'Dogs Face Wildcats in Key SEC Series

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State opens the second half of the 2005 SEC baseball season this weekend at Dudy Noble Field when the 29th-ranked Diamond Dogs (25-10, 7-7 SEC) entertain the Kentucky Wildcats (19-17, 2-12 SEC) in a three-game series. Friday's opener is set for 6:30 p.m. and all three weekend games will be broadcast on the statewide MSU Baseball Radio Network.

MSU swept a pair of midweek games on the road against South Alabama,. besting the Jaguars in Mobile, Ala., 10-6 Tuesday night and then completing the series sweep with a 2-1 verdict Wednesday night at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, Miss. With the wins the Bulldogs have won eight of their last 11 games and improved to 18-3 in non-conference competition. State enters the weekend 1-1/2 games behind divisional leader Alabama in a tight SEC Western Division race.

Senior righthander Alan Johnson (2-4, 3.28) will open on the hill for the Bulldogs Friday, while Kentucky will counter with junior righthander Kalen Gibson (4-1, 5.01). The Bulldog pitching staff has held opponents to five runs or less in 16 of their last 19 games and enters the weekend with a 3.22 earned run average against conference opponents, second-best in the Southeastern Conference.

Junior first baseman Brad Jones (.328) enters the weekend swinging the hot bat for the Bulldogs. The Orlando, Fla., product will be looking to extend a career-longest matching 13-game hitting streak, also second-longest streak by a Bulldog this season. Jones has hit .469 with 10 RBI and seven extra-base hits during the run. He matched a career-high with a four-hit, three-RBI performance in State¹s 10-6 win Tuesday at South Alabama.

Bulldog junior rightfielder Brad Corley (.318), who hit five home runs against Kentucky in Lexington last year, has hit safely in a team-best 28 of MSU's 35 games and doubled in the winning run in both MSU wins over South Alabama.

MSU opens the weekend with a realigned outfield. With starting center fielder Joseph Hunter (.373) out of the lineup for three to four weeks with a fractured thumb, MSU has shifted junior Jeff Butts from left to center and activated true freshman Mitch Moreland. The former Amory (Miss.) High School standout was in line for a year as a redshirt until Hunter's injury. Moreland laced a double in his first career at-bat and later drew an intentional walk in his debut night as a Bulldog.

The series marks Dudy Noble Field return of former Bulldog standout John Cohen, in his second season as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. Cohen, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was an All-SEC outfielder for the Bulldogs during his collegiate career at State (1988-90). Prior to assuming his present post at UK, Cohen served for two seasons as an assistant coach under Pat McMahon at the University of Florida, was head baseball coach at Northwestern (La.) State for four seasons, and served as an assistant coach at Missouri from 1992 to 1997.

The Bulldogs and the Wildcats meet in a 2 p.m. game Saturday before concluding their weekend series with a 1:30 p.m. matinee matchup Sunday.

MSU/KENTUCKY WEEKEND PITCHING MATCHUPS

  • Friday, 6:30 p.m.: MSU - Sr. RHP Alan Johnson (2-4, 3.28 ERA) | UK - Jr. LHP Kalen Gibson (4-1, 5.01 ERA)
  • Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: MSU - Sr. RHP Todd Doolittle (4-3, 3.57 ERA) | UK - Undecided
  • Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: MSU - So. Jon Crosby (5-1, 2.89 ERA) | UK - Undecided

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