Auburn preview

Cody Walker leads MSU with a .500 batting average in Southeastern Conference play. (Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics)

Cody Walker leads MSU with a .500 batting average in Southeastern Conference play. (Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics)

Mississippi State reached its lowest point this season following Wednesday night’s 2-1 home loss to Jacksonville State which extended the Bulldogs skid to three games.

The good news is that MSU has a quick turnaround traveling to Auburn this weekend. Diamond Dog coach John Cohen hopes to get his club back on the field to shake off the midweek upset and get back on track.

The series begins tonight at 6 p.m. followed by a 6 p.m. Saturday contest on CSS. The finale is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch on Sunday.

State leads the series over the Tigers 93-83-1but are 33-48 at Auburn. The Bulldogs are just 1-5 on the plains under Cohen.

The Bulldogs took two games at home against Auburn last season winning the series by a combined score of 13-6. Mississippi State won the first game of a weather delayed doubleheader 6-3 but lost Game 2, 3-1 The Diamond Dogs finished up last year’s series with a 6-0 shutout.

Mississippi State enters the weekend at 28-18 overall and are two games out of first place in the Western Division at 11-10 while the Tigers are at the bottom of the division at 9-12 and 25-20 overall.

Cohen’s club is batting .272 on the year with nine home runs and scoring five runs per game. MSU maintains a .980 fielding percentage and has swiped 60 bases in 79 attempts.

Senior second baseman Brett Pirtle leads the Bulldogs with 60 hits and a .343 batting average. Pirlte has reached base safely in 51 consecutive SEC outings. Senior infielder Alex Detz tops the team with 32 runs batted in and is tied with junior first baseman Wes Rea with three homers each. Senior outfielder Derrick Armstrong has collected 13 stolen bases in 15 tries.

The Diamond Dogs pitching staff has compiled a 3.23 earned run average with 381 strikeouts and 154 walks in 415 innings. Their opponents are batting .252 against them with seven long balls.

Junior reliever Jacob Lindgren has a team-low 1.31 ERA and also tops the staff in strikeouts with 66. Junior All-American Jonathan Holder has closed out five games for State and is the active NCAA saves leader with 35.

MSU will stick with the same pitching rotation in the first two contests sending junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (3-2, 2.90 ERA, 49 K, 7 BB) to the mound first followed by junior southpaw Ross Mitchell (6-4, 2.35 ERA, 38 K, 21 BB) on Saturday.

Last weekend sophomore righty Preston Brown (3-1, 2.58 ERA, 30 K, 14 BB) returned to the rotation in Game 3 but it lasted just 1 1/3 innings after allowing three runs on four hits and a walk.

Although Cohen was pleased with Brown’s bullpen session on Thursday morning, junior right-hander Brandon Woodruff could get the nod on Sunday. The Wheeler native has made just five starts on the year and only one so far in conference play.

In 11 appearances, Woodruff is 1-2 with a 6.32 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 21 walks over 31.1 innings of work.

Auburn counters with senior right-hander Dillon Ortman (8-2, 1.92 ERA, 59 K, 10 BB) on the bump tonight and freshman righty Keegan Thompson (5-2, 1.74 ERA, 62 K, 18 BB) on Saturday. Senior southpaw Michael O’Neal (3-4, 3.43 ERA, 23 K, 22 BB) will get the ball on Sunday for the Tigers.

Auburn found success on the road taking two games at Arkansas last weekend and losing another in extra innings. The Tigers did not play a midweek game since winning the final game of the series against the Razorbacks 7-2.

Sunny Galloway’s group is hitting .277 on the year with 13 homers and averaging 4.4 runs an outing. The Tigers sport a .969 fielding percentage and are 68 of 102 on base thefts.

Sophomore left fielder Jordan Ebert leads the Auburn regulars with a .364 average at the plate and 60 hits. Senior third baseman Damek Tomscha is the power threat in the lineup with five home runs while senior catcher Blake Austin has driven in 30 runs. Senior infielder Dan Glevenyak is the Tigers top base thief with 12 steals.

Auburn’s hurlers have a 2.86 staff ERA with 275 strikeouts and 121 walks in 403 frames. Their opposition is batting at a .245 clip against them with seven long balls.

Relievers Rocky McCord and Cole Lipscomb maintain flawless ERA’s while Thompson is the team’s strikeout leader. Senior Terrance Dedrick has notched four of the Tigers eight saves on the season.

All three games can be heard on the MSU Baseball Radio Network with Jim Ellis and Bart Gregory on the call.

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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