STARKVILLE – Last weekend Mississippi State coach John Cohen made the decision to shift his pitching rotation around to start some of the arms that helped the Bulldogs reach the finals of the College World Series a year ago.
The strategy worked as MSU swept a Saturday doubleheader to take its first series at Georgia since 1997. The 21st ranked Diamond Dogs hope that pitching plan works again this weekend hosting No. 6 Vanderbilt in a three-game set.
The series gets underway at 6:30 p.m. tonight on CSS while Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. contest will be broadcast on ESPNU. First pitch of the Sunday finale is slated for 1:30 p.m. and will not be televised.
Sophomore right-hander Preston Brown (2-0, 0.75 ERA, 22 K, 11 BB) will take the mound for State tonight opposed by Commodore ace Tyler Beede, a junior righty who is 4-1 with a 0.84 ERA, 40 strikeouts and six walks in 32 1/3 innings.
Junior southpaw and reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Ross Mitchell (3-1, 1.50 ERA, 22 K, 11 BB) is scheduled to start his second straight weekend for the Bulldogs on Saturday. Mitchell earned a complete game victory at Georgia giving up just one run.
Vandy will counter with junior left-hander Jared Miller (5-0, 0.57 ERA, 24 K, 7 BB) on Saturday and sophomore righty Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63 ERA, 25 K, 8 BB) on Sunday. Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55 ERA, 31 K, 5 BB) will toe the rubber for Mississippi State on Sunday.
The Bulldogs are 67-40-2 all-time against Vandy holding a 36-18-1 advantage in Starkville. But State has struggled against the Commodores under Cohen sporting just a 4-13 record and lost all four meetings last year by a combined score of 32-14.
The Diamond Dogs claimed two games during the last series against Vanderbilt at Dudy Noble Field in 2012.
Mississippi State enters the weekend at 15-8 overall and hitting .269 with five home runs and averaging 5.3 runs per game. Cohen’s club maintains a .986 fielding percentage which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. The Bulldogs have also swiped 39 bases in 50 attempts.
Senior centerfielder C.T. Bradford paces MSU at the plate with a .323 batting average but is questionable for the weekend with an injured hip. Senior second baseman Brett Pirtle has stacked up 27 while junior first baseman Wes Rea has slugged three homers and leads the team with 21 RBI. Senior right fielder Demarcus Henderson is a perfect 9 for 9 on stolen bases.
MSU’s hurlers sport a 2.96 staff ERA with 199 strikeouts and 83 walks in 204 innings. Their opponents are batting .249 against them with four long balls.
Fitts tops the team in strikeouts while Jacob Lindgren, Myles Gentry, Will Cox and Jonathan Holder all have a pair of saves on the season. Brown has a Bulldog-low earned run average.
Vanderbilt is 19-3 on the year and is also 2-1 in SEC play winning a home series with LSU last weekend. Tim Corbin’s club has claimed 11 of their last 12 overall including a 8-4 midweek win over Belmont.
The Commodores are batting .288 with six homers and scoring 5.9 runs a game. Vandy fields at a .980 clip and has swiped 34 bases in 53 tries.
Freshman left fielder Bryan Reynolds leads the team with a .361 batting average, 30 hits, two homers and 21 RBI. Junior shortstop Vince Conde is the current SEC Hitter of the Week going 9-for-14 with two doubles, four RBI and three runs scored last week. Sophomore second baseman Dansby Swanson is the Commodores top base thief swiping 11 bases in 14 attempts.
The Vandy pitching staff has compiled a 1.50 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 58 walks over 198 frames. Opponents are hitting just .169 against them with five home runs.
Beede is the Commodores strikeout leader while relievers Brian Miller and Ben Bowden maintain a flawless ERA. Sophomore Carson Fulmer has notched six of the team’s eight saves on the year.