Kentucky preview

Former Amory and Itawamba C.C. catcher Zack Randolph has started 15 games this season. (Lee Adams/ Special to the Daily Journal)

Former Amory and Itawamba C.C. catcher Zack Randolph has started 15 games this season. (Lee Adams/ Special to the Daily Journal)

Mississippi State has yet to play a traditional nine-inning ballgame at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Bulldogs eliminated Georgia 5-4 in 10-innings on Tuesday and clobbered South Carolina 12-0 in seven frames on Wednesday.

No. 5 seed MSU will attempt to keep the momentum going against ninth-seeded Kentucky in tonight’s nightcap on CSS. The winner of tonight’s game will receive a bye on Friday.

The Diamond Dogs are going for their eighth SEC Tournament title and are 62-46 all-time at the event. State is now 10-2 in Hoover over the last three years.

The Bulldogs are 4-3 at the SEC Tournament against Kentucky. Mississippi State went 1-1 against the Wildcats in 2012 en route to the tournament title.

The Diamond Dogs did not play UK during the regular season but lead the overall series 58-35.

John Cohen’s club is batting .274 with15 home runs and scoring five runs per game. MSU maintains a .981 fielding percentage and are 63-of-88 on stolen base attempts.

Senior second baseman Brett Pirtle leads the team with 74 hits and a .344 average. Pirtle has reached base in 62 straight games against SEC opponents. Junior first baseman Wes Rea has clubbed four home runs while senior infielder Alex Detz has driven in 39 runs. Senior left fielder Derrick Armstrong has swiped 13 bases in 15 chances.

The Bulldogs pitching staff has compiled a 2.83 earned run average with 472 strikeouts and 181 walks in 516 innings. Their opponents are hitting just .238 against them with 11 long balls.

Junior reliever Jacob Lindgren has a team-low 0.88 ERA and is the strikeout leader with 93. Junior All-American Jonathan Holder has seven saves on the year and 37 for his career.

State has not announced a starting pitcher for tonight’s game. Cohen mentioned junior All-American Ross Mitchell as a potential starter.

The Wildcats will send freshman right-hander Zack Brown to the mound for his fourth start of the year. Brown is 0-1 with a 5.85 ERA, 14 strikeouts and seven walks in 20 innings of work.

Kentucky enters tonight’s contest at 33-22 overall. The Wildcats are also 2-0 in the SEC Tournament following a 7-1 win over Alabama and a 4-2 victory over regular season SEC Champion Florida.

Gary Henderson’s group is batting .303 this season with 57 homers and averaging 7.1 runs per game. UK sports a .969 fielding percentage and are 60-of-78 on base thefts.

Sophomore catcher Zach Arnold has a .522 batting average while junior designated hitter A.J. Reed has slugged an SEC-leading 23 home runs and driven in 70 runs. Junior third baseman Max Kuhn leads the Wildcats with 74 hits while sophomore left fielder Ka’ai Tom is the team’s top base thief with13 steals.

Kentucky’s hurlers have a 3.98 staff ERA with 338 strikeouts and 169 walks in 490.2 frames. Their opposition is hitting .271 against them with 35 long balls.

Reed is also the team’s strikeout leader with 68 with a 2.10 ERA. Sophomore Kyle Cody has notched five of the Wildcats 10 saves on the year.

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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