A once promising season for Mississippi State could come to a close by Saturday.
The Bulldogs began the year 13-0 and were ranked as high as No. 7 nationally have gone on a downward spiral since and are at risk of missing the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2010.
To qualify for the 12th and final spot in Hoover, MSU must win at least two games at Tennessee this weekend and have Arkansas win its series at Georgia.
“We’re excited that we still have a chance to continue playing,” said infielder Seth Heck. “At this point in the season, that’s all you can ask for. We’ll just take it one game at a time and know that if we take care of business we have a shot.”
The Diamond Dogs (24-27, 8-19 SEC) are currently last in the league standings behind the Volunteers, who will also be battling to climb into the final vacancy for the SEC Tournament. The series gets underway at 5 p.m. CT today and Friday and concludes Saturday at noon on the SEC Network.
“It’s a win or go home weekend,” said right fielder Jake Vickerson. “It’s the same for Tennessee so I expect it to be an exciting series. We’re just going to leave it all on the field.”
Senior closer Trevor Fitts (shoulder) stated he would be available this weekend while sophomore left fielder Reid Humphreys is questionable after pulling his quad last Saturday at Ole Miss.
Senior third baseman Matthew Britton (knee), sophomore catcher Gavin Collins (hand) and sophomore designated hitter Luke Reynolds (ankle) are all probable for the series.
State owns a 55-25 record against Tennessee including an 18-12 mark in Knoxville. The Bulldogs have won nine of the last 10 games versus the Vols including two extra-inning wins in Starkville last season.
Tennessee is 21-25 overall this season including an 8-18 mark inside the conference. The Volunteers split with Arkansas last weekend with one rainout and won 4-3 against UNC Ashville at home on Tuesday.
Tennessee will start junior left-handers Andy Cox (2-3, 3.79 ERA) and Drake Owenby (2-6, 4.57 ERA) on the mound and leave Saturday’s slot open. It is possible that spot goes to senior right-hander Bret Marks.
Marks began his collegiate career at Mississippi State in the fall of 2011. In 11 starts, Marks is 4-5 with a 3.09 ERA and a team-high 84 strikeouts.
PROBABLE PITCHING ROTATION
Thursday – MSU LHP Lucas Laster (4-3, 3.39 ERA) vs. UT LHP Andy Cox (2-3, 3.79 ERA)
Friday – MSU RHP Preston Brown (5-7, 4.39 ERA) vs UT LHP Drake Owenby (2-6, 4.57 ERA)
Saturday – MSU RHP Austin Sexton (4-4, 4.11 ERA) vs. UT TBA