Three weekends remain in the Southeastern Conference regular season and for the Mississippi State Bulldogs this week’s trip to Tuscaloosa is the biggest series of 2012 season.
State looks to claim their fourth SEC series out of their last five attempts thus solidifying themselves as contenders for a trip to the SEC Tournament.
“I’m going to say this and I’ll say it again next week because it is true, this is the most important series of the season,” said MSU baseball coach John Cohen.
The Bulldogs are 27-17 overall with a conference record of 10-11, tied for sixth place in league play. While Cohen enjoys returning to his hometown he would like to remind everyone this trip is all business.
“Obviously, for me, it is one of those games where you see a lot of familiar faces," Cohen said. "You see your elementary school teachers. You see a lot of people you’ve known your whole life. It is great to see those folks, but this is a business trip for us and we have a lot of work to do.”
As for the work at hand, Chris Stratton takes the hill tonight as the league’s hottest pitcher with an 8-0 record and a 2.39 ERA. The right-hander is the current SEC Pitcher of the Week after his complete game victory over Ole Miss last Friday. This week he was also added to the Golden Spikes watchlist as one of the nation’s elite college baseball players.
Stratton faces off against dazzling freshman righty Spencer Turnbull who has a 2-3 record with a 4.54 ERA. The Madison native earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors last week for his seven inning of no-hit baseball against South Carolina.
“Turnbull really pitched well for them last Thursday night,” said Cohen. “He has great stuff, but the one thing about him is that he hasn’t been able to locate his pitches consistently. However, when he does that he’s pretty good.”
At the plate, the Tide falls into the same category as the Bulldogs – inexperienced.
“Offensively, they have a lot of folks that haven’t played a lot of SEC baseball, which is kind of our story,” Cohen said. “They struggle a little bit in that area, but at times, they’ve been very good. They are a very capable offensive club.
“Alabama is a dangerous club for us to be playing because they have nothing to lose and everything to play for. They are a talented club that just haven’t found their way yet.”
As for the Bulldogs, it appears to be smoke and mirrors in getting the job done, but the truth of the matter is that dominate pitching and solid defense have given them confidence.
“I think there is a confidence there that if we score runs, we are going to win the game and I don’t mean a bunch of runs,” Cohen said.
Adam Frazier leads MSU at the dish with a .343 batting average and has 58 hits, 34 runs scored, and an SEC-leading 37 walks. He has also played a significant role in helping State turn a league-best 52 double plays.
Despite Frazier’s efforts at the plate, the Bulldogs have spent their last two series batting under .200. The good news for State is the possible return of Taylor Stark.
“He has been moving around and started taking batting practice and I think he might swing the bat for us," Cohen said. "That would be a big shot in the arm.”
First pitch from Sewell-Thomas Stadium is set for 6:35 p.m.