The No. 23 Mississippi State Bulldogs head to Gulfport, Miss., for a four-game slate starting Friday that features a Saturday matchup with No. 24 Baylor on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (10-0) come into the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic undefeated after knocking off then-No. 23 South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, SIU-Edwardsville, Samford, and Southeastern Louisiana over the past weekend and Monday.
The victories propelled the Bulldogs into the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 this week, and the No. 23 ranking is the highest for the Bulldogs in this poll since April 2008.
The Bulldogs enter the weekend with a 2-5 record all-time against their foes. The Bulldogs last played Baylor in the Lafayette Regional during the 2015 NCAA tournament. The Bears defeated the Bulldogs twice in that regional, improving their all time record against the Bulldogs to 5-0.
The Bulldogs have never faced Incarnate Word, and Mississippi State holds a 2-0 all-time record against McNeese State.
Mississippi State enters the weekend with a pitching staff ranking near the top of the nation as a group and individuals. Led by Cori Cooper (0.00 ERA, 1st in the nation), Regan Green (0.49, 21st), Holly Ward (0.49) and Cassady Knudsen (0.58, 28th), the Bulldogs boast the third best team ERA in the nation.
Cooper also leads the NCAA in hits allowed per seven innings (1.27), and Green ranks fifth in the nation and first in the SEC with 11.7 strikeouts per seven innings.
Emily Heimberger leads Mississippi State with a .522 batting average in 10 games played. Katie Anne Bailey leads the team with 12 RBIs, and Morgan Bell leads the team with three home runs. Sarai Niu has two homers on the season.
The Bulldogs play the following schedule this weekend:
Friday, Feb. 26 - vs. McNeese State - 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 27 - vs. Incarnate Word - 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 27 - vs. Baylor - 8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 28 - vs. McNeese State - 12:30 p.m.
As for the Bulldogs' opponents, Baylor enters the weekend with a 6-3 record, going 5-3 at home and 1-0 on the road. The Bears opened the season going 2-1 in a three game series against McNeese State before picking up wins against Northwestern State and Liberty. Baylor then picked up a win against Northwestern State sandwiched between losses to North Texas.
Lindsey Cargill leads Baylor at the plate with a .536 batting average, picking up 15 hits in 28 at bats. Sarah Smith is also batting over .400 for Baylor at .462. She is also tied with Linsey Hays for the team lead in home runs with two. Hays and Shleby Friudenberg both lead the Bears with 10 RBIs
In the circle, the Bears are led by Kelsee Selman (1-2) with a 1.86 ERA, and Heather Stearns (2-1) with a 3.38 ERA. Stearns leads the team in strikeouts with 28. Kendall Potts leads the team with three wins.
The Cowgirls enter the season with a 7-2 record, going 4-0 in neutral site games. Those wins came in the Troy Classic with victories over Ole Miss, Eastern Illinois (twice) and Tennesse Tech. McNeese State also defeated Troy in the Troy Classic.
Marisa Taunton is hitting .529 in five games played this season, also picking up six RBIs. Taylor Schmidt leads the team with nine RBIs. Erika Piancastelli is hitting .400 and leads the team with two home runs.
The McNeese State pitching staff features four pitchers with an under 2.50 ERA. Emily Vincent (2-0) leads the team with a 1.15 ERA, and she has struck out 22 in 18.1 innings of work. Jamie Allred (3-1) leads the team with 26 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched, and she sports a 2.26 ERA.
Jolie Trahah has started three games, second on the team, and sports a 1.17 ERA, but only has 12 innings of work, including a complete game. Rachel Smith has made two appearances, including a complete game start, and has a 2.25 ERA.
The Cardinals come to Gulfport with a 3-8 record on the season, with two of the wins coming in neutral site games.
Incarnate word picked up a win in their first game of the season before dropping their next eight contest. The Cardinals do come into the weekend on a two game winning streak with two wins over Alcorn State in the Lamar Classic in Beaumont, Texas.
Danielle Ramirez leads the regular starters with a .462 batting average, and Samantha Mendoza is also hitting .400 for the Cardinals.
Darianne Hale (0-2) leads the Cardinals starters in ERA with a 4.67 ERA. Bridget Stein (2-2, 6.18 ERA) leads the team in wins.