Diamond Classic preview

Redshirt freshman Daniel Garner is second on the Diamond Dogs with a .364 batting average. (Photo courtesy of MSU Baseball)

Redshirt freshman Daniel Garner is second on the Diamond Dogs with a .364 batting average. (Photo courtesy of MSU Baseball)

STARKVILLE – No. 18 Mississippi State returns to action this weekend hosting its annual Diamond Classic.

The Bulldogs welcome both Michigan State and Eastern Illinois to campus for a six-game round robin tournament where each team will play the others twice over a three day span. Things get underway this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. when the Spartans and Panthers take the field.

Mississippi State will play the nightcap tonight against Michigan State at 6:30 p.m.

The Diamond Dogs will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. against Eastern Illinois followed by a 4:30 p.m. outing against the Spartans. Michigan State will face the Panthers once again Sunday at 11 a.m. and Mississippi State will close out the weekend with a 3 p.m. outing against Eastern Illinois.

The Bulldogs are 2-1 against the Spartans with Michigan State’s lone win coming 4-3 in 1931. Mississippi State won the next two meetings in 2010 7-4 and 14-6 in the BankFirst Baseball Challenge at Dudy Noble Field.

The Diamond Dogs are 3-0 against Eastern Illinois. Mississippi State opened the 2005 season with 3-1 and 16-6 victories over the Panthers followed by a 9-4 win in 2011.

John Cohen’s club is 6-4 on the year coming off a midweek two-game sweep of Mount St. Mary’s. Mississippi State outscored the Mountaineers 23-2 in those games.

The Bulldogs enter the weekend hitting .274 with three home runs and are averaging 6.3 runs per game. Mississippi State maintains a .975 fielding percentage and lead the Southeastern Conference with 66 walks, 19 stolen bases and 10 double plays turned.

Junior left fielder Jake Vickerson leads the team with a .393 batting average while senior second baseman Brett Pirtle is riding a 10-game hitting streak. Junior first baseman Wes Rea has all three of the Diamond Dogs homers and tops the SEC with 21 runs batted in. Senior right fielder Demarcus Henderson is a perfect 5-for-5 on base thefts.

Mississippi State’s pitching staff has compiled a 2.20 earned run average. The Bulldogs have walked 39 batters in 90 innings and lead the conference with 101 strikeouts. They also lead the SEC with four saves. Their opponents are hitting .225 against them with two home runs.

Senior right-hander Ben Bracewell is 2-0 on the mound with 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. Releivers Jacob Lindgren, Austin Sexton, Lucas Laster and Zac Houston all have flawless ERA’s. Amory’s Will Cox tops the team with a pair of saves.

Mississippi State will start the Diamond Classic with junior righty Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 4.05 ERA, 6 K, 7 BB) of Wheeler on the mound. Woodruff will be opposed by junior right-hander Mick VanVossen (2-0, 3.27 ERA, 6 K, 2 BB).

The Diamond Dogs will send junior righty Trevor Fitts (2-0, 2.31 ERA, 16 K, 3 BB) to the bump Saturday morning countered by Eastern Illinois sophomore right-hander Jake Johansmeier (1-1, 5.23 ERA, 5 K, 4 BB). Michigan State will start sophomore southpaw Anthony Misiewicz (0-1, 5.68 ERA, 3 K, 5 BB) in Game 2 on Saturday while Mississippi State has not announced a starting pitcher.

Freshman righty Dakota Hudson (0-1, 2.57 ERA, 3 K, 1 BB) will toe the rubber in Sunday’s finale for the Bulldogs while Eastern Illinois has not announced a starter.

Michigan State is 4-2 on the year and is coming off a 4-1 loss to Washington in the Pac 12-B1G Challenge. Mississippi State is the Spartans second opponent that appeared in the 2013 College World Series having already defeated Oregon State 8-7 last Saturday.

Dan McDonnell’s squad is hitting .240 with two long balls and are scoring 7.6 runs a game. Michigan State sports a .978 fielding percentage and has swiped seven bases in nine tries.

Junior designated hitter Blaise Salter paces the Spartans at the plate with a  .333 batting average with a home runs and five runs driven in. Senior catcher Joel Fisher also has a homer and five RBI while junior centerfielder Anthony Cheky is 4 of 5 in steals.

Michigan State’s hurlers have a 3.06 staff ERA with 31 strikeouts and 22 walks in 53 innings of work. Their opposition has hit .240 against them with a pair of homers.

Relievers Jake Lowery, Walter Borkovich, Zak Wilkerson and Josh Buchalski hold perfect ERA’s while redshirt freshman Cam Vieaux is the Spartans strikeout leader with eight. Junior Jeff Kinley has closed out three saves for Michigan State.

Eastern Illinois is 1-7 on the season having lost six straight. The Panthers were swept by Arkansas last weekend and fell 6-0 at Louisville on Tuesday.

EIU is batting .214 on the year with no homers and scoring 2.6 runs an outing. The Panthers sport a .962 fielding percentage and are 2 of 4 on steal tries.

Freshman right fielder Frankie Perrone leads the Eastern Illinois regulars with a .318 average while junior centerfielder Caleb Howell has knocked in five runs. Howell and senior designated hitter Montana Timmons have the Panthers only stolen bases on the year.

Jim Schmitz’s squad has a 6.23 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 35 walks over 65 frames. Opponents are hitting .258 against them with five long balls.

Freshman Chase Thurston has not allowed a run this season for EIU while junior Matt Borens is the team leader with 10 strikeouts. Senior Joe Greenfield has a save in the Panthers lone win.

None of Mississippi State’s games will be televised. Today’s game can be heard locally on WKBB 100.9 FM while Saturday’s doubleheader will be carried on WMXU 106.1 FM. The Sunday finale will be a MSU Baseball Network broadcast.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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