Memphis preview

Matt Spruill has started 16 games in his first season at Mississippi State. (Mississippi State)

Matt Spruill has started 16 games in his first season at Mississippi State. (Mississippi State)

Mississippi State is seeking to end a two-game skid in midweek play, traveling to Memphis to take on the Tigers at AutoZone Park at 6:30 p.m. today.

The Bulldogs will also be looking for payback after Memphis scored three runs in the top of the 9th inning to rally for a 6-4 victory in Starkville last year.

MSU is 52-25 against the Tigers including a 19-11 record on the road. The Diamond Dogs are 5-2 at the home of the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds with a 12-1 victory during their last visit in 2013.

Skipper John Cohen is 5-2 against Memphis while at State.

The Bulldogs are 21-13 overall on the spring and are coming off their first SEC series win against South Carolina over the weekend. Mississippi State outscored the Gamecocks 27-20 in the three-game series.

Cohen’s club is hitting .283 on the year with 15 home runs and scoring 6.2 runs per game. The Diamond Dogs rank second nationally with 192 walks. MSU maintains a .976 fielding percentage and is 36-of-46 on stolen base attempts.

Senior right fielder Jake Vickerson paces the Bulldogs with a .370 batting average while senior third baseman Seth Heck tops the team with 41 hits. Sophomore designated hitter Reid Humphreys has slugged five homers and driven in 21 runs. Sophomore centerfielder Jacob Robson is 15-of-20 on base swipes.

State’s pitching staff has compiled a 3.80 earned run average with 261 strikeouts and 113 walks in 305.1 innings. Opponents are hitting .252 against them with 21 long balls.

Senior closer Trevor Fitts has a team-high five saves and a team-low 1.00 ERA. Junior Preston Brown tops the club with 45 strikeouts.

The Diamond Dogs will send sophomore right-hander Austin Sexton to the mound tonight. In seven starts, Sexton is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 13 walks in 39.1 innings of work.

Memphis counters with senior southpaw and Clinton native Alex Gunn. It will be Gunn’s fifth start of the season and has a 2-0 record with a 1.96 ERA, 15 strikeouts and five walks in 23 frames.

The Tigers are coached by former State assistants Daron Shoenrock (head coach) and Russ McNickle (associate head coach).

Memphis improved to 20-8 on the year following a 11-8 win over Belmont in Nashville on Monday night. The Tigers are 1-2 against the SEC this spring after splitting with Arkansas and losing to Ole Miss.

Memphis is batting .291 as a club with a dozen homers and averaging 5.9 runs. The Tigers sport a .970 fielding percentage and are 41-of-57 on base thefts.

Freshman Jacob Elliott leads Memphis with a .429 batting average while senior Kane Barrow has 43 hits. Senior Tucker Tubbs provides the power with four home runs and 28 RBI while freshman Brandon Montgomery (12-of-17) is the Tigers top base thief.

Memphis’ hurlers have a 2.84 ERA with 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 247 innings. Their opposition is batting just .229 against them 12 long balls.

Relievers Nolan Blackwood and Kellon Hibbard have flawless ERA’s while senior Dylan Toscano leads the team with 35 strikeouts. Blackwood, a sophomore from Southaven, has all 11 saves for the Tigers.

Tonight’s game will be streamed on the Memphis Tiger Network and can be heard on the MSU Baseball Radio Network.

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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