STARKVILLE – Last weekend, Mississippi State coach John Cohen made the decision to shift his pitching rotation around to start some of the arms that helped the Bulldogs reach the finals of the College World Series a year ago.
The strategy worked as MSU swept a Saturday doubleheader to take its first series at Georgia since 1997. The 21st ranked Diamond Dogs hope that pitching plan works again this weekend when they hosting No. 6 Vanderbilt in a three-game set.
The series gets underway at 6:30 p.m. tonight on CSS while Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. contest will be broadcast on ESPNU. First pitch of the Sunday finale is slated for 1:30 p.m. and will not be televised.
Sophomore right-hander Preston Brown (2-0, 0.75 ERA) will take the mound for State tonight opposed by Commodore ace Tyler Beede, a junior righty who is 4-1 with a 0.84 ERA, 40 strikeouts and six walks in 321⁄3 innings.
Junior southpaw and reigning SEC pitcher of the week Ross Mitchell (3-1, 1.50 ERA) is scheduled to start his second straight weekend for the Bulldogs on Saturday. Mitchell earned a complete game victory at Georgia giving up just one run.
“We used Ross in relief until that star, and when he has a lead he’s very, very good,” Cohen said. “You just can’t afford the luxury of having Ross in the bullpen any more. Maybe that helps a little bit in acquiring a lead and being able to get to (Jacob) Lindgren and (Jonathan) Holder.”
Vandy will counter with junior left-hander Jared Miller (5-0, 0.57 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore righty Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63 on Sunday. Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55 ERA) will toe the rubber for Mississippi State on Sunday.
The Bulldogs are 67-40-2 all-time against Vandy holding a 36-18-1 advantage in Starkville. But State has struggled against the Commodores under Cohen, sporting just a 4-13 record and lost all four meetings last year.
The Diamond Dogs claimed two games during the last series against Vanderbilt at Dudy Noble Field in 2012.
Mississippi State enter the weekend at 15-8 overall and hitting .269 and averaging 5.3 runs per game.
C.T. Bradford paces MSU at the plate with a .323 batting average while Brett Pirtle has stacked up 27 hits. Wes Rea has slugged three homers and leads the team with 21 RBI. Demarcus Henderson is a perfect 9 for 9 on stolen bases.
Vanderbilt is 19-3 on the year and is also 2-1 in SEC play winning a home series with LSU. Tim Corbin’s club has claimed 11 of their last 12 overall.
“They lost some guys just like everybody else in the league did,” Cohen said. “But certainly they’re pitching as well as anybody in the country. They’re a very, very good club.”
The Commodores are batting .288 with six homers and scoring 5.9 runs a game. The Vandy pitching staff has compiled a 1.50 ERA with opponents hitting just .169.
Tonight: Vanderbilt RHPTyler Beede (4-1,0.84 ERA) vs. MSU RHP Preston Brown (2-0,0.75)
Saturday: Vanderbilt LHP Jared Miller (5-0,0.57 ERA) vs. MSU LHP Ross Mitchell (3-1, 1.50 ERA)
Sunday: Vanderbilt RHPTyler Ferguson (3-0,1.63 ERA) vs. MSU RHPTrevor Fitts (2-0,3.55 ERA)