No. 20 Mississippi State plays its final non-conference weekend series of the season.
But it just might be the Bulldogs’ most important. MSU welcomes ninth-ranked Oregon to Dudy Noble Field for a three-game set starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The teams will meet again Saturday at 2 p.m. and close out the series Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s really like another SEC weekend for us,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “(Oregon) is a really good club that could go deep into the postseason. It’s a great opportunity for us to get ready to play in the best league in America.”
State will open conference play next weekend at No. 2 Vanderbilt.
The Diamond Dogs are 9-3-1 on the year coming off a 7-3 midweek victory at home against South Alabama on Tuesday. Oregon is 8-2 on the season and had its game at Alabama rained out on Thursday.
Mississippi State ranks third in the SEC hitting .317 as a club and scoring 7.2 runs. Junior designated hitter Jack Kruger, a former Oregon player, is the Bulldogs’ top slugger with a .479 batting average, 23 hits, three home runs and 18 RBIs. He also leads the country with nine doubles.
Kruger played in 28 games with 17 starts for the Ducks as a true freshman in 2014 where he hit .208 with a pair of doubles, a homer and six RBIs. The Calabasas, California native transferred to Orange Coast (Calif.) College as a sophomore.
MSU’s pitching staff sports a 3.00 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 46 walks in 114 innings of work. Opponents are hitting just .227 against them.
Junior right-hander Dakota Hudson (1-1, 1.50 ERA) will draw the start tonight for the Diamond Dogs while Oregon counters with junior southpaw Cole Irvin (2-0, 0.82 ERA).
State will send junior righty Austin Sexton (1-1, 4.91 ERA) to the mound on Saturday opposed by sophomore left-hander Matt Krook (0-0, 1.59 ERA) of the Ducks.
Oregon will start sophomore lefty David Peterson (2-0, 0.45 ERA) on Sunday while the Bulldogs have not announced a starter.
Tonight will be just the second meeting between the two on the diamond. The Ducks defeated Mississippi State 6-5 on March 22, 1968 as part of the National Collegiate Tournament in Riverside, California.