Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

State Plays Four Thursday-Start SEC Series for TV

Mississippi State has finalized and released the 2016 Diamond Dog schedule. And, what a slate State has put together.

This schedule updates previous editions published, allowing for some more Mississippi State conference series being moved-up for Thursday starts. There will be four such series, three of them at Dudy Noble Field; Georgia March 24-26, Missouri May 5-7, and the normal regular-season ender weekend which this time brings Arkansas (May 19-21) to town.

The road early series it at Alabama April 28-30 in the Crimson Tide’s brand-new stadium.

State’s SEC season opens at 2015 CWS runners-up Vanderbilt on March 18-20. This year’s rotation replaces Kentucky and South Carolina series with Georgia and Missouri, while keeping Florida.

Out of the 56 scheduled games, 30 will be against programs which played in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. And speaking of NCAA participants, these Bulldogs will see an opponent which they last faced on college baseball’s ultimate stage.

Mississippi State is in Los Angeles for a trio of games in the Dodger Stadium Classic. The weekend begins March 4 at UCLA, the program that topped State in the 2013 College World Series championship round. The next day is a visit to Southern Cal; and on March 6 the Bulldogs play Oklahoma in Dodger Stadium itself.

Though just one game in famous Chavez Ravine might disappoint fans, playing the other two on campus sites boosts the Bulldog schedule strength and RPI that much more than a neutral field would.

Much closer to home, and not likely to be a neutral site at all, State will make a first-ever appearance at the new MGM Park in Biloxi on April 20. The Dogs take on Louisiana-Monroe in the Shuckers’ stadium on a Wednesday, a game made more practical as the following series at LSU stays on a Friday start.

State does return to Pearl’s Trustmark Park for the annual intra-state meetings with Southern Mississippi on March 29; and the Governors Cup game with Ole Miss on April 26. The Dogs are home team for both Pearl games.

Schedule strength for 2016 has been upgraded in a big way, as 21 of these opponents finished last season with RPIs in the top-25.

Coach John Cohen and staff, which now includes Wes Johnson as new pitching coach, continue evaluating fall practice and scrimmage results. The 2016 roster will not have to be settled until the spring semester.

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