Mississippi State Baseball heads north to face Vanderbilt

The Diamond Dawgs travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores. Can Mississippi State baseball earn an important series win?
Vanderbilt   s Jack Bulger (16) celebrates after hitting a home run against Gonzaga during the sixth
Vanderbilt s Jack Bulger (16) celebrates after hitting a home run against Gonzaga during the sixth / Mark Zaleski / The Tennessean / USA

Mississippi State baseball (27-14, 10-8 SEC) travels to Nashville hoping to keep momentum in conference play. Last weekend, the Diamond Dawgs picked up their first SEC sweep since 2021, taking all three games from Auburn. This weekend, however, the level of competition increases dramatically with Vanderbilt.

The #11 Commodores are 30-11 on the season and 10-8 in the SEC. Vandy always fields a strong team, and they are once again a contender to host in the postseason. With that said, their record may be a bit inflated.

Eight of their 10 SEC wins came against some of the league's worst teams. The other two were against a middling Florida squad. The two best SEC teams they faced, Texas A&M and South Carolina, swept them in dominant fashion.

Those series were on the road, though. Vandy hosts MSU, and MSU hasn't yet won a road series. They also haven't shown much consistency this year. Can they change that in Nashville? Let's look at the 'Dores...

Vanderbilt takes a "small ball" approach on offense.

Vandy plays a bit of a throwback style on offense. They hit for average as opposed to distance, are aggressive stealing bases, and will gladly lay down sacrifice bunts. CF Matthew Polk leads the team with a .339 average, and the entire lineup is at least solid when it comes to average.

SS Jonathan Vastine and C Alan Espinal are tied for the team lead with six home runs, and 1B RJ Austin leads with 40 RBI. Austin and Calvin Hewett are two guys to watch when it comes to stealing bases.

Commodore pitching staff short-handed

Vandy has been a solid pitching team for the season. They have a team ERA of 4.31 and a batting average allowed of just .227. But the 'Dores will be short-handed this weekend. Usual Sunday starter JD Thompson is suspended for the use of a "foreign substance" while pitching. With several injuries, including a few to possible replacements for Thompson, Vandy has just 12 pitchers available this weekend.

Bryce Cunningham and Carter Holton are penciled-in as the Friday and Saturday starters, respectively. Holton has mostly been strong all season, but Cunningham has struggled lately in league play. As for Sunday, it's unclear which way Vanderbilt will turn, as they don't have any good options at the moment.

The 'Dores have good relievers, but with questions about starting pitching and limited arms available, they could find themselves in a pickle by Sunday. That's why MSU has shifted it's rotation around, moving Jurrangelo Cijntje to Sunday and taking the "TBA" approach on Saturday against Vandy's best arm in Holton.

In a perfect world, Khal Stephen continues his dominance while Cunningham struggles, and State can take game one. You then see if Holton, with limited bullpen help, can do enough to stop State on Saturday and then trust that Cijntje will outduel whoever Vandy throws on Sunday.

State at a minimum needs to find a way to win one this weekend, and they're taking an approach that gives them, by far, their best chance at stealing a road series win against a good team.