The Mississippi State Bulldogs host a pair of clubs for a round-robin style weekend of baseball with the Jayhawks of Kansas and the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State.
It gets underway with a 2:30 first pitch this afternoon for a game between the Jayhawks and the Delta Devils followed by Kansas (3-0) and Mississippi State (2-1) at 6:30 p.m. Kansas managed a 26-30 record last season, falling short of the NCAA regional aspirations.
This season it has high hopes with six returning starters and 17 returning lettermen. The Jayhawks opened the season last week with their best start since 2007 winning three games in the Music City Classic over MTSU, Bowling Green, and Belmont. The Kansas offense did just enough to get the wins as the team combined for a .255 batting average during the series with an average of four runs per outing. The key to their fast start was the stellar pitching performances in Nashville.
The KU pitching staff combined to hold the opposition to just four runs on 15 hits. Thomas Taylor was the star of the weekend and current Big 12 Pitcher of the Week after going 8 1/3 innings allowing three hits, two walks and five strikeouts. The junior for the Jayhawks was efficient, throwing just 89 pitches and had four innings where he threw 10 pitches or less.
The bullpen did its part as well. A pair of right-handers, Jordan Jakubov and Tanner Poppe each recorded a save while not allowing a run. If you add lefthander Jordan Luvisi and righthander Robert Kahan to the mix and the bullpen combined for no runs on three hits over six innings of work with just two walks and five strikeouts.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to the Delta Devils who opened the season with a pair of losses last weekend to Florida A&M (5-2) and Eastern Illinois (11-2).
MVSU return seven letter winners from a team that went 18-36 overall in 2011.
However of those lettermen, six of them are a part of the pitching staff. Senior left-hander Trey Lacey allowed three runs on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts in their season opener while freshman Chris Broadway was the most effective member of the staff tossing 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball allowing three hits, no walks and three strikeouts. At the plate, the Delta Devils enter the weekend batting at a .214 clip with an average of seven hits per game. On the mound they have a staff earned run average of 6.58 with an opponent batting average of .349.
The Diamond Dawgs opened the season with a successful weekend series against Washington State going 2-1 including a 13-inning marathon during a Sunday doubleheader. The Bulldogs received solid pitching performances from Ben Bracewell, Chris Stratton, Evan Mitchell, and Kendall Graveman, but it was Caleb Reed who truly dominated the hill. Reed threw 6 1/3 third innings striking out nine and allowing only three hits. However, he surrendered two of those hits in the 13th inning allowing the game-winning runs to score for WSU. The pitching staff combined for a 2.61 ERA while allowing nine earned runs on 23 hits and striking out 34 batters. At the plate, Trey Porter delivered the timely hits for the Bulldogs going 6-for-10 on the weekend with two home runs, four runs scored and four RBIs.
“Trey is a good player," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said. "He’s a tough kid that gets all over the plate and is very difficult to pitch to. It didn’t take us long during intrasquad to see that he’s a really hard guy to throw strikes to. He makes the most of his opportunities.”
As a team, MSU collected 37 hits, scored 16 runs and batted at a .327 clip for the series, but made a few errors in key situations.
"We’ve got to be better situationally, but I just have this overwhelming feeling that we have the right kids and we’re going to be better 50 games from now than we are right now," Cohen said.
Ben Bracewell is expected to take the mound tonight with Nick Routt pitching game one of the Saturday doubleheader.
The other matchups have yet to be determined. Saturday game times are set for noon and 4 p.m. and Sunday’s game against MVSU is slated for 4 p.m.