Baseball Preview: Alabama Hosts Big Series Against #4 Mississippi State
For the second weekend in a row, Alabama (24-18, 9-9 SEC) will play a three-game series with a team that is ranked in the top five nationally. That just comes with the territory of playing in the SEC.
Mississippi State (28-13-1, 10-8 SEC) is one of the the five SEC teams that is currently ranked in the top-10. The Bulldogs are fresh off a road series win over LSU, and they will hit the road once again to face a Crimson Tide team that is still trying to prove just how dangerous they are.
Statistically speaking, one would think that Alabama would be one of the worst teams in the conference due its batting numbers, but excellent pitching has allowed the Tide to compete and beat some of the nation's best teams. Last weekend, strong pitching allowed the Tide to go toe-to-toe with Texas A&M, who has hit the ball better than any other team in the SEC thus far. Alabama lost game one in extra innings, won game two, and lost on a walk-off hit in game three.
Alabama fans are all too familiar with the excellent weekend rotation of Geoffrey Bramblett, Jake Walters, and Nick Eicholtz. After their solid performances in College Station, the rest of the country is starting to recognize just how good these pitchers are. All three rank in the SEC's top-10 ERA leaders. Walters is ranked third (1.89), Eicholtz is ranked sixth (2.16), and Bramblett is ranked ninth (2.32).
The Bulldogs do not have the same firepower on the mound, but they do have three excellent starters that they can rely on. Probable starters are Dakota Hudson on Thursday, Austin Sexton on Friday, and Konnor Pilkington in the series finale. Hudson has a 2.82 ERA and a 5-3 record on the season with a team high 70 strikeouts. Sexton only allowed five hits and one earned run in last weekend's win over LSU which helped improve his ERA to 3.62. Pilkington picked up his first loss of the year last week after allowing three earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched.
Mississippi State is very similar to Texas A&M in respect to the team's ability to put the ball in play. The Bulldogs currently have a team batting average of .308, and they lead the conference in doubles (93). Three players are currently batting over .300 in SEC play, but the one to watch out for is center fielder Jake Magnum. Magnum is batting .422 on the year and is currently on a nine-game hitting streak. He had six hits in last weekend's series with the Tigers.
The Tide's lineup took a hit when it was announced that one of the team's best hitters, shortstop Chandler Avant, was out for the year after fracturing his ankle. Avant's sophomore counterpart Cody Henry has started to warm up at the plate. The switch hitter has 10 RBI's in conference play this season, and four of those have come in his last six conference games.
Alabama leads the all-time series over Mississippi State 214-175-3. Thursday's game will be at 6:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. Friday's game will be at 7:00 p.m. CT, and Saturday's game will begin at 3:00 p.m. CT.