After a 3-0 midweek loss to Southern Miss in Pearl, the MSU baseball team finds itself in a must win situation the next several weeks. Tournament hopes are slowly swirling down the drain.
The Bulldogs sit at 18-9 (2-4 SEC) after the loss to the Golden Eagles. The team's RPI was somewhere in the mid 90's before Tuesday's game.
Yes, there is a lot of baseball left to play, but an RPI that low puts the maroon and white in grave danger of missing the NCAA tournament as it sits today. Auburn now comes to town in what is a must-win series for MSU.
The Auburn Tigers sit at 15-10 overall and 1-5 in the SEC after getting swept by Texas A&M and losing two out of three to Vanderbilt. The only common opponent on their schedule with MSU was Samford, a game in which they lost 7-0.
Auburn is not a team that jumps out at you offensively, but with the way State's pitchers performed in the first two SEC series, anything is on the table. The Tigers have a difference maker at the top of their lineup that can do some damage, much like Barrett did last week for Kentucky.
Pitching wise Auburn's starters have been very inconsistent up to this point. Friday night starter Keegan Thompson has shown some flashes and pitched well against Vandy last weekend, but he's been up and down all year. The biggest pitching threats the Dogs will face will come out of the bullpen.
Here are the players MSU will have to beat in order to win the series:
Afernee Grier (sophomore): For the third week in a row, MSU will face one of the better hitters in the conference. Grier, the leadoff hitter for the Tigers, is hitting .380 with a team-leading nine doubles and .479 OBP. Interestingly enough, he also leads the team in strikeouts. Granted, he does have more at-bats than any of his teammates. He's made several errors this season out in right field, but he's more than made up for it with his bat. The next closest batting average on the team to Grier is only .306. State pitchers can't let Grier beat them the way Kentucky's two best sluggers did last week.
Justin Camp (redshirt junior): A large figure out there on the mound at 6-1, 229 pounds, Camp has been relied on heavily out of the bullpen. In a team-high 11 appearances and 17 innings pitched, Camp has struck out 25 and walked 13 on his way to maintaining the lowest ERA on the staff at 1.59. Camp has been used in both a middle reliever and a closer type role. His walks are definitely high compared to the amount of innings he has thrown. Hitters need to be patient against him this weekend and work the count in their favor.
Cole Lipscomb (redshirt sophomore): Although his 2.19 ERA is not quite as good as Camp's, Lipscomb is the best pitcher on this Auburn team. After battling injuries in his early career, he's had a coming out party so far this year. Lipscomb has pitched 24.2 innings, fanned 34 batters and only walked seven. Teams are hitting .207 against Lipscomb. He's a relief guy that can pitch with a little velocity at 90-92 and isn't going to walk many. If the Tigers have a small lead late in the game, Lipscomb will be the first pitcher MSU sees.