Mississippi State’s Super Bulldog Weekend is always one of the biggest events on campus each year.
But this weekend could be vital for the Diamond Dogs’ postseason outlook as well hosting No. 6 Florida beginning today at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s contests are slated for 2 p.m. on SEC Network and ESPNU respectively.
MSU (22-16, 6-9) enters the weekend 88th in the NCAA RPI rankings and have lost four of its first five SEC series.
“Winning a series is what the SEC is all about, everybody’s good,” said designated hitter Brent Rooker. “Hopefully we’ll come out here in front of some big crowds and hopefully win this series.”
Large crowds have become the norm at Dudy Noble Field for Super Bulldog Weekend in conjunction with the football spring game on Saturday. Last year the Bulldogs set the NCAA on-campus attendance record with 15,586 for their series against Ole Miss.
“I think Super Bulldog Weekend really takes on a spring version of homecoming,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “It’s just a fun atmosphere. There’s so many activities going on.”
On the field, the Bulldogs will contend with a Florida club that swept South Carolina last weekend and is 9-6 in conference play and 28-10 overall. The Gators are coming off a 4-3 loss at No. 13 Florida State in 12 innings on Tuesday.
“They do a great job in all phases of the game and I think it’ll be a tremendous challenge for us,” Cohen said.
Florida has won two straight against the Bulldogs and leads the overall series 58-43. The Gators also hold a 23-22 the edge in Starkville.
The teams met only once last season as Florida eliminated MSU from the SEC Tournament with a 5-1 win.
Mississippi State will alter its pitching plans for the weekend bumping junior right-hander Preston Brown back to Sunday following a 121 pitch effort against top-ranked Texas A&M last weekend. Senior southpaw Lucas Laster will start tonight while sophomore righty Austin Sexton takes the mound Saturday.
Injuries have took their toll on the Bulldogs this season. Freshman pitcher Jesse McCord underwent surgery on Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season. Junior reliever Myles Gentry has been limited to five outings due to a right arm injury and senior infielder Matthew Britton has missed the last 13 games with a right knee injury.
“We don’t want to dwell on the injury part of it but it’s bitten us,” Cohen said. “We’ve had to play some guys who haven’t played a ton. That’s giving them experience which will help in the future but we’re more concerned with the right now.”
Cohen is hopeful to have senior right fielder Jake Vickerson back against Florida after being kept out of the starting lineup last weekend with a stiff neck.
PROBABLE PITCHING ROTATION
Friday – Florida RHP Logan Shore (5-2, 2.16 ERA) vs. MSU LHP Lucas Laster (4-2, 2.52 ERA)
Saturday – Florida RHP Dane Dunning (4-1, 3.19 ERA) vs. MSU RHP Austin Sexton (3-3, 3.52 ERA)
Sunday – Florida TBA vs. MSU RHP Preston Brown (5-3, 3.81 ERA)