Live from Hoover: Bulldogs Open SEC Tournament

HOOVER, Ala. | We’re live at Regions Park for the first day of the 2012 SEC Baseball Tournament. No. 7 seed Mississippi State (34-21) will face No. 7 seed Arkansas (39-17) in the second game at about 12:30 p.m.

The game will be broadcast by SportSouth, so check your local listings, and good luck.

In today’s game advance (CLICK HERE), I focus on the bullpen and the big role it’s expected to play this week. Freshman Brandon Woodruff (0-2, 3.46 ERA) will start on the mound for State, but who knows how many innings can be squeezed out of him against a pretty good Arkansas lineup. So expect the pen to be a major factor today.

“Every game’s critical. We’ll use whoever we have to use on Tuesday to try and have a chance to win the ballgame,” MSU coach John Cohen said.

Something else to consider this week is the youth of this team. MSU has played awfully well of late, and that’s partly because a lot of young players are doing better. But the postseason is a different animal, so one wonders if the relative inexperience of this squad will become a liability.

Catcher Mitch Slauter, a juco transfer, doesn’t foresee any issues.

“We’ve gone through enough adversity this year that we can handle anything that comes our way, regardless of whether it’s a freshman or a couple of us junior college guys the first time through it,” Slauter said. “It’s all the same; it’s still the same game. Just because it’s a tournament or postseason play doesn’t mean it’s going to affect the way we play.”

A common question this week has been whether a good run here would put MSU in position to host an NCAA regional. Maybe. The latest projection from has MSU as a No. 2 seed in the Raleigh, N.C., regional (N.C. State).

“Our job isn’t to get to the host position, our job is to make it as difficult on that committee as possible,” Cohen said. “We want the committee to look at Mississippi State and say, wow, look at what they have done over the last part of this season, we have to take them seriously. There’s tremendous competition. You just don’t know how many schools in our league are going to be allowed to host, but certainly there are a bunch that are deserving.”

What we do know is that MSU will play on Wednesday, because Kentucky just beat Ole Miss, 2-0. If the Bulldogs win, they draw No. 1 seed LSU in the next game. Lose, and it’s a date with the Rebels in an elimination game at 9:30 a.m.

• From the other side, Robbie Neiswanger of Arkansas News has a notebook that leads with a look at the new tournament format (CLICK HERE). Robbie also has a story on outfielder Brian Anderson (CLICK HERE).