Mississippi State lost 8-7 at South Alabama in 11-innings on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs made the trip back from Mobile and arrived back on campus at 3 a.m. on Wednesday. A short batting practice session later that afternoon is all the preparation MSU will get as it welcomes No. 21 South Carolina for a three-game series starting tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
“That’s just how the schedule came out,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “The TV schedule came out long after we scheduled that midweek game. South Carolina will have to do something similar after playing at The Citadel. It’s just one of those things where you have to rise to the challenge.”
The shortened week will cause the Diamond Dogs to shift its pitching rotation as well. Senior southpaw Lucas Laster has made his last three starts in the midweek but will toe the rubber tonight.
Laster is 3-1 in his previous six starts, sporting a 2.65 earned run average with 28 strikeouts and six walks in 37.1 innings of work.
“I think Lucas is one of our best three guys right now,” Cohen said. “We didn’t want to pitch one of our guys on short rest. We haven’t had a ton of success in doing that. Lucas has been very competitive for us and we think he deserves this opportunity.”
State has not announced a starting pitcher for the final two games of the series and will have right-handers Preston Brown and Austin Sexton available as well as lefty Vance Tatum.
“We want to see how they swing it against a left-handed pitcher in our ballpark,” Cohen siad. “I’m sure that will affect our decision a little bit.”
Although the Bulldogs fell short on Tuesday, it was an encouraging night offensively after being shutout in three consecutive games last week.
Mississippi State (19-12, 3-6 SEC) had a dozen hits including a two-run homer by Reid Humphreys and a career-best 4-for-5 performance from Cody Brown out of the lead-off spot.
“From a hitting standpoint, that was a huge confidence booster for us,” said shortstop Ryan Gridley.
South Carolina comes in with a 5-4 conference record and a 20-9 overall mark. The Gamecocks shut out The Citadel 2-0 on Tuesday after dropping a home series to Georgia over the weekend.
USC will start sophomore right-hander Wil Crowe (3-2, 2.84) on the mound tonight.
The Gamecocks leads the series against MSU 36-30 although the Diamond Dogs have won the last three meetings, including a 12-0 seven-inning win at the SEC Tournament last season.
State holds a 15-14 edge in games played in Starkville.
Probable Pitching Rotation
Thursday – South Carolina RHP Wil Crowe (3-2, 2.84 ERA) vs. MSU LHP Lucas Laster (3-1, 2.65 ERA)
Friday – South Carolina LHP Jack Wynkoop (4-2, 2.30 ERA) vs. MSU TBA
Saturday – South Carolina TBA vs. MSU TBA