Carrying a No. 23 ranking Mississippi State opens its final series of the current 17-game homestand tonight against the Mercer University Bears.
The Bulldogs (12-2) are off to their best start since 2006 and are riding a six-game win streak, including their seventh comeback win of the season on Wednesday night.
Entering the weekend series, the Bears (11-3) bring with them a rather impressive .350 team batting average, including four Bears with batting averages north of .400. Nick Backlund leads the way with a .463 average with six home runs and 27 RBI.
He’s followed closely by Evan Boyd with a .434 batting average in 53 at bats. While the Bears’ numbers at the dish easily get your attention the 2.40 earned run average is equally impressive.
Lefty Brandon Love is expected to take the mound in the opener carrying a 2-0 record with a 3.44 ERA. For the season, Love has 18 strikeouts in 18.1 innings of work.
State takes on the Bears without a trio of top players.
Senior outfielder Brent Brownlee underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a knee cap injury and is expected to miss at least six weeks.
C.T. Bradford is expected to be out of the lineup for 1-2 weeks with a subluxated shoulder. Bradford had been State’s leadoff batter with a .309 batting average and 13 RBI.
Sophomore third baseman, Daryl Norris, will be out for four to six weeks with an injured knee. The Fairhope, Ala. native has been one of the more productive hitters for MSU with a .379 batting average and 12 RBI.
“There’s a lot of confidence on this team, confidence in our ability,” said Adam Frazier. “It is just fight and heart in this team and as long as we keeping doing that, even if we lose a couple of guys to injury we will be alright.”
Redshirt freshman, Demarcus Henderson has made the most of his recent opportunities and has the top batting average for the Bulldogs with .381. Henderson’s role increased with the absence of Brownlee and has started the last seven games for MSU.
Frazier is batting at a .379 clip, tops among those who have played all 14 games for the Bulldogs. The middle infielder leads the club with 22 hits, eight of which are doubles. First baseman, Wes Rea, is tied for the team lead with 13 RBI while batting .353 for the season.
On the mound, State is expected to stick with the rotation they’ve gone with each weekend so far. Ben Bracewell and Chris Stratton are expected to be the pair of hurlers to take the field in the opener.
Bracewell, who has shoulder soreness following his most recent outing, has been brought along slowly by the coaching staff. He has a 0.00 ERA allowing just six hits in 10.1 innings of work. Stratton has a 2.25 ERA in three appearances this season with 20 strikeouts.
First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. tonight with the radio broadcast heard locally on WKBB-FM (100.9).