Diamond Dogs Open SEC Tourney Tuesday Against Arkansas
The Bulldogs bring a season-highest No. 21 national ranking (Collegiate Baseball) into their 28th SEC Tournament appearance. State climbed into all four national polls this week after topping UK's Wildcats on the final weekend of regular season league play for their fourth SEC series win in the last five weeks. Arkansas is ranked as high as 14th this week.
State and defending SEC West champion Arkansas finished tied for second in this year's divisional race and closed the year in a three-way logjam for fifth place with Vanderbilt in the overall league standings. SEC tiebreaker rules set up Tuesday's MSU-Arkansas matchup. Vandy's series win against league champion LSU made the Commodores the No. 5 seed while Arkansas became the No. 6 seed and the home team designation for Tuesday's game by virtue of its series win over the Bulldogs. Top-seeded LSU is also in MSU's half of the bracket and gets a bye from opening day competition.
Freshman Brandon Woodruff (0-2, 3.46) will open on the mound for the Bulldogs while Arkansas has designated sophomore righty Ryne Stanek (6-3, 2.96). It will be the fifth start of the year for Woodruff, who took the loss in a midweek matchup with Central Arkansas a week ago. Stanek, second on the Arkansas staff with 65 strikeouts, had his 13th start of the season curtailed last weekend at Tennessee when he was struck on the shoulder by a line drive in his first inning.
Both teams enter the SEC Tournament on the heels of SEC weekend series. State registered its second SEC series sweep of the year with a 3-0 showing against Kentucky while Arkansas ran the table on Tennessee in Knoxville.
The Bulldogs are paced at the plate by sophomore shortstop Adam Frazier (.360), who has hit safely in 45 of MSU's 55 games. Frazier was named this week to the 2012 USA Baseball National Collegiate Team. He leads the SEC with 193 assists and 45 walks and ranks second with a .475 on-base percentage. The MSU pitching staff leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally with a 2.64 earned run average. Junior ace righty Chris Stratton (10-1, 2.16), recipient of the 2012 C Spire/Ferriss Trophy as Mississippi's top collegian, ranks fourth in the NCAA with 115 strikeouts.
State topped Arkansas 11-2 in the opening game of a three-game regular-season series on the second weekend of league play in Starkville. But the Razorbacks, then ranked third nationally, blanked the Bulldogs 8-0 to even the series before clinching the series with an 8-5 win in an 11-inning, four-hour marathon. The Hogs have claimed all four previous SEC Tournament matchups with the Bulldogs, including a 7-2 decision that eliminated the Diamond Dogs from last year's tournament at Regions Park.
The radio broadcast of all of MSU's postseason baseball games will be carried on the statewide MSU Baseball Radio Network and available online (www.HailState.com) as a subscription-based audio stream.