Big Weekend Ahead for Mississippi State Baseball

Oct 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A Baseball glove and ball rest on the field prior to a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A Baseball glove and ball rest on the field prior to a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Mississippi State welcomes in the SEC-leading LSU Tigers in the regular season finale of the current Dudy Noble Field.

The odds have been stacked against Mississippi State all year, and this weekend is no different. Mississippi State (34-19, 17-10 SEC) will take on LSU (36,17, 18-9 SEC) in a match up of SEC powerhouses.

The Tigers enter the weekend as hot as any team in the country, having won eight of their last nine against SEC competition. Mississippi State, on the other hand, is coming off a series loss against Georgia, but was able to rebound in the midweek with a 10-8 come from behind victory over Troy, their 22nd of the season.

The Bulldogs enter the weekend one game back of LSU in the SEC West division, and two games back of Florida in the overall SEC standings. To claim a western division title Mississippi State would need to take two of three from the Tigers. As for an SEC title, State would need to sweep LSU, and Kentucky would need to take two of three from Florida to force a three way tie atop the SEC between Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Florida.

Outside of fighting for an SEC title, the LSU series will be huge in determining where the Bulldogs play in the postseason. Entering the weekend, Mississippi State is right on the bubble of hosting a regional. I have seen experts who still believe State is a regional, and others that have the Diamond Dogs are just on the outside looking in.

I also don’t think the Bulldogs are completely out of the national seed discussion either. If State can sweep LSU this weekend, and teams such as Clemson lose this weekend, the door will be wide open for the Bulldogs to sneak back into the conversation.

Along with all the postseason implications, this weekend is important for the baseball program as a whole, as it may be the final time Mississippi State plays in Dudy Noble as we know it.

This weekend has been pinned as the “Dudy Noble Field Celebration Series”. Over the weekend, MSU will honor its seniors, highlight the greatest fans in all of baseball and welcome Bulldog greats from all throughout Mississippi State’s storied history.

When: Thursday 6:00 Friday 6:30 Saturday 3:30

Where: Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Mississippi

How to watch: Thursday (SECN) Friday (SECN+) Saturday (ESPNU)

LSU Projected Starters

Thursday: Alex Lange (6-5, 2.92 ERA)

Friday: Jared Poche` (8-3, 3.16 ERA)

Saturday: Eric Walker (6-1, 3.77 ERA)

LSU will trot out, probably the best one two punch in the SEC, on the mound Thursday and Friday, in Alex Lange and Jared Poche`.

Lange, a potential first round draft pick this summer, has thrown three complete games on the season along with a hundred strikeouts to only twenty-eight walks in 83.1 innings. Poche` on the other hand, a four year starter and possibly the best pitcher to come through Baton Rouge, has struck out fifty and walked twenty-five in 79.2 innings.

Along with their lock down Friday and Saturday starters, also boast the second best hitting club in the league with a .292 average and have hit forty-eight homers, good for fourth in the league. Their offense is driven by Greg Deichman who leads his team in homers (17), RBIs (60), while still hitting .318. Cole Freeman (.322 avg) and Antoine Duplantis (.317 avg) pace the team with 65 and 64 hits respectively.

To go along with the tiger’s stellar pitching staff and lineup, LSU holds the leagues best defense, posting a .983 fielding percentage.

Mississippi State Projected Starters

Thursday: Konnor Pilkington (6-4, 3.44 ERA)

Friday: Denver McQuary (2-2, 3.89 ERA)

Saturday: TBA

A big indicator of how well the Bulldogs will fare against LSU will be the start of Pilkington on Thursday night. If Pilkington can give the Bulldogs a long outing Thursday, and keep Andy Cannizaro from having to throw many arms in game one of the series, Mississippi State should be set up very well for games two and three.

The Bulldogs are coming off a weekend in Athens where they struggled to get big hits when they needed them. That can’t happen against LSU. MSU is coming off a midweek game against Troy where they went 8-14 with runners in scoring position, and will need to carry that momentum into the weekend.

Tuesday night saw Cannizaro make a lineup change, where Jake Mangum was moved into the three hole behind Rooker and Gridley — who was moved to the leadoff spot. The change paid off as Mangum went 3-5 with three RBIs.

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Everyone in the country knows what Brent Rooker has been able to do this season, leading in eight offensive categories in the league, including a .406 batting average, 71 RBI, and 20 HR. LSU will no doubt be very weary of Rooker, but placing Mangum behind him in the order may deter teams from pitching around him as much. The Bulldogs as a team rank third in the league in batting average (.287) and fifth in home runs (47). For much of the year, Bulldog pitchers have struggled throwing strikes at times, but a stellar .977 fielding percentage (4th in SEC) has made up for a lot of the pitching woes.

This season has been a wild ride filled with lows at the beginning of the year and highs that were unimaginable in March. It is only fitting that the SEC west division championship comes down to the final weekend of SEC play against LSU, arguably our biggest baseball rival, in potentially the final weekend at Dudy Noble Field as we know it.

Come back to Maroon and White Nation for game analysis, opinions, and everything Bulldogs.