GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mississippi State faces its toughest challenges of the campaign this weekend in Gainesville, Fla., when the Bulldogs (11-6) launch their 76th season of Southeastern Conference baseball against the sixth-ranked Florida Gators (13-3).
Game times at UF's McKethan Stadium/Perry Field are set for 6 p.m. CDT both Friday and Saturday and 12 p.m. CDT Sunday. The radio broadcast of all three games will be carried on the 14-station MSU Baseball Radio Network. French Camp, Miss., network affiliate WFCA-FM will carry the broadcast of the Lady Bulldogs' first round NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Sunday competition against Middle Tennessee State in Pittsburgh, Pa.
MSU has shuffled its pitching rotation for the weekend, with a pair of freshmen set to open on the hill for State on the first of 10 weekends of league competition. Rookie right-hander Kendall Graveman (1-0, 3.78) is slated to draw his first career start in Friday's opener, while freshman righty Chris Stratton (2-2, 2.95) will start Saturday and sophomore lefty Nick Routt (1-1, 7.27) Sunday.
The Bulldogs have won the last two series against the Gators in 2006 and 2007 and have won five of their last seven games in the series. Florida, which rotated off MSU's 10-team SEC schedule following the 2007 season, replaced Kentucky on this year's State slate.
State senior first baseman Connor Powers (.409) enters the weekend series atop the SEC statistic charts with eight home runs and 32 RBI. The Naperville, Ill., product is tied for sixth with Richard Lee (1995-98) for sixth among State's all-time career home run leaders and, with 172 career RBI, is two of joining MSU's career top 10 in runs batted in.
The Gators sport a .324 team batting average and a league-best .982 fielding percentage. Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (.394) paces the Gators at the plate and leads the SEC with 28 hits, one more than MSU's Connor Powers.
Both the Friday and Sunday games of this weekend's series will be televised in Florida on FOX Sports Net-Florida while Saturday's matchup with be cablecast on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).
MSU opens its five-weekend SEC schedule next weekend, hosting Georgia Mar. 26-28 in a three -game series at Dudy Noble Field.