STARKVILLE, Miss. - Bats, balls and Bell sisters will collide this weekend as the Mississippi State softball team (15-4) plays host to No. 12 LSU (17-4) at the MSU Softball Stadium. The three-game series will mark the beginning of Southeastern Conference play for both teams.
"We are ready to start the second season," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "Any SEC series is a typical Super Regional-type atmosphere. LSU is an experienced group and we are looking forward to the challenge."
"Facebook Friday" launches the second season with a 6 p.m. first pitch Friday, followed by a 1 p.m. start Saturday as part of Starkville Parks & Recreation Day. The series wraps up Sunday at 1 p.m., as the Dawg Diamond hosts Title IX Girl Scout Celebration Day.
Admission is free for those that can attend, but for those that cannot, live video and audio streaming of the game will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).
The matchup between the Bulldogs and the Tigers will feature a sibling rivalry, as MSU redshirt sophomore Briana Bell will be in the opposite dugout from Bianka, her younger sister who is a freshman for LSU. The older Bell is hitting .360 in eight starts with nine RBIs and eight runs for the Maroon and White in 2013, while the younger Bell is 19-for-58 (.328) with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 19 starting nods for the Purple and Gold.
"Both Briana and Bianka are having really good years so far, so that matchup will be fun," Stuedeman explained. "If there's anybody on the planet more competitive than me, it is the Bell family."
State enters the series with the longest active winning streak in the SEC. The nine-game streak is tied for the seventh longest in school history. To make it 10-straight wins, MSU will have to snap a 20-game losing streak to the Tigers. LSU, who made the Women's College World Series last season, is 49-5 all-time against Mississippi State, and has not lost to the Bulldogs since a doubleheader sweep by the Maroon and White on March 30, 2005.
Losing is something the 2013 Bulldogs haven't dealt with often this season, as MSU has won 15 of its first 19 games, tied for the second-best start in school history. Stuedeman's squad has won its first six games in March, making 2013 the second time in school history MSU has started 6-0 in the third month of the year (1997).
The pitching has been a big reason the Bulldogs are 11 games above .500. Stuedeman's pitching staff is on pace to shatter the school records for strikeouts (on pace for 544), opponent batting average (.146) and strikeouts per seven innings (10.3). After pitching five shutouts in 57 games total in 2012, the MSU pitchers have already shut out six opponents through 19 games this season. Bulldog pitchers are holding opponents to a .080 average (11-for-138) with two outs,
while the Bully Bomber offense has outscored opponents in two-out RBIs by a 31-4 margin.
Offensively, speed has been the name of the game for the Dawgs. Through just 19 games in 2013, the Bulldogs have stolen 49 bases, one more than the team swiped in 56 games total the year before Stuedeman arrived in 2011. State is already halfway past last year's total of 92 stolen bases, ranking fourth in the conference.
Following the three-game series, Starkville's team takes to the road again for a four-game spring-break road trip. The Bulldogs travel to Jacksonville State for a 6 p.m. contest on Tuesday, March 12, before playing a doubleheader at the College of Charleston starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. The four-game roadstand concludes Friday, March 15, as the Maroon and White play at Charleston Southern at noon.
For live in-game updates of MSU's attempt to cage the Tigers this weekend, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.
Friday, March 8th - LSU (6:00 p.m.)
- GIVEAWAY: MSU Custom Fans to First 50 Fans in Attendance - Honoring One MSU Senior
- Facebook Friday Giveaways
Saturday, March 9th -
LSU (1:00 p.m.)
- "Starkville Parks & Recreation Day at the Park"
- Post Game Autographs & Kids Run the Bases
- Barnes & Noble Softball Store on Site
- In-Game Twitter Trivia Giveaways
Sunday, March 10th - LSU
- GIVEAWAY: 100 MSU Softball Girl Scout Patches for Girl Scouts in Attendance
- "Title IX Girl Scout Celebration Day"
- Sunday Bingo with Giftcard Giveaways