Troy preview

Kale Breaux has made 13 relief appearances and one start as a true freshman for the Bulldogs. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Kale Breaux has made 13 relief appearances and one start as a true freshman for the Bulldogs. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

No. 4 Mississippi State will take its final road trip of the regular season traveling to Troy to take on the Trojans at 6 p.m. tonight en route to Auburn for a weekend SEC series.

MSU is 2-0 all-time against the Trojans, earning both wins (2-1, 12-4) as part of the 2007 Cadence Bank Classic in Starkville. Future professional Bulldogs Jeffrey Rea, Brandon Turner, Edward Easley, Mitch Moreland, Connor Powers, Jeff Flagg, Aaron Weatherford, Jet Butler, Josh Johnson and Ricky Bowen played in the previous series against Troy.

Mississippi State enters tonight’s game at 33-14-1 and coming off its first SEC sweep of Missouri over the weekend. The Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 15-6 in the series.

John Cohen‘s club features eight players batting .300 or better and is hitting .307 as a team. MSU has hit 34 home runs and is averaging 6.6 runs per game. The Diamond Dogs sport a .976 fielding percentage and are 38 of 47 on stolen base attempts.

Freshman left fielder Jake Mangum leads the State regulars batting .414 while junior first baseman and reigning SEC Player of the Week Nathaniel Lowe tops the team with 66 hits. Junior third baseman Gavin Collins has slugged eight homers while junior designated hitter Reid Humphreys has driven in 40 runs. Junior center fielder Jacob Robson is 14 of 16 on base thefts.

The Bulldogs’ pitching staff has compiled a 3.57 earned run average with 438 strikeouts and 167 walks in 433.1 innings. Opponents are hitting .247 against them with 24 long balls.

Freshman Ryan Cyr sports a team-low 0.55 ERA while junior Dakota Hudson leads the way with 85 strikeouts. Humphreys holds six of MSU’s 14 saves on the spring.

The Diamond Dogs hope to get two to three innings out of junior right-hander Zac Houston as tonight’s starter. It will be Houston’s fourth start and 16th overall appearance. He is 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 14 walks in 23 innings of work.

Troy counters with freshman righty Cory Gill making his seventh start. Gill is 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 20 walks in 43 frames. Opposing hitters are batting just .200 against him.

The Trojans are 27-22 on the year following a 7-2 loss at State’s other opponent this week Auburn on Tuesday evening. Troy has lost three straight and is 87th in the RPI standings.

Matt Smartt‘s squad is hitting .261 with 20 homers and scoring 4.9 runs per game. The Trojans have a .971 fielding percentage and are 34 of 55 on steal attempts.

Sophomore shortstop Matt Sanders tops Troy with a .336 batting average while freshman second baseman Brandon Lockridge has collected 55 hits. Junior right fielder Joey Denison is the Trojans’ leading power threat with five home runs and 27 RBI. Junior center fielder Steven Whitaker is the team’s most efficient base thief swiping seven bases in nine tries.

Troy’s hurlers have a 3.61 staff ERA with 324 strikeouts and 134 walks in 434 innings. Teams are hitting .260 against them with 21 homers.

Senior Grant Bennett leads the Trojans with 61 strikeouts and a 1.92 ERA. Sophomore Corey Childress has closed out 10 of the team’s 14 saves.

Tonight’s game will not be televised or streamed but can be heard on the MSU Baseball Radio Network with Jim Ellis on the call.

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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