Diamond Dogs Head to Alabama

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State has plenty at stake this weekend in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the Baseball Bulldogs (28-19-1, 11-12 SEC) take on fourth-ranked and SEC-leading Alabama (40-9, 17-7 SEC) in an important three-game SEC Western Division series.

The Diamond Dogs are in the thick of a heated battle for a berth in the eight-team 2002 SEC Baseball Tournament, set May 22-26 in Hoover, Ala. State enters Friday's 6:30 p.m. series-opener with the crimson Tide 5-1/2 games out of first place in the SEC regular season title chase and three games out of second place in the SEC Western Division standings.

Saturday's MSU-UA game begins at 4 p.m. and Sunday's series-finale is set for 2 p.m.

MSU's "magic number" for nailing down its SEC-leading 16th consecutive trip to the conference tournament is four, a combination of wins by Mississippi State and losses by the SEC's No. 9 team, Arkansas (25-21, 8-13 SEC) or Tennessee (24-25, 9-15 SEC). Both also face daunting challenges on the road, the Razorbacks in a three-game series against the Mississippi Rebels in Oxford and the Volunteers on the road to meet SEC East-leading South Carolina in Columbia. MSU currently stands fifth in the SEC West and eight in the overall league standings.

MSU will send sophomore southpaw Paul Maholm (8-2, 3.46) of Holly Springs, Miss., to the hill at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Friday night to oppose Crimson Tide senior right-hander Lance Cormier (8-2, 2.83).

The Bulldogs play five of their last eight games in neighboring Alabama, Following this weekend's series in Tuscaloosa, State travels to Birmingham to take on UAB Tuesday (7 p.m.) and Samford Wednesday (6 p.m.) before closing out the regular season campaign at home against instate SEC rival Mississippi May 17-19.

MSU halted a four-game losing skid in its only midweek competition Wednesday night, belting Mississippi Valley State 18-5 at Dudy Noble Field. Designated hitter Robby Goodson drove in a career-high six runs, four during a 12-run Bulldog burst in the seventh inning as MSU erased a 4-0 deficit and cruised to the win. State tied the score at 4-4 in the fourth and led 6-4 before sending 17 batters to the plate in that seventh inning. Goodson plated one run that inning with his second bases-loaded walk of the game and three more on a bases-clearing double. Casey Long went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs while Jeff Lacher (1-2), the third of seven MSU pitchers used in the game, notched the win. Lacher, after walking the first batter he faced, retired the next six he faced in order in the fourth and fifth innings.

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