By Logan Lowery
No. 24 Mississippi State travels to Missouri for the first time in school history this weekend but Columbia is a very familiar setting to Bulldog coach John Cohen.
Cohen cut his teeth in the coaching profession for six years with the Tigers, first as a graduate assistant from 1992-94 and then as an assistant coach under Tim Jamieson from 1995-97 before landing his first head coaching gig at Northwestern State.
“My kids were born there and I have a degree from the University of Missouri,” Cohen said. “That part of it is neat until we throw a pitch, and then we’re playing another SEC weekend that’s very, very important to us.”
First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. tonight followed by a 2 p.m. start on Saturday. The series finale will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The two programs have met just twice previously on the diamond with the Bulldogs winning both. MSU outlasted the Tigers 2-1 in 17 innings during last year’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Former catcher Mitch Slauter finally ended the affair with an RBI single in the bottom of the 17th after State had stranded 19 runners.
The Diamond Dogs other victory in the series came in the 2003 NCAA Starkville Regional, 10-5.
Preston Brown’s injury will force him to miss his third straight SEC start on the mound. The sophomore right-hander will not make the trip.
“Hopefully he can rehab to the extent to where maybe we can get him back later on in the season,” Cohen said. “That’s a tough blow to our pitching staff because that was a guy who was pitching it well.”
Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts will take the mound tonight for Mississippi State with sophomore southpaw Ross Mitchell pushing his start back to Saturday. Sunday’s starter will be determined by which pitcher has not been used during the previous two games out of the bullpen.
The Bulldogs (23-15, 7-8) are attempting to bounce back from consecutive SEC series losses. State was swept at LSU and lost two to Ole Miss at home last weekend. Cohen’s club struggled offensively on both weekends but got some confidence back with a 16-2 victory over Alcorn State Tuesday night.
Missouri is 17-18 on the year and 6-9 in conference play having won last weekend’s series at Kentucky. The Tigers lost at Missouri State 9-0 Tuesday night and have been shutout twice in their last three outings.
“We’re playing a good Missouri team that’s playing well right now,” Cohen said. “We’re excited about that opportunity. In watching their series against Kentucky, they’re a really solid club that can do a lot of things well. Hopefully we’ll go up there and play well because this is the time of year you need to start playing well.”
Tonight: MSU RHP Trevor Fitts (2-2, 3.29 ERA) vs. MU RHP Brett Graves (3-2, 2.67 ERA)
Saturday: MSU LHP Ross Mitchell (5-3, 2.15 ERA) vs. MU RHP John Miles (2-4, 5.25 ERA)
Sunday: MSU TBA vs. MU RHP Eric Anderson (2-2, 3.15 ERA)