MSU to Face No. 10 Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mississippi State faces its stiffest challenge of the season this weekend in Gainesville, Fla., as the Baseball Bulldogs (32-16, 11-12 SEC) take on the 10th-ranked Florida Gators (32-17, 15-9 SEC) in a key three-game SEC baseball series at McKethan Stadium/Perry Field. The series begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. (CDT).

With six games remaining over the final two weekends of league play, the Bulldogs open the weekend in fourth place in the SEC Western Division and in seventh place in the league's overall standings. The teams with the top eight winning percentages in league play advance to the 2005 SEC Baseball Tournament May 25-29 in Hoover, Ala. Three teams - Vanderbilt (30-17, 11-13 SEC), Arkansas (35-14, 11-13 SEC) and Auburn (30-20, 11-13 SEC) begin the weekend a half-game behind Mississippi State in the overall standings.

The Bulldogs enter the Florida series with wins in four of their last five games. State topped No. 12 Alabama twice last weekend at Dudy Noble Field to nail down its fifth SEC series win in eight weekends of league play. MSU then successfully completed a five-day, game-a-day run with wins over Birmingham-Southern in Jackson, Miss., and Mississippi Valley State in Starkville.

Mississippi State's weekend pitching assignments remain unchanged. Senior righthanders Alan Johnson (3-5, 4.62 ERA) and Todd Doolittle (4-6, 4.34 ERA) will open for the Bulldogs in the first two games while sophomore righty Jon Crosby (5-2, 3.19 ERA) will open on the hill in Sunday's series finale. Florida's pitching rotation for the weekend has not been announced.

The Gators, coached by former MSU assistant and head baseball coach Pat McMahon, dropped a pair of midweek games to instate non-conference rival South Florida and enter the weekend with two wins in their last nine games. Since registering a series sweep at Auburn Apr. 22-24, Florida has gone 1-2 in its last two league series at home against No. 18 Tennessee and on the road against No. 19 Arkansas. Still, Florida trails divisional rival Tennessee by just a half-game for the overall SEC lead.

McKethan Stadium/Perry Field has in recent years been a tough place for the Bulldogs to play. Florida owns a 17-13 lead over MSU in games played in Gainesville but has won 13 of the last 15 home games in the series since MSU's last series win there in 1990.

State returns to Dudy Noble Field May 17 to close out regular season non-conference play with a day/night doubleheader against Tennessee-Martin. Originally scheduled as a single 6:30 p.m. game, the date has been expanded to a twinbill, with the opening game set for 3 p.m.

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