STARKVILLE – No. 12 Mississippi State welcomes a familiar foe in South Alabama to Dudy Noble Field at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
The two teams batted on two different occasions last season with the Diamond Dogs coming out on top in both. MSU won 6-4 in midweek action in Mobile and also down the Jaguars 6-2 in the Starkville NCAA Regional.
MSU is 43-24 all-time against South Alabama including five straight over the Jaguars.
The Bulldogs enter the midweek clash at 10-4 having won six straight outings. State swept the Diamond Classic against Michigan State and Eastern Illinois over the weekend. They outscored their opponents 24-6 in the four-game round robin tournament.
Mississippi State junior reliever Ross Mitchell earned SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week honors for his two outings in the Diamond Classic tossing seven shutout innings giving up just two hits with three strikeouts. Mitchell earned the win in Friday’s victory over the Spartans.
John Cohen’s club is hitting .292 coming into tonight’s contest with four home runs and averaging 6.2 runs a game.MSU sports a .982 fielding percentage and are second nationally with 85 walks and 30 steals.
Freshman designated hitter Daniel Garner and junior left fielder Jake Vickerson are tied for the team lead with .370 batting averages. Senior second baseman Brett Pirtle team-best 19 hits while junior first baseman Wes Rea has slugged three homers and driven in 19 runs. Senior centerfielder Derrick Armstrong has swiped seven bases in eight tries.
State’s pitching staff has compiled a 2.00 earned run average with 135 strikeouts and 51 walks in 126 innings. Their opponents are hitting just .224 against them with three long balls.
The Bulldogs have 10 pitchers with an ERA under 1.96 while Austin Sexton, Jacob Lindgren, Zac Houston and Lucas Laster all have their flawless ERA’s intact. Ben Bracewell and Trevor Fitts are both 2-0 on the mound with Fitts leading the team with 24 strikeouts. Will Cox has notched two of MSU’s four saves on the season.
The Diamond Dogs will send sophomore right-hander Preston Brown to the bump tonight making his second start of the year. Brown is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA with 11 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 innings of work.
USA will counter with senior righty Matt Bell (1-1, 6.75 ERA, 11 K, 6 BB). Bell went 0-2 in two starts against State last year. He tossed 12.1 innings allowing seven earned runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts and six walks.
The Jaguars are 5-6 on the year having taken two of three at Arkansas over the weekend. South Alabama is coming off a 5-4 loss at Jackson State Tuesday night.
Mark Calvi’s squad is batting .249 on the year with no homers and are scoring 3.5 runs per game. The Jags maintain a .983 fielding percentage with just two steals in 10 tries on the year.
Junior catcher Davis Knapp (.364) is the only USA hitter with a batting average over .300. Junior designated hitter Matt Wojciechowski, junior third baseman Bud Collura and junior catcher Erik Hindmon are all tied for the team lead with six runs batted in while junior centerfielder Adam Ballew and freshman right fielder Cameron Cummings have the only two stolen bases. Hayden Jones tops the team with 13 hits on the year.
The Jaguar hurlers have a 3.58 staff ERA with 71 strikeouts and 51 walks over 98 frames of work. Their opposition is hitting .242 against them with four homers.
Releivers Brandon Hallford, Cameron Carleton, J.A. Harville, Dillon Buhrkuhl and Mark Babrick all have perfect ERA’s while Bell, Jared Gates and James Traylor are tied for the team lead with 11 strikeouts each. Hallford, a senior right-hander, has closed out three games for South Alabama this season.
Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPN3.com and also broadcast locally on WMXU 106.1 FM.