Diamond Dogs Host UALR Trojans Tuesday

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State begins its final week of regular season baseball play for 2007 Tuesday at Dudy Noble Field when the Baseball Bulldogs (32-16, 14-11 SEC) entertain Sun Belt Conference foe Arkansas-Little Rock (20-29, 17-15 SBC) in a 6:30 p.m. contest.

The game opens a run of four home games over a five-day span for the Bulldogs, who host SEC West rival Alabama (29-23, 13-14 SEC) Thursday, Friday and Saturday to close out the 2007 regular season slate.

Rookie left-hander Tyler Whitney (5-1, 5.89) of Lakeland, Tenn., is expected to draw his 10th start of the campaign for the Bulldogs while UALR has designated junior right-hander Levi Laughlin (2-4, 5.32) as its starter.

State owns a 6-0 series record against the UALR Trojans, sweeping three-game series in Starkville in both 1999 and 2000.

MSU endured its toughest road run of the 2007 campaign last week, dropping a pair of midweek games to Ohio Valley Conference-leading Austin Peay in the team's first trip to Clarksville, Tenn., and then bowed twice to Georgia in a rain-condensed three-game SEC weekend series in Athens, Ga. The Bulldogs hit .261 and plated just 15 runs in five games. Four of the five games were decided by two runs or less.

Senior second baseman Jeffrey Rea of Nettleton, Miss., totaled a team-leading eight hits in five games, climbing past former Bulldog Steve Gendron (2001-04) to third place among MSU's career hits leaders with 320 hits. Now seventh among the SEC's all-time career hits leaders, Rea needs eight more hits to tie MSU career hits record-holder Richard Lee, who piled up 328 hits from 1995 to 1998. Rea sports a team-leading .404 batting average in SEC competition, second-highest in the league. His .972 fielding percentage is the second-highest among SEC second basemen.

Freshman shortstop Brandon Turner (.414), slowed the past two weeks by a hamstring injury, made one start at second base, another at shortstop and three appearances as a pinch-hitter over the past week.

Junior catcher Edward Easley (.376) collected seven hits and drove in four runs last week, extending his current hitting streak to 12 games, his second-longest hitting streak as a Bulldog. The Olive Branch, Miss., product is tops among SEC catchers with 24 runners caught stealing.

State, ranked 20th in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll, enters the week in second place in the SEC Western Division, two games behind divisional leader Arkansas (37-16, 17-10 SEC), a game ahead of instate rival Mississippi (33-20, 14-13) and two games in front of this weekend's opponent, Alabama. Conference-leading Vanderbilt (43-10, 19-8 SEC) and Arkansas have clinched the first two berths in the eight-team SEC Baseball Tournament, set May 23-27 in Hoover, Ala., at the refurbished Regions Park (formerly the Hoover Met).

Game times for this weekend's SEC series with Alabama are set for 6:30 p.m. both Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. State will salute its senior players and managers prior to Friday's game.

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