No. 9 Mississippi State has claimed its first three Southeastern Conference series this season.
But for the Bulldogs to win a fourth, they will have to do so in one of college baseball’s most hostile venues, LSU’s Alex Box Stadium.
“We feel like we’ve had a good week of preparation and our kids are excited about going down and playing a really good LSU team in a great environment Baton Rouge,” said MSU skipper John Cohen. “This has been a longstanding series and there have been a lot of great games over the years. I feel like it’ll be really competitive.”
The three-game set gets underway tonight at 6:30 on CSS followed by an ESPNU telecast at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The series finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Diamond Dogs lead the all-time series 204-168-1 but are 81-90 in games played in Baton Rouge. LSU has won the series for seven consecutive seasons including taking two games in Starkville last year in the SEC opener for both. The Tigers won 6-4 in 10-innings on Friday and also 7-3 on Saturday before Mississippi State rallied to claim the finale 10-2.
“The reason you get a sense there’s a rivalry there is that for a long time Mississippi State and LSU were two of the only fan bases in the Southeastern Conference that would travel and show up for games consistently,” Cohen said.
The Bulldogs enter the weekend at 20-10 and are tied atop the SEC standings with Florida, South Carolina and Alabama at 6-3.
A shoulder injury to Preston Brown following a mid-week bullpen session will push back the sophomore right-hander’s regularly scheduled opening night start. Instead junior southpaw Ross Mitchell is expected to get the nod tonight with junior righty Trevor Fitts taking the mound on Saturday for MSU.
Cohen is hopeful the extra days of rest will be enough for Brown to pitch on Sunday.
Senior centerfielder C.T. Bradford has missed the last seven outings due to a hip injury. Bradford made the trip to the bayou and will be a game-time decision.
The 20th-ranked Tigers are 3-5-1 in conference play and 21-8-1 on the year. Paul Mainieri’s squad snapped a four-game skid with a 10-3 win at home against McNeese State on Wednesday.
“LSU lost some players but have some good, young and talented kids taking their place,” Cohen said. “(Austin) Nola is one of the best in college baseball. They’re a very good defensive team. They had a great offensive night in their last game against McNeese State and after last weekend I know there’s a sense of urgency.”
The Tigers lost all three games at Florida last weekend, marking the first time LSU had been swept since 2011.
Today: MSU LHP Ross Mitchell (5-1, 1.55 ERA) vs. LSU LHP Jared Poche’ (5-2, 2.61 ERA)
Saturday: MSU RHPTrevor Fitts (2-1, 3.09 ERA) vs. LSU RHP Austin Nola (5-1, 0.55 ERA)
Sunday: MSU TBA vs. LSU TBA