No. 20 Mississippi State is riding a five-game winning streak but is also in the midst of a grueling stretch.
By the end of the weekend the Bulldogs will have played seven games over a nine day span which would test any pitching staff, especially one like MSU’s that is battling injuries. Paul Young, John Marc Shelly and Will Cox are all on the shelf for the rest of the season.
But the coaching staff is hoping to have Preston Brown and Dakota Hudson back available this weekend as the Diamond Dogs welcome Texas A&M to town for a three-game series starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight on ESPNU.
Friday’s game is also slated for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch while Saturday’s finale will be at 2:15 p.m. on FSN.
State has been on a tear since dropping the Super Bulldog Weekend series to Ole Miss two weeks ago. The Bulldogs are batting .339 with 21 runs batted in with two outs during its current winning streak while holding their opponents to a .170 average at the plate.
Mississippi State is 11-4 all-time against Texas A&M and have won six straight over the Aggies. The Bulldogs are 3-2 versus A&M in Starkville.
MSU won all four meetings a year ago sweeping a series in College Station and claiming a 6-4 win over the Aggies in the SEC Tournament.
The Diamond Dogs enter the weekend at 27-15 overall and are two games out of first place in the Southeastern Conference. State’s 10-8 SEC record is identical to its 2013 league record through 18 games.
John Cohen’s club is coming off an 8-3 victory against in-state rival Ole Miss Tuesday night in the annual Governor’s Cup played at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The win did not count in the conference standings.
Mississippi State enters the series batting .272 with seven home runs and scoring 5.2 runs per game. The Bulldogs are fifth nationally with a .981 fielding percentage and are 58-of-75 on stolen base attempts.
Senior second baseman Brett Pirtle paces MSU at the plate with a .338 average and 54 hits. Pirtle has reached base safely in 48 straight SEC games and is riding an 11-game hitting streak. Junior first baseman Wes Rea has clubbed three homers and driven in 30 runs while senior left fielder Derrick Armstrong has swiped 13 bases.
The Diamond Dogs pitching staff has compiled a 3.30 earned run average with 345 strikeouts and 136 walks in 379 innings. Their opponents are hitting .253 against them with seven long balls.
Junior Jacob Lindgren has a team-low 1.50 ERA and a team-high 57 strikeouts out of the bullpen. Junior All-American Jonathan Holder has notched four of State’s 11 saves on the season and is tied for the most active career saves nationally with 34.
Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-2, 3.30 ERA, 43 K, 7 BB) will get the nod on the mound tonight for the Bulldogs opposed by Texas A&M freshman lefty Tyler Stubblefield (3-1, 3.45 ERA, 49 K, 12 BB).
Junior southpaw Ross Mitchell (6-3, 2.13 ERA, 36 K, 18 BB) will start Friday’s contest for Mississippi State while the Aggies counter with junior right-hander Daniel Mengden (2-6, 4.09 ERA, 73 K, 20 BB). Sophomore righty Grayson Long (5-1, 2.44 ERA, 42 K, 16 BB) toes the rubber in Saturday’s finale for A&M while the Diamond Dogs have not announced a starter.
The Aggies come into the series at 8-10 in the SEC and 25-17 overall. Rob Childress’ club lost a home series at Kentucky last weekend but have won two straight entering the weekend. Texas A&M downed the Wildcats 14-2 to avoid the sweep on Sunday and upset No. 12 Rice 6-5 on the road Tuesday.
The Aggies are hitting .289 with 18 homers and are averaging 5.9 runs per game. A&M maintains a .972 fielding percentage and is 46-of-60 on base thefts.
Junior first baseman Cole Lankford has collected 56 hits and tops the Aggies with a .329 batting average and 34 RBI. Junior infielder Logan Nottebrok is the power threat in the lineup with five long balls while senior centerfielder Krey Bratsen is the team’s top base thief going 14-of-15 in the stolen base department.
Texas A&M’s hurlers sport a 3.54 staff ERA with 341 strikeouts and 124 walks over 376.2 frames. Their opposition is batting .259 against them with 10 home runs.
Redshirt freshman reliever Rex Hill still has a flawless ERA while Mengden is the strikeout leader. Senior Jason Jester holds three of the Aggies’ five saves on the season.