STARKVILLE – Six seniors could step onto Dudy Noble Field for the final time this weekend.
Mississippi State will host its last home series against Tennessee starting tonight at 6:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs are 31-18 overall and enter the weekend one game out of first place in the SEC West at 14-10. Fifth-year senior pitcher and co-captain Ben Bracewell hopes his team can play its way back into contention for a NCAA Regional host site down the stretch.
“If anything that is more motivation for guys like me, C.T. Bradford, Alex Detz, Demarcus Henderson, Derrick Armstrong and Brett Pirtle,” Bracewell said. “We don’t want this to be the last three games we play here, and we know in order for us to be able to get another game besides this weekend we’re going to have to do something pretty special. We’re going to have to win a lot of games and probably win a lot in a row.”
Although this could be the final home outing for several players on the roster, Diamond Dogs skipper John Cohen does not want his team to lose focus on the task at hand with Tennessee.
“Mentally you want the kids to be thinking we’re playing for another two months,” Cohen said. “The sense of finality when you have events like (Sunday’s senior day) kind of sets in and you don’t want that to be a big deal.”
Mississippi State leads the all-time series against the Volunteers 53-25 and 33-11 in Starkville. The two programs last met on the diamond in 2012 resulting in a Bulldog home sweep.
Tennessee (28-18, 10-14) won a home series over Kentucky last weekend but suffered a 7-5 setback to UNC Asheville on Tuesday night.
MSU is riding a three-game winning streak following a road sweep at Auburn last weekend and has won seven of its last nine conference outings. The Bulldogs pitching staff surrendered just one run in 27 innings against the Tigers last weekend while their offense generated 18 runs including three home runs.
“I think that we really played baseball the way that we want to play it and the way that we did a lot of the time last year,” Bracewell said. “This past weekend was a lot more of what we want to do as far as putting barrel to the ball.”
Saturday’s 6 p.m. contest will be televised on CSS while Sunday’s senior day festivities begin at 1:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
Tonight: UT RHP Hunter Martin (3-3, 2.85) vs. MSU RHP Trevor Fitts (4-2, 2.62)
Saturday: UT RHP Nick Williams (5-4, 3.73) vs. MSU LHP Ross Mitchell (7-4, 2.12)
Sunday: UT LHP Andy Cox (4-1, 1.87) vs. MSU TBA