MSU Faces No. 12 Alabama

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State opens a new month of competition at Dudy Noble Field this weekend when the Diamond Dogs (28-15, 9-11 SEC) play host to the 12th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (33-14, 13-8 SEC). First pitch for the series is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, with Saturday¹s game also set for a 6:30 p.m. start time due to Saturday morning and afternoon commencement ceremonies at Humphrey Coliseum.

The MSU-Alabama series begins a run of five games in five days for the Diamond Dogs. Following Sunday's 1:30 p.m. series finale, State treks to Jackson, Miss., Monday for a rare 6:30 p.m. matchup with the Birmingham-Southern Panthers, State's fourth game this season in the Entergy College Baseball Series at Smith-Wills Stadium. State then returns to Dudy Noble Field Tuesday to host Mississippi Valley State at 6:30 p.m.

Senior righthander Alan Johnson (2-5, 4.71 ERA) is due to start for the Bulldogs in Friday's series-opener while Alabama is expected to start Bama junior righty T.J. Large (6-3, 2.42 ERA). It will be the 11th start of the campaign for Johnson, who leads MSU with 41 strikeouts, and the 13th for Large, who enters the weekend sharing the team lead with 80 strikeouts.

Alabama is the highest ranked opponent faced by the Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field this season. State took two of three games from the 17th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores in March and two of three from 16th-ranked Auburn on Super Bulldog Weekend last month.

The Bulldogs, currently in fourth place in the SEC Western Division, are eager to shake a season-longest four-game losing streak and contend for a berth in the 2005 SEC Baseball Tournament. The teams with the top eight SEC winning percentages advance to the double-elimination tournament May 25-29 in Hoover, Ala., competing for the SEC's automatic berth to the 2005 NCAA Baseball Tournament. Both Mississippi State and Alabama missed the eight-team league tournament field in 2004.

MSU enters the weekend sporting a .289 team batting average, with junior outfielder Brad Corley (.316) leading the Bulldogs at the plate in batting average, hits (56) and doubles (15). Versatile Bulldog junior Thomas Berkery, (.306), who drew starts at three different positions in last weekend's three-game set at Mississippi, leads MSU with five home runs and a career-best 38 RBI.

For the second weekend in a row the Bulldogs face the league's top hitter. Alabama junior outfielder Gabe Scott opened the week with 54 hits and a league-best .412 batting average. Bulldog pitching limited last week's hitting leader, UM's Brian Pettway, to three hits on the weekend. Third baseman Evan Bush leads Alabama with 13 home runs and 45 runs batted in.

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