“In the Southeastern Conference, each series is like a Super Regional every weekend,” Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. “We are excited to get down there and get back out on the field as quick as we can.”
Florida owns a 27-17 mark all-time against the Bulldogs, including a 14-7 mark in Gainesville. The Orange and Blue have defeated the Maroon and White on 15-consecutive occasions, but State came close to snapping the streak in last year’s doubleheader setback on March 7, 2012. The Gators squeezed out a 1-0 victory in game one, before walking away an 8-5 winner in game two after jumping out to a 4-1 lead after the first frame. There were signs of improvement in 2012, with MSU scoring its most runs vs. UF since 2004 (5), while giving up the fewest runs vs. Florida since 2005 (1).
Mississippi State is ranked 33rd in the latest RPI rankings, and is coming off a dramatic 3-2 victory Wednesday at a neutral site against UAB, who is 24-8 overall, 11-1 in Conference USA and 34th in the latest RPI rankings. Florida is ranked second in the RPI, and represents the first of three SEC squads inside the RPI top 10 MSU will battle in a three-game series on the road in the next month.
The Bulldogs have won 13-straight games in the month of April and are 15-2 in the month in two seasons under Stuedeman. If State wins two this weekend, it will surpass its win total from 2011 (24-32), the year before Stuedeman arrived in Starkville. Stuedeman’s squad is also four victories away from securing a regular season overall record of above .500, which would give the Maroon and White its first back-to-back seasons above .500 since 2007-08.
Starkville’s Team is anchored by a pitching staff which leads the SEC in strikeouts (328) and is second in opponent batting average (.178), fewest hits allowed (153) and fewest walks allowed (57). Stuedeman's arms are on pace to shatter the single-season school record for strikeouts (on pace for 515), opponent batting average (.178) and strikeouts per seven innings (9.6). After pitching five shutouts in 57 games total in 2012, the MSU pitchers have already shut out eight opponents through 35 games this season (8-0). On eight other occasions, opponents have scored just one run (7-1).
State is headed by junior right-handed pitcher Alison Owen, who leads the nation in fewest walks allowed per game (0.41) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (172-to-7). The two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week is also 13th in hits allowed per seven inning (3.8), 14th in strikeouts per seven innings (9.8), 15th in total strikeouts (172) and 17th in shutouts (5) nationally.
For live in-game updates of MSU's critical conference series in Gainesville, 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.