John Cohen hopes to learn an awful lot about his Mississippi State squad in the coming days.
The 15th-ranked Diamond Dogs begin the 2016 campaign by playing five games in as many days starting with a round robin series against Florida Atlantic and South Dakota State this weekend.
MSU opens with Owls at 4:30 p.m. today then plays a Saturday doubleheader against the Jackrabbits at noon and FAU at 3:30 p.m. The Bulldogs close the series out against SDSU at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday before hosting Memphis Tuesday.
“I think we are going to have an opportunity to play a lot of guys,” Cohen said. “That is why I like the four-game weekend series to start out. It forces me to play more people than you are comfortable playing out of necessity. I think it will help us in the long run.”
Mississippi State is trying to erase a miserable 2015 season that saw the Diamond Dogs go 24-30 and finish last in the SEC standings with an 8-22 record.
The Bulldogs have the luxury of 17 letterwinners returning including leading hitter Jacob Robson (.324) and pitcher Austin Sexton (4-4, 3.77 ERA, 61 K) back.
As a team, MSU hit .271 with 22 home runs and scored 5.3 runs last season while the pitching staff sported a 4.51 ERA with 395 strikeouts and 199 walks in 482.2 innings and opponents hitting .269 against them.
MSU will send Preseason All-American Dakota Hudson to the mound for the opening day start. It will be the first start for the junior right-hander since April 6, 2014. Hudson made 17 relief appearances last spring, going 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 11 walks in 16 2/3 innings.
Florida Atlantic will counter with senior southpaw Brandon Rhodes on the bump. Rhodes made 14 starts last season going 4-1 with a 3.78 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 15 walks over 78 2/3 frames.
The Owls are coming off a 42-19 season and an NCAA Regional appearance, losing to Florida 2-1 in the Gainesville Regional championship game.
Mississippi State leads the all-time series against FAU 2-0, taking both games (13-2, 8-4) at the 2005 Coral Gables Regional. It will be the first meeting between the Diamond Dogs and South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits were 33-22 last year and are picked to finish third in the Summit League this season.
FAU and South Dakota State will open the series at noon today.