It's Adidas copy/paste weekend in Starkville as the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Texas A&M Aggies get set to square off for a three game SEC series at Dudy Noble Field starting tonight. A&M is coming off of a series loss to Kentucky (but a win over ranked-Rice in the midweek), while MSU is coming off of a series sweep of Missouri and a win over rival Ole Miss in the annual Governor's Cup matchup in Pearl.
For me, this weekend is about one thing: Can MSU keep the momentum going that's been building over the past five games since a home series loss to Ole Miss two weekend's ago? State feels like a different team over that short streak, especially on Tuesday night when a few players - namely Wes Rea - broke out a bit and helped MSU put together eights runs. While the body of work is too short to necessarily tell if MSU has turned the corner or not, this weekend would certainly help further establish that should MSU have a good showing.
For Texas A&M, they are only two wins short record-wise from MSU on the year, yet it feels like there is more separation between the two teams. That could mostly be due to where MSU started the year versus where A&M did. The Aggies have played a really impressive schedule so far this season though, including Houston and Rice OOC, and Florida, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Kentucky in conference already. They own series wins over Florida and Vanderbilt, which could be nice feathers in their caps if they finish the year in contention for an NCAA bid. There are some bad losses in there to overcome too, though, with series losses to Auburn, Alabama, and Fresno State.
Stats-wise, these two teams are fairly similar in both hitching and pitching, as they sport similar team averages (.289 A&M vs .272 MSU) and ERAs (3.54 A&M vs 3.30 MSU). There is a slight disparity in total runs scored on the year between the two teams (246 A&M vs 219 MSU), but the Aggies have a few big games on the year that explain the27 runs difference. As far as individuals go, 1B/C Cole Lankford does it all for A&M, as he leads the team in average (.329), hits (56), RBIs (34), and at-bats (170).
It will be interesting to see if John Cohen and Butch Thompson give Trevor Fitts the quick hook again tonight regardless of how he pitches in an effort to grab the series opening win again. Fitts' last outing was styled more along his work efforts last summer at the CWS when he pitched two-to-three innings before giving way to Mitchell, Girodo, and the bullpen. In that outing last weekend, he was relieved by Jacob Lindgren, who had an excellent game to help MSU get the win. Whether it's on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, State will need another big weekend from him to grab a series victory.
Ross Mitchell will again go on Saturday (well, Friday this week), and you can all but guarantee that MSU will get a solid showing from him. They may not need it as badly with talk of Preston Brown possibly pitching this weekend, but Ross having another 7-8-complete game performance would be big.
I think with a bit of momentum, a home crowd on what should be a pretty weekend, and an offense that seems to be waking up a bit, State has a solid shot to win at least two against their maroon brethren this weekend. It's certainly not guaranteed - especially not if they fall back into the ways of the Friday and Sunday offensive games against Ole Miss. But if Wes can keep hitting, and John Cohen doesn't over-tinker with the lineup over the weekend, then I would look for State to walk away with two games.
Projected Pitching Matchups
|Date||Mississippi State Bulldogs|
|Thursday||RHP Trevor Fitts (2-2, 3.30 ERA)||LHP Tyler Stubblefield (3-1, 3.45 ERA)|
|Friday||LHP Ross Mitchell (6-3, 2.13 ERA)||RHP Daniel Mengden (2-6, 4.09 ERA)|
|Saturday||TBA||RHP Grayson Long (5-1, 2.44 ERA)|
Television, Radio, and Internet Broadcasts
|Date and Time (CT)||Television||Radio||Internet|
|Thursday, 6:30 p.m.||ESPNU||MSU baseball radio network||WatchESPN, HailStateTV (audio, video)|
|Friday, 6:30 p.m.||None||MSU baseball radio network||HailStateTV (audio, video)|
|Saturday, 2:15 p.m.
||FSN||MSU baseball radio network||ESPN3, HailStateTV (audio, video)|
SEC Weekend Schedule
In addition to the MSU-A&M series that kicks off tonight, here's a look at the rest of the SEC action set to start up tomorrow:
(16) Ole Miss at (17) Kentucky
Missouri at (6) Florida
(8) Alabama at (11) South Carolina
Georgia at (25) Vanderbilt
Auburn at (24) Arkansas
Tennessee at (9) LSU
The biggest weekend series in the conference, for me, is that Alabama showdown with South Carolina. Alabama has played well this year, but the final stretch of their schedule will be the real test as to whether or not this team is worthy of a top-ten ranking. That run starts this weekend in Columbia against the Gamecocks, who rarely lose there. The Tide finish out the regular season with MSU at home in three weekends. The Ole Miss-Kentucky series also looks like one to watch as both teams are still looking to prove that they are the top team in their respective divisions of the SEC. Florida and Missouri... well that won't be much of a series to watch, necessarily, but Florida is coming off of two brutal RPI-busting losses to Florida A&M and Jacksonville in the midweek. Well, it would be two killer losses for most teams, but the Gators currently sit at #1 in the RPI as they've played the toughest schedule in the country this year. They still look to be in the drivers seat to lock up a hosting spot.