MSU third baseman and SEC regular season batting champion Jarrod Parks (.383) along with USM senior outfielder Tyler Koelling (.367) and junior shortstop B.A. Vollmuth (.303) were up for the Mississippi college player of the year award that is named for former Mississippi State and Boston Red Sox pitching great Dave "Boo" Ferriss. Koelling was this year's recipient.

Friday's winners meet at 6:06 p.m. Saturday while the other two teams battle it out at 2:06 p.m. in an elimination game.



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