HOOVER, Ala. | Mississippi State's marathon run in the SEC Tournament will end today, a bit later than perhaps some folks expected. The Bulldogs (38-22) battle Vanderbilt (33-25) at 2:30 p.m. at Regions Park, and you can watch on either ESPN2 or online at ESPN3.com (CLICK HERE for my MSU-Vandy preview).
MSU will be playing its sixth game in six days, the first time it's done that here. It beat Arkansas, LSU (twice) and Kentucky to get this far (CLICK HERE for UK gamer), with a loss to Kentucky thrown in. The path State's had to take is a product of the new 10-team format, which necessitated the tourney starting a day earlier than it used to.
"It's a grind. And the kids just have to battle through it," MSU coach John Cohen said. "What we're trying to do is get them off their feet every single day and make sure they get as rested as possible, get as many fluids in them as possible. Every game we've played has been in the middle of the day. Again, that's nobody's fault. That's just the luck of the draw, but that makes it even more difficult."
Vanderbilt defeated Georgia, South Carolina and Florida (twice) to reach today's final. The Commodores are riding a nine-game winning streak. They will pitch freshman right-hander Tyler Beede (1-4, 4.29 ERA) to the mound today against MSU freshman righty Brandon Woodruff (1-2, 2.90). Beede threw two-thirds of an inning Thursday against Florida, while Woodruff started Tuesday's win over Arkansas and tossed five shutout frames.
Like MSU, Vandy will press the issue on the base paths, as witnessed by yesterday's triple steal against Florida (CLICK HERE to watch). So expect to see plenty of small ball this afternoon.
You know the bullpens will factor in, and that's where MSU has an advantage. Despite this long week, there are plenty of usable arms.
For those of you – and there are a lot – asking about MSU's odds of hosting an NCAA regional, it's a long shot. Today's game has no bearing on that, because the selection committee will be revealing its host sites at 2:30 p.m. today. State's RPI is up to 20, according to WarrenNolan.com, and so that at least puts it in the conversation (CLICK HERE).
"I told our kids, let's make it as difficult on this committee as possible," Cohen said.
Remember to follow me on Twitter, and I'll keep you updated on what's happening with the game and with the regional announcement.