STARKVILLE, Miss. --- The 16th-ranked Bulldogs put the finishing touches on their 2013 regular season baseball schedule this week on the home field when Mississippi State (38-15/14-13 SEC) takes on the 12th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (38-14/16-10 SEC) in a key SEC interdivisional series.
The Bulldogs begin the series with a No. 10 national RPI ranking, just ahead of the Gamecocks at No. 11. USC is fourth in the overall conference standings, just ahead of fifth-place MSU. Both teams are jockeying for a top four league finish and one of four opening round byes in next week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Both are also looking to do some late-season resume-building in advance of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The series begins with a 6:30 p.m. opener Thursday at Dudy Noble Field and continues with games at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. The radio broadcasts of all three games can be heard on the statewide Bulldog Sports Network with audio and video streaming also available online to subscribers of available online to HailstateTV subscribers (http://www.hailstate.com/hstvlive).
Mississippi State fans will make an entry in the Mississippi State baseball record book at Thursday’s series opener. MSU first started tracking baseball attendance in 1976 and has averaged nearly 202,000 in paid home baseball attendance the past 12 seasons. Thursday’s attendance total is projected to push Dudy Noble Field’s paid attendance total (since 1976) past the five million mark. In recognition of the milestone, commemorative pins will be distributed to the first 5,000 fans attending Friday’s 6:30 p.m. game.
Senior lefty Luis Pollorena (6-3, 3.86) will open on the mound for the 10th time this season for State. He’ll work opposite South Carolina senior southpaw Nolan Belcher (7-5, 2.23). Pollorena is one of seven Bulldog seniors set to be honored during Friday’s pregame senior night ceremonies.
State has won five of its last seven games and four of its last six league battles. MSU posted walk-off extra-inning wins in sweeping Alabama May 4-5 and reeled off seven straight runs over the final four frames to knock off Ole Miss 7-6 in last Sunday’s series finale in Oxford.
MSU made it four straight one-run wins Tuesday during a 3-2 decision over Oral Roberts. Adam Frazier and Alex Detz delivered three-hit plate performances and sophomore relief ace Jonathan Holder set a school record with his 14th save as State closed out its non-conference slate with an enviable 24-2 mark. Frazier (.336) has nine hits over his last four games and leads the club with 74 hits.
Another sophomore reliever, Ross Mitchell (9-0, 1.28), leads the SEC in earned run average while Hunter Renfroe (.381), a finalist for this year’s C Spire Ferriss Trophy, continues to pace the league with 15 home runs. Junior second baseman Brett Pirtle (.299) begins the series with a 26-game on-base streak.
The bracket for next week’s 12-team SEC Tournament will be finalized following Saturday’s regular season-ending competition, with the event set to begin Tuesday at the Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium. MSU nailed down its 29th SEC Tournament advancement earlier this month and will begin defense of its 2012 tourney title either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the outcome of this weekend’s South Carolina series. Tournament tickets can be order in advance through SouthTix (800-732-4849).