Mother Nature continues to play a role in Mississippi State baseball this season as today’s matchup between the Bulldogs and the Huskies of Connecticut has been bumped up.
Now the scheduled first pitch is set for 2:30 p.m. Ben Bracewell gets the call for Mississippi State (6-2) carrying a 0.00 earned run average in his third start of the young season. He’ll face lefty Brian Ward who enters with a 1.26 ERA and a 2-0 record for the Huskies (2-4).
Thanks in large part to Ward’s efforts from the mound the Huskies have won their previous two Friday outings, their only wins of the season. However, before fans quickly judge this club, they need to know they have 19 returning lettermen, including nine hurlers, off a team that won 45 games, won the Big East and played South Carolina in the NCAA Super Regionals last season.
Ryan Fuller sets the tone at the plate for UConn with his .421 batting average and six RBI. Tom Verdi has been the most productive Husky with eight RBI, four of which came last weekend via a grand slam against the College of Charleston.
The Achilles heel for the Huskies in the early going has been miscues as they have committed 14 errors, hit seven batters, and have been caught stealing seven times in just 11 attempts.
The host Bulldogs will look to bounce back from their midweek loss to Memphis on Wednesday night. As a team, MSU bats at a .303 clip with 38 runs scored and are paced by designated hitter, Trey Porter.
The walk-on has a .409 batting average with two home runs and is one of four Bulldogs with five RBI. A pair of players delivered in State’s midweek loss as Wes Rea and Daryl Norris both turned in two RBI in the late rally.
“Those guys are taking good swings when it matters the most, but every pitch matters the most and we have to treat it that way,” said Bulldog head coach John Cohen. “We just can’t wait until late in the game to take those swings.”
MSU knew there would be some ups and downs as the new faces found their place on the field but the coaching staff understood they could lean on a veteran pitching staff to shoulder the load. Through eight games, the Bulldog pitching staff has a combined ERA of 1.88 with Chris Stratton being the most productive. The Tupelo native hasn’t allowed a run in 10 innings of relief work for Mississippi State. MSU plays a single game tonight against UConn, a pair of games on Saturday against Lipscomb and UConn, then wrap up the weekend with a single game on Sunday with the Bison.
Before the Bulldogs can face the Huskies on Friday, there will be a game played at 11 a.m. between UConn and the Bison of Lipscomb University, which MSU faces on Saturday and again on Sunday. Lipscomb comes in riding a three-game losing streak after opening the campaign 4-1.
At the plate, the Bisons are led by Lee Wilson who has 14 hits for the season with a .452 batting average.
He has two home runs and four RBI to go with an .839 slugging percentage. Teammate Zak Messer is batting at a .379 clip with a pair of homers and a team-high six RBI. Senior Connor Sinclair has a 1-0 record with a 0.69 ERA with nine strikeouts in 13 innings of work over two outings. Lipscomb has 21 returning lettermen off a squad that won just 19 games in 2011, but nine members of its pitching staff returns and promises to give it a shot this season.