Big Weekend Begins for Baseball, Softball

There are a couple of big games on the diamond tonight involving MSU. One has postseason implications, and the other is the postseason. Let’s start with baseball.

• The Bulldogs host No. 4 Kentucky for a season-closing three-game series starting tonight at 6:30 (no TV). In today’s Journal, my story is focused more on freshman reliever Jonathan Holder, who has taken over the closer’s role from senior Caleb Reed (CLICK HERE).

Pitching as a whole is going to obviously be of utmost importance for MSU this weekend. It would appear State has the advantage tonight and Friday on the mound, with Chris Stratton and Kendall Graveman boasting better numbers than their UK counterparts. But on Sunday, the Wildcats will throw ace Corey Littrell, who’s 8-0 with a 2.22 ERA – very Stratton-like numbers.

Kentucky’s starting pitchers are all left-handers, and they’re backed by a strong bullpen, so they’ll provide a challenge for an MSU offense that is struggling mightily. Coach John Cohen still believes the bats will eventually come around and that it’s just a matter of gaining more experience.

“They’ve just never done this before and some of them have been punched in the face. That’s what this league can do to you. That’s what Division I baseball can do to you.”

As we’ve discussed before, SEC Tournament seeding is on the line for MSU (31-21, 13-14 SEC). It could conceivably be seeded as high as fourth, or could drop all the way to 10th. Right now State is tied for seventh with Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

• MSU’s softball team opens NCAA regional play today in Eugene, Ore. Today’s advance focused on fifth-year senior Brittany Bell, who is making her third NCAA appearance (CLICK HERE). Bell was injured early last season and had to take a redshirt, which at first was not ideal.

But now she and the Lady Bulldogs are in the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“I’m glad it happened, though. Blessing in disguise,” Bell said of the injury.

MSU (33-22) plays BYU (43-13) at 5 p.m. Central time, followed by Oregon vs. Portland State at 8. It’s double-elimination and is set up just like the baseball regionals. It’ll wrap up by Saturday.

“There’s no reason to save anything,” first-year MSU coach Vann Stuedman said. “This is crunch time, and they need to leave their hearts, guts, soul, everything out on the field this weekend.”