Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Mississippi State is riding a four-game win streak entering a critical Southeastern Conference series this weekend and in the words of coach John Cohen of the Bulldogs, it just happens to be against the Rebels.
â€śWhen you ask me next week what our most important games are going to be, Iâ€™m going to tell you Alabama, because thatâ€™s the next game,â€ť Cohen said. â€śIt is very chronological with me.Â Whoever we are playing next is the most important game in history. It just happens to be Ole Miss this week.â€ť
MSU (25-16, 8-10) is coming off its first SEC sweep of the year after taking care of Tennessee last weekend in dramatic fashion.Â State managed two walk-off wins and two nine-inning efforts from their pitching staff to get the trio of wins that kept the Bulldogs in the SEC race for Hoover, Ala. and the conference tournament.
â€śWeâ€™re not at have to yet, but weâ€™re at very strongly need to,â€ť said Cohen. â€śThis weekend is critically important because it is the next thing. It is the next game. It is not the last game, it is not the first game, but it is the next game. For us to do what we want to do in league play, to move us in the direction of the postseason we have to have a good weekend.â€ť
Tonightâ€™s action features two hurlers on the watch list for National Pitcher of the Year in MSU starter Chris Stratton and Ole Miss ace Bobby Wahl.
Stratton enters with a 7-0 record and an ERA of 2.71. He shares the league lead in wins and is third in the nation with 88 strikeouts. Wahl carries a 5-0 record and a 2.15 ERA which is third best in the conference.Â Both have been tabbed as national pitcher of the week this season.
Shortstop Adam Frazier continues to set the tone for MSU at the plate with a .350 batting average and paces the club with 31 runs scored this season. Frazier also leads the league with 35 walks.
Current SEC Pitcher of the Week, Kendall Graveman, bring a 3-2 record into the Saturday contest with a 2.92 ERA. The right-hander is coming off a complete game win over the Volunteers. The complete game was his league leading second of the season.
As for Ole Miss, Cohen knows the Rebels are a team that can score runs in a hurry.
â€śThey have older guys that swing the bat well and they have a really good Friday night guy,â€ť said Cohen. â€śYou just have to catch them when they are not on a great offensive streak.â€ť
Ole Miss enters the weekend batting at a .313 clip as a team and is paced by Alex Yarbrough who is batting .429 for the season.Â The Rebels are scoring an average of 6.2 runs per game this season.
â€śIt is just a battle with a team that is swinging it well with a Friday night guy verses a team that is pitching and playing defense really well,â€ť said Cohen.
The two teams play all three games in front of a televised audience with first pitch today being slated for 7:05 p.m. on FoxSports.Â
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