Diamond Dog Veterans Test Rookies in Annual Game

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's returning veteran players test the Diamond Dog rookies at Dudy Noble Field Friday afternoon as the Baseball Bulldogs hit the field for the annual Maroon/White game. First pitch is set for 4:15 p.m. for the scheduled nine-inning contest and there is no charge for admission.

"We've got a solid corps of players returning from last year's SEC Tournament championship team, and we're anxious to see them matched with an impressive collection of young rookie players," said MSU head coach Ron Polk. "It's been a productive fall practice and for the most part we've had good luck with the weather."

The veteran team roster includes 18 returning lettermen, 11 pitchers, the designated hitter and all but one starting position player from the 2005 edition that captured the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament title and went on to finish the year with a 42-22 worksheet after competing in the NCAA Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional. Mississippi State reeled off consecutive wins over Louisiana State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi at the Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium last May en route to its sixth conference tourney crown. State concluded the season ranked 19th in the final Baseball Weekly/ESPN coaches poll.

The returnees include senior outfielder Joseph Hunter (.348), the team's top hitter last spring, and two of the three Diamond Dogs that were named to the 2005 SEC All-Tournament Team - junior second baseman Jeffrey Rea (.305) and senior outfielder Jeff Butts (.286), the tournament's most valuable player.

From the pitching staff MSU returns three hurlers who finished with unblemished records - junior relief man Mike Valentine (6-0, 2.88, three saves), sophomore right-hander John Lalor (5-0, 3.22), and junior righty Josh Johnson (5-0, 4.03).

The 24-player MSU rookie team includes nine squadmen and redshirts from last year's club along with 11 signees and four walk-on players. MSU's 2004-05 recruiting class, which includes eight high school standouts and three transfers from the Mississippi junior college ranks, was recently ranked by Tucson-based Collegiate Baseball newspaper as the nation's 17th-best Division I recruiting class.

State's six-week fall baseball practices conclude in mid-October with the annual "Banana Split Series."


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