No. 22 Mississippi State got off to a strong 13-0 start to the season.
But since that time the Bulldogs have lost four of their last six games and have scored two runs or less three times during that span.
MSU will try to shake off its offensive struggles as conference play begins welcoming Alabama for a three-game set starting tonight at 6:30 p.m. The series resumes Saturday at 2 p.m. and concludes Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“Hopefully this weekend we get a chance to enter a different part of our season,” said MSU skipper John Cohen. “Hopefully our kids will compete a little bit better offensively than we have for the last couple of ballgames.”
The Diamond Dogs have watched their batting average dip 23 points to .297 since its winning streak was snapped. State has also stranded 53 runners during that six-game span.
“It’s good to have a couple struggles early because the SEC is not easy,” said MSU first baseman Wes Rea. “There’s going to be sometimes we stumble. I think the guys know that and they kind of got kicked in the teeth a couple times. With a lot of new and younger guys we have in the mix that needs to happen couple of times before you get into that competition.”
The Bulldogs went 18-12 in SEC play last season finishing third in the SEC West. Mississippi State concluded league play with the Crimson Tide in 2014 taking two games in Tuscaloosa. Cohen’s club won the first two games 9-4 and 1-0 before dropping a 2-1 decision in the finale.
Alabama went 9-6 during non-conference play this spring after taking 2-of-3 from Lipscomb last weekend. The Crimson Tide returned 23 letterwinners from last year’s NCAA Regional squad including five positional starters and three pitchers who earned five or more starts.
“They have a ton of older players and are really good,” Cohen said. “They’ve been really good on Friday nights on the mound. You just assume it’s going to be another Friday night in the SEC. It’s going to be another close ballgame where we have to figure out how to eek out some runs in this ballpark.”
Senior southpaw Taylor Guilbeau (2-1, 2.67 ERA) will start on the bump for Alabama opposed by Bulldogs junior right-hander Preston Brown (3-1, 1.93 ERA).
The Tide lead the all-time series 210-187-4 while MSU holds the advantage in Starkville 105-79-2 and has won eight of the last 10 meetings.
PROBABLE PITCHING ROTATION
Friday – Alabama LHP Taylor Guilbeau (2-1, 2.67 ERA) vs. MSU RHP Preston Brown (3-1, 1.93 ERA)
Saturday – Alabama RHP Will Carter (1-1, 4.35 ERA) vs. MSU RHP Austin Sexton (2-0, 2.61 ERA)
Sunday – Alabama RHP Geoffrey Bramblett (3-1, 3.22 ERA) vs. MSU LHP Vance Tatum (2-0, 1.99 ERA)