MSU vs. Arkansas - Game Times, Pitching Matchups, and More

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Your weekend preview, pitching matchups, key players, and a look around the conference and Top 25 for this weekend's baseball matchup between Mississippi State and Arkansas at Dudy Noble Field.

Last year, Mississippi State's national runner-up team started conference play losing its first three series. This year, despite the early struggles in non-conference play, the Bulldogs have won their first two series, with a chance to make it three straight series wins with a somewhat-struggling Arkansas club coming to town this weekend.

Last weekend, the Bulldogs shocked the college baseball world by putting up 11 runs on Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede en route to a 17-2 win over the Commodores on Friday night. New Friday starter Preston Brown was fantastic in that game, scattering hits and just two runs over eight innings of work. Saturday's game was another masterful pitching performance by another new weekend starter for State, as bullpen ace Ross Mitchell won his second consecutive game as a starter in a 6-3 State win. Despite MSU's loss in the series finale on Sunday, Trevor Fitts also had a really good showing, registering a quality start that would go for naught as MSU was unable to score.

On the flip side of things, the Bulldogs will be facing an Arkansas baseball team that has a poor (compared to expectations) record so far, but one that can be a bit deceiving. Like State, Arkansas had an ugly showing out west in non-conference play; they would go on to lose their first SEC series to Florida as well. But both losses in the Florida series were close, and the Hogs were able to bounce back with a series win over Alabama last weekend.

MSU will head into the weekend with a starting rotation that many would have never pegged in the preseason, however the trio are easily the three hottest pitchers on the staff right now. State will need the three to stay hot this weekend as Arkansas has a lineup that has plenty of talent, even if they haven't produced so far this year. After last weekend's results, it's hard to get a read on what I think will happen between the Bulldogs and Hogs. On one hand, I expect State to win the series, but on the other I know our record versus Arkansas in the past. You also have to consider the letdown factor, which has plagued State in all sports after big wins over the years; it nearly got them Tuesday night. Still, it's hard not to look at things, at least from my low-to-moderately educated level on these two teams, and see State taking at least two games, especially since the series is set for Dudy Noble.

Expect a lot of ground balls tonight and tomorrow night for Arkansas batters, and expect (hopefully) that State will emerge on Sunday winners* of their first three SEC series of 2014. A big weekend in Baton Rouge looms large a week from today, so this weekend will be important in an effort to continue momentum as the season progresses.

*As a generally bad predictor of game and series outcomes, I reserve the right to come back and change the last paragraph of this preview to reflect that I knew that State would lose its series to Arkansas, should that happen. In all honesty, I really feel like I should apologize in advance for calling an MSU series win, because I am a bad luck charm. Here's to hoping I'm wrong in this case.

all times and pitching matchups courtesy of HailState.com

Game Times and Pitching Matchups (All times Central, matchups subject to change)

Friday - 6:30 p.m. (CSS) - Dudy Noble Field - Starkville, MS
- RSo. RHP Preston Brown (3-0, 1.12 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Jalen Beeks (3-2, 1.56 ERA)

Saturday - 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU) - Dudy Noble Field
- RJr. Ross Mitchell (4-1, 1.66 ERA) vs. So. RHP Trey Killian (1-3, 2.36 ERA)

Sunday - 1:30 p.m. - Dudy Noble Field
- Jr. RHP Trevor Fitts (2-1, 3.13 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Chris Oliver (2-2, 1.74 ERA)

Leading Hitters

Arkansas
- Brian Anderson, | .330 avg, 29 hits, 2 HR, 20 RBIs
- Tyler Spoon, | .289 avg, 26 hits, 2 HR, 20 RBIs

Mississippi State
- Demarcus Henderson, OF | .352 avg, .493 ob%, 19 hits, 9 SBs, 5 RBIs
- C.T. Bradford, CF | .323 avg, 21 hits, 4 3B, 12 RBIs, 2 SBs, .477 slg%
- Seth Heck, SS | .279 avg, 17 hits, 3 2B, 12 RBIs, .425 ob%, 2 SB
- Wes Rea, 1B | .277 avg, 26 hits, 4 2B, 3 HRs, 23 RBIs, .415 slg

Links

Baseball America Weekend Preview - 3/28 to 3/30
MSU vs. Arkansas - Game Notes (via HailState.com)
Arkansas Baseball Homepage
MSU vs. Arkansas Preview (via The Daily Grind)

Top 25 Weekend Matchups

- (1) Florida State at Boston College
- (22) Tennessee at (2) South Carolina
- Virginia Tech at (3) Virginia
- Western Kentucky at (4) Louisiana-Lafayette
- UC Davis at (5) Cal Poly
- (6) Oregon State at Arizona
- (19) Kentucky at (7) Vanderbilt
- (8) Louisiana State at Florida
- (9) Cal State Fullerton at Wichita State
- (10) Rice at Middle Tennessee State
- (11) Oregon at Stanford
- (12) Texas at Texas Tech
- (13) Mississippi at Alabama
- Xavier/Butler at (14) Louisville
- Hawaii at (15) UC Santa Barbara
- Arkansas at (16) Mississippi State
- Memphis at (19) Houston*
- Arizona State at (18) UCLA
- (20) Clemson at Maryland
- Missouri at (21) Auburn
- (23) Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh
- (24) North Carolina at Duke
- Miami at (25) North Carolina State

Bold indicates an SEC series
*Indicates my series of the week

SEC Weekend Matchups and Predictions

- Missouri at (21) Auburn | 2-1 Auburn
- Texas A&M at Georgia | 2-1 Texas A&M
- (22) Tennessee at (2) South Carolina | 2-1 South Carolina
- Arkansas at (16) Mississippi State | 2-1 MSU
- (19) Kentucky at (7) Vanderbilt | 2-1 Vanderbilt
- (8) LSU at Florida | 2-1 LSU
- (13) Ole Miss at Alabama | 2-1 Ole Miss

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