The Bulldogs dropped their last two league contests and their first SEC series of the year last weekend at home against No. 5 Auburn, and slipped from first place in the Southeastern Conference standings. LSU (25-11-1, 11-4-1 SEC) and Auburn (30-8, 11-4 SEC) moved ahead of State. The MSU-Auburn series drew a paid audience of 24,921 to Dudy Noble Field, the SEC's second-largest series attendance in league history.
Junior left-hander Paul Maholm (6-1, 1.45), who sports the league's best earned run average and holds opponents to an SEC-best .181, will draw the start for the Diamond Dogs. The Holly Springs, Miss., product leads the MSU staff with 62.0 innings pitched and 53 strikeouts and is tied for seventh at MSU with 24 career wins. Maholm owns a 2-0 record in three career starts against USC.
South Carolina will counter with senior lefty Steve Bondurant (4-2, 3.86).
Mississippi State notched its 26th and 27th wins of the year in the midweek, topping Mississippi Valley State 21-6 and rallying to nip Samford 5-4 in 12 innings.
State set season highs for runs (21), hits (20) and home runs (four) and 13 different Bulldogs had hits in the win over MVSU. Brad Corley, drove in a career-best five runs and hit his first career home run, while J.B. Tucker, Tyler Scarbrough and Thomas Berkery also hit the long ball for MSU. Tucker, Craig Tatum and Matthew Brinson each drove in three runs, with Brinson's coming on a bases-clearing triple. State compiled a .907 team slugging percentage in the game.
MSU erased a 4-0 deficit, scoring twice in the ninth to tie Samford and getting a two-out game-winning single from Tatum in the 12th inning in a 5-4 win over the SU Bulldogs. Jonathan Papelbon (5-0) worked the final two innings and earned the win. Papelbon has allowed just one earned run in 26.2 innings of relief pitching.
Smooth-fielding junior third baseman Steve Gendron (.367) paced the Bulldogs at the plate heading into this weekend's series. First baseman Matthew Brinson (.323), with five RBI in his last three games, has taken over the team lead with 26 runs driven in.
Mississippi State next returns to action at home April 22-23, playing host the No. 22 Southern Miss in 6:30 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field.