Alabama and Mississippi State will meet for the 398th, 399thn and 400th time when the two teams square off on for a three-game set beginning Thursday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series dates from 1896 when State was Mississippi A&M. It is the third-longest running SEC pairing in Crimson Tide history. The Crimson Tide holds a 212-182-3 advantage all-time, including a 142-89-3 mark in Tuscaloosa.
But that was then, and this is now.
Alabama will be playing the third consecutive Southeastern Conference series against a top ten national team when the Crimson Tide hosts third-ranked Mississippi State, beginning with a nationally-televised (ESPNU) opener at 6:30 p.m. CDT Thursday. The Friday game will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s contest will be at 3 Saturday.
In its last two SEC series, Bama took two of three from eighth-ranked Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa, then suffered a pair of one-run losses and lost two of three to then third-ranked (now second) Texas A&M in College Station.
The Tide is 24-18 overall and 9-9 in SEC games, while Mississippi State (coached by Tuscaloosa native John Cohen) is 28-13-1 overall and 19-0 in conference play. The Bulldogs come into Sewell-Thomas having defeated Ole Miss in a Tuesday game and having taken two of three from LSU in Baton Rouge last weekend. Bama lost its last outing at Samford on Tuesday. The Crimson Tide owns a 15-6 mark at home compared to a 9-12 record in games away from the Joe.
Alabama freshman second baseman Cobie Vance has provided a spark offensively. Vance, one of only two players to start every game for Bama, ranks second in average at .280 (45-161) and is third in walks with 14. Over the past 22 games he is batting .299 (26-87) with five doubles, 11 runs batted in, eight runs score, and six bases on balls. He has hit safely in 18 of those 22 games, including having five multi-hit games. He has at least one hit in 15 of 18 SEC games.
Coach Mitch Gaspard will go with his regular starting rotation of pitchers, who have done very well for the Tide this year. On Thursday, Bama will send junior right-hander (3-2 and 2.32 ERA) against Mississippi State junior righty Dakota Hudson (5-3, 2.82). The Friday matchup is Alabama sophomore right-hander Jake Walters (4-3, 1.89) against State junior right-hander Austin Sexton (4-2, 3.62). Nick Eicholtz, a junior righty with a 3-1 record and 2.16 ERA, will start for the Tide on Saturday. The Bulldogs have not named a starter for the finale.
Prior to the start of Saturday’s series finale, The University of Alabama and the Tide baseball team will hold a moment of silence to honor those who were lost in the April 27, 2011, tornado that devastated the Tuscaloosa community. First responders from that day will be honored on the field pregame with Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox throwing out the first pitch.