MSU and Bama Battling for Final Spot

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State treks to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend to close out its 2004 regular season baseball schedule with a three-game series against the University of Alabama. Friday¹s series opener at Sewell-Thomas Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs enter the 10th and final weekend of Southeastern Conference competition with a 31-22 overall mark and 10-17 in league play. State is tied with Alabama (29-23, 10-17 SEC) for 10th place in the SEC¹s overall standings and in need of a three-game sweep to keep alive hopes of earning one of two remaining berths in next week's SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

Junior right-hander Alan Johnson (3-3, 5.51) will draw his 12th start of the campaign for Mississippi State, working opposite Alabama freshman lefty Wade LeBlanc (8-4, 1.60).

Mississippi State, paced by sophomore right fielder Brad Corley, enters the weekend sporting the SEC's third-highest team batting average, .310. Corley is hitting at a .374 clip in both overall and SEC competition, and this week earned SEC Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.

Six of the nine regulars in the Bulldog batting order are hitting at least .300, including senior catcher Craig Tatum (.341), who also leads the club with 16 doubles and 54 RBI.

Alabama's pitching staff enters the weekend with the league's top earned run average, a dandy 3.15. Friday night starter Wade LeBlanc (1.60) and teammate Taylor Tankersley (1.64) sport the top two earned run averages among SEC pitchers. LeBlanc, a candidate for SEC freshman of the year honors, holds opposing hitters to a league-best .197 hitting.

The series continues Saturday at 4 p.m. and the teams wrap up their 2004 regular season schedules with a 2 p.m. Sunday game that will be televised regionally on Comcast cable systems.

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