REWIND – Mississippi State: 34-21 (14-16 SEC)

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Looking back: MSU won its final non-conference game of the year on Tuesday, defeating Memphis 8-3 at AutoZone Park. Starting Thursday, the Bulldogs took on LSU in the final SEC series of the regular season. After suffering a 17-1 loss in Game 1, MSU rallied for a 6-5 win in Game 2. LSU took the rubber match, 6-3.
However, MSU qualified for the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2007, as a No. 6 seed.
Looking ahead: The Bulldogs open tournament play at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday against third-seeded Florida (41-15, 22-8). It will be the second game of the day.
The Gators took two of three in Starkville earlier this season. They were 12-3 against Western Division teams this year.
Who’s hot: Senior outfielder Jaron Shepherd had a solid weekend at the plate, going 4 of 10 with a homer and two RBIs, and he also walked twice.
Shepherd was even bigger in the field, especially in Friday’s 6-5 win. He made a diving catch to end the second inning with a man on third base, and he ended the ninth by tracking down a fly ball near foul territory with two men on base and MSU down a run. State rallied in the bottom half.
Who’s not: Over his last four games, senior first baseman Ryan Collins is 3 of 15 batting with one RBI. For the season he’s hitting .266 and is third on the team with 31 RBIs.
RPI watch: State slipped a bit despite playing a higher RPI team – from 26th to 29th, according to analysis site That’s still well within the desired range for a team hoping for an NCAA Regional berth.
Florida is currently No. 3 in RPI.
Bottom line: MSU’s entry into the SEC Tournament is seen as a sign of progress under third-year coach John Cohen. The 14 league wins mark a big jump from last year, when the Bulldogs suffered through a 6-24 record, worst in program history.
Coaches and players alike were visibly disappointed to lose the series to LSU, and they hope that helps them keep an edge in Hoover.

Click video to hear audio