Alabama preview

Vance Tatum has pitched in 12 games as a true freshman this season. (Photo Courtesy of MSU Athletics)

Vance Tatum has pitched in 12 games as a true freshman this season. (Photo Courtesy of MSU Athletics)

Mississippi State still has plenty to play for heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

The 20th-ranked Bulldogs sit in second place in the SEC Western Division and sport the same 16-11 conference record as South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the overall standings.

MSU will attempt to improve its SEC Tournament seeding traveling to No. 19 Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide starting at 6:35 p.m. tonight on

Game 2 is slated for Friday at 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network while Saturday’s regular season finale will be televised by CSS at 3 p.m.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Tuscaloosa, Ala., natives John Cohen and Jake Vickerson.

The Crimson Tide lead the overall series 185-209-4 although State has won six of the last seven meetings including a sweep last year in Starkville. Mississippi State is 75-123-2 all-time in Tuscaloosa.

The Diamond Dogs (33-19) have won three of their last four SEC series including two consecutive sweeps on the road at Missouri and Auburn. State is 11-7 away from Dudy Noble Field this season including eight consecutive victories.

The Bulldogs are batting .272 on the year with 13 home runs and scoring 4.9 runs per game. MSU maintains an SEC-leading .981 fielding percentage and is 62 of 85 on stolen base attempts.

Senior second baseman Brett Pirtle tops the team with 68 hits and a .342 batting average. Junior first baseman Wes Rea has slugged four homers on the year and is tied with senior designated hitter Alex Detz with 34 runs batted in each. Senior left fielder Derrick Armstrong leads the Diamond Dogs with 13 steals.

State’s pitching staff has compiled a 2.91 earned run average with 431 strikeouts and 169 walks in 473 innings. Their opponents are hitting .242 against them with nine long balls.

Junior reliever Jacob Lindgren leads the team with 82 strikeouts and also ERA at 1.02. Junior All-American closer Jonathan Holder has notched six saves.

A short week coupled with the impending SEC Tournament may cause Mississippi State to retool its pitching rotation. Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (4-3, 2.62 ERA, 53 K, 9 BB) is slated to start tonight’s game but the Bulldogs will wait to announce the starting pitcher for the final two contests.

Alabama will send freshman righty Geoffrey Bramblett (4-1, 3.71 ERA, 38 K, 15 BB) to the bump tonight for his fourth start.

Junior right-hander Spencer Turnbull (5-5, 2.36 ERA, 56 K, 39 BB) will take the mound for the Tide on Friday while junior southpaw Justin Kamplain (5-3, 3.29 ERA, 62 K, 24 BB) gets the ball on Saturday.

The Tide roll into the final series with an identical overall record as MSU but are 14-12 in league action. Alabama has lost five of its last six SEC outings but had a 15-10 victory at Jacksonville State on Tuesday.

Mitch Gaspard’s club is hitting .283 on the year with 38 homers and score 5.4 runs a game. UA fields at a .972 clip and has swiped 32 bases in 45 attempts.

Senior first baseman Austen Smith has a team-high .344 batting average and 36 RBI while sophomore centerfielder Georgie Salem has collected 66 hits. Junior right fielder Ben Moore is the biggest power threat in the lineup with eight long balls and also its top base thief with eight steals.

Junior reliever Cary Baxter maintains a flawless ERA while Kamplain is Alabama’s strikeout leader on the year. Freshman Thomas Burrows has closed out nine of the Crimson Tide’s 11 saves this season.

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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