It's easy to overlook the phrase "every game counts," but for the 2012 Diamond Dawgs, nothing could be more apropos. Mississippi State currently sits at 8-10 in the league which is good for 4th in the west and tied for 7th overall. The top 10 teams in the league will make this year's tournament, but the Bulldogs surely want to be in the top 8 to ensure a postseason birth.
Mississippi State got a huge sweep last week against Tennessee and shutout win in Pearl vs USM this past Tuesday that will hopefully provide some momentum for the Bulldogs going into this weekend's series vs Ole Miss. Every game is crucial for State right now. This weekend and next weekend at Alabama provide a great opportunity for the Bulldogs to get some much needed wins before finishing out the season with top 5 ball clubs Kentucky and Florida. State's pitching has been at a very high level the past few weeks, and the defense has tightened up as well, but for State to take this series, the bats really need to come alive.
That task won't come easy though, as the veteran 18th ranked Rebels make their way to Starkville for what should be a hotly contested, well attended weekend series. Ole Miss is currently 27-14 overall, 9-9 in league play. This is good for 2nd in the division and tied for 5th overall. The fact that they are a mere game ahead of State in the SEC shows how tight the standings are. The Rebs took 2 of 3 last week from Arkansas in Oxford and dropped a midweek game at Memphis. Consistent high level play has been an issue for them, as they have been able to take 2 of 3 from #1 Florida but also dropped series against Georgia and Auburn. Which Rebel team we see this weekend will surely play a role in the outcome.
Look for Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco to send sophomore righty Bobby Wahl (5-0, 2.15 ERA) to the mound Friday night. Wahl was just selected to the USA Baseball collegiate team yesterday. It's a huge honor and shows what kind of arm the Bulldog bats are up against Friday night. Saturday we should see sophomore righty Mike Mayers (4-2, 3.70) donning the red and blue on the mound, and very similar to the Bulldog staff Sunday's pitcher is a TBD for the Rebels.
Mississippi State's bell cow junior Chris Stratton (7-0, 2.71) will face Wahl on the Friday night matchup. He has been nothing short of great for State this year, and with each passing week seems to make himself a little more money in the upcoming 2012 first year player MLB draft. Saturday, ground baller Kendall Graveman (3-2, 2.92) will step onto the rubber for the 'Dawgs. Graveman pitched his second complete game last Friday night against UT, so State continues to have a strong 1-2 on this pitching staff. While most of the season has been a wait and see on Sunday for MSU, Evan Mitchell (1-1, 3.98) has gotten the start the past 2 weeks. Barring anything unforeseen on Friday or Saturday, I look for Mitchell to get it again on Sunday.
The Bulldogs are mostly healthy, outside of OF Brent Brownlee. P/OF Taylor Stark and P Ben Bracewell should be available to Coach John Cohen; 3B Daryl Norris will most likely start all 3 games and OF CT Bradford has again become a staple in CF.
It should be a great weekend with this weather, so make your way out to Dudy Noble Field to support your Diamond Dawgs.
RobbieRandolph's prediction: The Friday night game is key. If MSU can get a W against Wahl, I think we take 2 of 3. If not, I'll say 1 of 3.
Thanks for reading,