STARKVILLE, Miss. – Everything is big in Texas, including the stakes in this weekend’s Mississippi State (31-19, 7-14 SEC) vs. Texas A&M (37-13, 8-12 SEC) softball series at the Aggie Softball Complex in College Station. The two SEC West squads are two of four teams battling for the final two spots in next week’s SEC Tournament, hosted by the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
First pitch in the series is Friday night at 7 p.m., with the second game starting at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Aggies will host their Senior Day in the series finale at 2 p.m. Sunday. Live HD video streaming of all three games this weekend will be available to HailStateTV subscribers (via a shared production from Texas A&M). Of course, free live audio streaming will be provided through HSTV as usual, featuring MSU play-by-play caller Anthony Craven.
The series is tied all-time, 3-3, with Mississippi State winning the last contest by a score of 7-3 in Starkville on March 6, 2011. In College Station, the Aggies own a 2-0 lead in the series. This weekend marks the first time the two schools will play each other as member institutions of the Southeastern Conference.
Mississippi State is tied with South Carolina and Auburn for the 10th and final spot in the SEC Tournament. Texas A&M enters the final weekend with a 1.5 game lead on all three squads. The Bulldogs must finish one game better than the Tigers and Gamecocks, since both teams own the tiebreaker over the Maroon and White.
Thanks to the 20th-toughest strength of schedule in the country, Mississippi State is ranked 30th in the latest RPI. Texas A&M is currently slotted 17th. With four games left in the regular season, MSU has secured a regular-season overall record of above .500, giving MSU its first back-to-back seasons above .500 since 2007-08. The Bulldogs are three wins away from surpassing last year's win total of 33 (33-24).
A big reason for this year’s success has been the pitching staff. After pitching five shutouts in 57 games total in 2012, the MSU pitchers have doubled last year's total with 10 so far in 2013. On 11 other occasions, opponents have scored just one run (10-1). The ability to shut down opposing offenses has been critical since nearly half (23-of-50) of MSU's games this season have been decided by two runs or less. State is 11-8 in one-run games and 2-2 in two-run games.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are led by senior outfielder Jessica Cooley, who in her last 10 games is hitting .435 with a .606 on-base percentage and a 1.217 slugging percentage. The powerful righty has tallied 11 RBIs, eight runs, eight walks, five homers and three stolen bases during that stretch. Cooley is part of a Bully Bomber squad which is the most balanced offense statistically in school history, owning the single-season school records for home runs per game (0.94), walks per game (3.70) and stolen bases per game (2.20), the latter of which ranks third nationally.
For live in-game updates of the Texas trip, 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.