Mississippi State had high expectations heading into the season, ranked as high as No. 2 in some polls.
But the Bulldogs struggled to a 13-7 record in the first month of the season and fell to 24th in the Baseball America poll.
MSU begins the SEC portion of the slate at Georgia this weekend.
The series starts today at 6 p.m.
“This is definitely something we’ve been looking forward to,” said MSU centerfielder Jake Vickerson. “It’s just a clean start for us. We know this is the most important time of the year. We’re just trying to go down there and get some wins.”
State finished third in the Western Division and fifth in the SEC overall with a 16-14 league record last year but has not faced Georgia since 2011, which was a three-game sweep by UGA at Foley Field.
Georgia leads the overall series 40-44 including a 20-13 advantage in Athens. Mississippi State skipper John Cohen is 2-7 against Georgia since returning to his alma mater.
Georgia is riding a 10-game winning streak under new coach Scott Stricklin. Georgia (12-6) is coming off a pair of wins over Western Kentucky, outscoring the Hilltoppers 34-13.
“They put up a lot of runs, especially here recently,” said MSU pitcher Ben Bracewell. “They’re hot right now. That’s good, it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Third baseman Hunter Cole paces Georgia at the plate, batting .377. The pitching staff has a 4.78 ERA – last in the league.
MSU is hitting at a .276 clip. Right fielder Demarcus Henderson leads with a .350 batting average.
MSU’s hurlers have compiled a 2.98 staff ERA with 175 strikeouts and 71 walks in 178 innings.
State will shuffle its weekend pitching rotation as Bracewell (2-1, 1.74 ERA) replaces Brandon Wood-ruff (1-2, 7.43 ERA) as the Friday night starter.
“We felt like Benny deserved that opportunity,” Cohen said. “Benny’s been around for a while. He’s a fifth-year senior and he really understands all the little nuances of the game and does a great job controlling the running game and fielding his position.”
• Tonight (6 p.m.): MSU RHP Ben Bracewell (2-1, 1.74) vs. Georgia LHP Ryan Lawlor (1-1,6.61)
• Saturday (11 a.m.): MSU RHPTrevor Fitts (2-0, 3.92 vs. Georgia RHP Robert Tyler (1-0,0.93)
• Sunday (noon): MSU TBA vs. Georgia LHP Patrick Boling (2-1,2.57)