Eastern Kentucky preview

Catcher Elih Marrero has started 11 games as a true freshman. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Catcher Elih Marrero has started 11 games as a true freshman. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

After rising five spots to No. 15 following a three-game sweep of Oregon, Mississippi State is back in action taking on two teams over the next two days.

The Diamond Dogs (12-3-1) will host Eastern Kentucky tonight and Oral Roberts on Wednesday. Both games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. starts.

MSU is 4-0 all-time against Eastern Kentucky, last sweeping a three-game series against Colonels in 1989 with two wins in Starkville (8-4, 6-2) and another in Jackson (15-4).

John Cohen‘s club is hitting .320 with 11 home runs and averaging 7.4 runs per game. The Bulldogs rank second nationally with 43 doubles. State also sports a .980 fielding percentage and is 21 of 23 on stolen base attempts.

Junior designated hitter Jack Kruger is Mississippi State’s top hitter with a .410 batting average and 25 hits. Kruger is tied with junior third baseman Gavin Collins with three homers each while sophomore right fielder Brent Rooker has driven in 20 runs. Junior centerfielder Jacob Robson is a perfect 9-of-9 on stolen bases and is riding an 11-game hitting streak.

The Diamond Dogs’ pitching staff has compiled a 2.94 earned run average with 159 strikeouts and 62 walks over 141 innings. Opponents are hitting just .221 against them with nine long balls.

Ryan Rigby, Ryan Cyr, Konnor Pilkington and Jared Padgett all have flawless ERA’s while Dakota Hudson leads MSU with 32 strikeouts. Reid Humphreys has two of the team’s five saves.

Pilkington will make his first career start tonight. In two relief appearances, the freshman left-hander has walked one and struck out one in three no-hit innings.

EKU will go with senior righty Chris Cervantes on the mound for his first start of the spring. Cervantes is 0-0 with an 8.10 ERA, four walks and two strikeouts in 3 1/3 frames.

The Colonels are 7-8 on the year after being swept at home by Southeast Missouri State over the weekend. Eastern Kentucky was outscored 13-5 in the three-game series.

Edwin Thompson‘s team is batting .294 with 16 home runs and scoring 7.6 runs an outing. The Colonels have a .966 fielding percentage and are 13 of 16 on base thefts.

Freshman catcher Troy Merida tops EKU with a .750 batting average while senior third baseman Mandy Alvarez has collected 27 hits and 20 RBIs. Senior left fielder Kyle Nowlin supplies the power with seven homers and sophomore outfielder Daniel McFarland is 3-for-3 on steal attempts.

The Colonels’ hurlers have a 4.03 staff ERA with 114 strikeouts and 62 walks in 134 frames. Their opposition is hitting .256 with eight home runs.

Junior Caleb Johnson has a team-low 1.35 ERA and team-high 20 strikeouts. Junior Brian Mroz has two of Eastern Kentucky’s four saves.

Tonight’s game will be streamed on SEC Network +.

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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