After a much needed series win against Ole Miss last weekend, the Bulldogs have another great opportunity to move up in the SEC standings when they face Alabama tonight at 6:35 pm to kick-off the weekend series. The Bulldogs are currently tied for 3rd in the SEC West (7th overall) and Alabama sits at the bottom of both the SEC West and overall standings.
MSU will look to ride its stellar (OK, FILTHY) pitching staff that has helped the Bulldogs win 6 of its last 7 games. In those seven games, the Bulldogs staff has allowed only nine earned runs. Alabama hits .252 as a team (11th in the SEC) so on paper it looks like a chance for the MSU staff to continue to shine.. As usual, Chris Stratton (8-0 2.39 ERA) will get the ball on Friday night against the Tide. Stratton is coming off a dominant complete game shutout (7 Ks) against Ole Miss last week, for which he was named SEC Pitcher of the Week for the 2nd time this season. On Saturday, Kendall Graveman (3-3 3.04 ERA) will take the mound for MSU. Graveman leads the SEC with two complete games. The Sunday starter is TBA, but I'd expect Cohen to stick with Luis Pollorena who has been solid lately and started (and won) against Ole Miss last Sunday.
The Crimson Tide sport the highest ERA in the conference (5.23) and have given up the most hits, runs, and home runs as well. The Tide will trot two freshman out to the mound for starts on Friday and Saturday. Spencer Turnbull (2-3 4.54 ERA) will give it a go on Friday and Jon Keller (1-4 4.37 ERA) will get the starting duty on Saturday. Turnbull tossed seven no-hit innings against South Carolina last week.
It's no secret that Mississippi State has struggled at the plate this season. Injuries, youth, approach, whatever you want to point out the Bulldogs just haven't gotten it done at the dish. The Bulldogs sit near the bottom of every SEC hitting category, but relief could come this weekend as the Alabama pitching staff rests at the bottom of nearly every pitching category in the conference. Alabama's Sewell Thomas Stadium is notorious for being a band-box of sorts, so I'd expect the MSU bats to be active and knock a few out of the park. Adam Frazier continues to lead MSU with a .343 average and a team-best 37 walks (.462 OBP). With CT Bradford out of the lineup this weekend due to a shoulder injury, MSU needs to get more production out of guys like Hunter Renfroe and Tyler Fullerton.
It makes sense that the SEC's worst team record-wise would be at the bottom in most statistical categories as well. It's rare that the Bulldogs face a team hitting worse than them, but that's the case for this weekend. Alabama is led by Ben Moore (.352 avg) with 58 hits, 10 doubles, and 27 RBI. Senior Taylor Dugas (.331 avg) is another solid hitter for the Tide who gets on base at .452 clip. After those guys, the drop-off is pretty significant.
My prediction: A sweep is definitely possible for the Bulldogs, but MSU has struggled on the road this season. I say the Bulldogs win 2-of-3 against Tide.