Florida Atlantic, South Dakota State preview

Junior Luke Reynolds hit .370 during Southeastern Conference play last season. (Mississippi State)

Junior Luke Reynolds hit .370 during Southeastern Conference play last season. (Mississippi State)

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.

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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