UT Martin preview

Keegan James is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA, five strikeouts and four walks in five appearances as a true freshman. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Keegan James is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA, five strikeouts and four walks in five appearances as a true freshman. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Before Mississippi State’s showdown at No. 1 Florida this weekend, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs have a midweek match-up at home with UT Martin tonight.

What was originally scheduled to be a doubleheader has been shortened to a single game slated for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.

MSU (20-8-1) enters with an RPI of 27 while the Skyhawks sit at 278.

The Diamond Dogs are 8-0 all-time against UT Martin, last winning 8-6 in Starkville in 2006. Ed Easley, Joseph Hunter and Jeff Butts all had a pair of hits in that game while Brett Cleveland picked up the win in relief.

Mississippi State enters tonight’s game coming off a series victory over previously 13th-ranked Ole Miss over the weekend. The Bulldogs won the first two games 3-1 and 6-2 behind complete game efforts on the mound from Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton before dropping Sunday’s finale 8-5.

John Cohen‘s club is batting .315 and has 10 players hitting .300 or higher. The Diamond Dogs have hit 20 home runs and are averaging 7.1 runs. MSU also maintains a .976 fielding percentage and have swiped 28 bases in 34 tries.

Freshman right fielder Jake Mangum leads the Bulldog regulars with a .396 batting average. Junior centerfielder Jacob Robson has collected 42 hits and is 10 of 12 on steal attempts. Junior third baseman Gavin Collins has clubbed five homers and junior designated hitter Reid Humphreys has driven in 24 runs.

State’s pitching staff has compiled a 3.44 earned run average with 285 strikeouts and 105 walks in 262 innings. Opponents are hitting just .239 against them with 17 long balls.

Freshman Ryan Cyr still has a flawless ERA while Hudson, a junior, tops the Diamond Dogs with 56 strikeouts. Humphreys holds two of the team’s six saves.

State will send freshman left-hander Konnor Pilkington to the mound for his fourth start. Pilkington is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 16 strikeouts and four walks in 15 1/3 innings of work.

The Skyhawks counter with freshman southpaw Adam Rimmer making his first career start. In 15 relief appearances, Rimmer has a 7.16 ERA with 14 strikeouts and 14 walks over 16 1/3 innings and has not been involved in a decision.

UT Martin is 7-21 on the year having lost 11 straight and were swept at Belmont over the weekend by a combined score of 40-18.

Rick Robinson‘s roster is hitting .284 with 19 homers and scoring 6.2 runs per game. The Skyhawks are 14 of 18 on base thefts and sport a .956 fielding percentage.

Junior centerfielder Fletcher Johnson tops UT Martin with a .351 batting average and three steals while senior designated hitter Austin Taylor has stacked up 34 hits. Sophomore outfielder Collin Edwards is the Skyhawks’ power threat with three home runs and senior third baseman Matt Hirsch has knocked in 19 runs.

UT Martin’s hurlers have a 9.35 staff ERA and seven pitchers with an ERA over 11. The Skyhawks have struck out 203 while walking 197 and surrendering 41 home runs. Teams are hitting .313 against them.

Senior Patrick Bernard has the lowest ERA at 4.13 and the only save while freshman Dom Bazzani leads UT Martin with 33 strikeouts.

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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