The Mississippi State Bulldogs return to Dudy Noble Field this weekend looking to bounce back following a road series on the plains.
MSU hosts the Vanderbilt Commodores for a three-game Easter weekend set at Polk-Dement Stadium.
A season removed from participating in the College World Series, the Commodores have fallen on tough times with a 12-17 overall record, including 3-6 in SEC play. That record can be deceiving because Vanderbilt has played top competition out of conference.
“I think they are a little bit like our club from the standpoint that as time goes on they are just going to get better and better,” said MSU head coach John Cohen. “They are a little bit younger on the mound and we are little bit younger positionally.”
Vanderbilt enters this weekend’s road trip carrying an 0-7 mark on the road this season, having dropped series at Stanford and Florida.
At the plate, Spencer Navin enters the weekend riding a nine-game hitting streak where he is 13-for-32 (.406) with four runs scored, three RBI, and a .486 on-base percentage. His streak is the longest streak for the Commodores and is the third longest streak of the season.
On the mound, freshman Tyler Beede, who is expected to start on Saturday, earned his first win last weekend over South Carolina and has allowed two runs on 13 hits with 15 strikeouts in 11-plus innings over his last two starts.
In his three Southeastern Conference starts, Beede is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA while allowing three walks and striking out 21 in 16 innings. He’ll be matchup with Kendall Graveman (2-1, 3.05 ERA) who has been throwing well for the Bulldogs, good enough to be promoted from Sunday starter into the Saturday starting role.
"We feel like he is one of our best two arms right now,” said Cohen. “The other thing that does for us is that it potentially opens the door on Sunday for Caleb Reed to start, but we all agree that if Reed can help us win a game on Friday or Saturday we will do that and worry about Sunday when it gets here.”
State (18-11, 3-6) sends Chris Stratton to the hill tonight with a 6-0 record and a 2.27 ERA. His counterpart will be Kevin Ziomek who is 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA this season. Stratton has 61 strikeouts entering the weekend, second most in the conference and fifth nationally.
Adam Frazier continues to pace the Bulldogs at the plate with a .357 batting average. The sophomore leads the team with 41 hits and has 13 RBI to his credit from the leadoff spot.
As a whole, Mississippi State continues to battle injuries to key players, however the team continues to plug away entering the final seven outing of the season.
“If you could just flip a switch or flip a coin and we win two of the many one-run games we’ve played in SEC season so far, I think we would feel a lot better about ourselves,” said Cohen. “Our kids are going to keep fighting and I think we have a great opportunity the last seven weeks of the SEC season to progress and win some baseball games.”
Tonight’s first pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday outings to begin at 2 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. respectively.