Diamond Dogs to Play USM

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State puts the finishing touches on a six-game road run this week when the Bulldogs (16-22) take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (26-13) in a pair of midweek games.

Tuesday's series-opener at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, Miss., is set for 6:30 p.m., and the radio broadcast of both MSU-USM games will be carried on the statewide MSU Baseball Radio Network. Live audio will also be available through Maroon to the Max.

The Bulldogs compiled a 2-2 record in the past week, notching a 6-5 win over instate SEC rival Mississippi in the second annual Governor's Cup last Tuesday night in Pearl, Miss., before claiming the middle game of a three-game SEC weekend series at Alabama. State out-hit Alabama 37-31 for the weekend but left 38 runners on base.

Like Mississippi State, the Golden Eagles registered a midweek win at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., a 6-3 decision over Alabama, before taking one of three weekend conference games on the road at Tulane.

Sophomore lefty Tyler Whitney (0-0, 6.35) has been designated for game-opening mound duty for the Bulldogs Tuesday and likely will be matched with USM freshman right-hander Seth Hester (2-0, 1.56) or junior righty Brian Leach (1-1, 5.68). Whitney, from Lakeland, Tenn., will be making his fourth start and ninth appearance of the season.

The series marks a homecoming of sorts for Bulldog junior outfielder Grant Hogue (.328) from Hattiesburg, Miss. The former Oak Grove High School standout enters the week leading the Southeastern Conference with 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts.

A pair of true freshmen begin the week leading the Bulldogs at the plate. Cody Freeman (.373) of Collinsville, Miss., a 17-game starter behind the dish, returned the MSU batting order as the designated hitter last week after missing nine games with a knee injury. Rookie outfielder Ryan Collins (.367) of Callaway, Fla., hit .444 with a team-best .615 on-base percentage in the last four games.

Sophomore Russ Sneed (.304) collected seven hits and laced four of his team-leading nine doubles during the weekend series at Alabama.

The Bulldogs got another sterling performance out of the bullpen from junior relief ace Aaron Weatherford (1-0, 4 saves, 0.00) of Crystal Springs, Miss. Weatherford retired six of the seven batters he faced in two innings of scoreless relief to earn his fourth save in State's 6-4 decision over Alabama. In 16-2/3 innings of relief pitching he has fanned 33 batters while allowing three hits and one unearned run.

Mississippi State holds a 72-32 all-time series lead over Southern Miss, including a 52-19 mark during Ron Polk's 29 seasons as MSU head baseball coach. Polk-coached State teams are 21-13 against USM in Hattiesburg.

The Bulldogs return to SEC competition at Dudy Noble Field this weekend, hosting SEC East foe Tennessee in a three-game series. Members of MSU's 1948 and 1949 SEC Baseball Championship teams will be honored on the field prior to Saturday's 2 p.m. game.

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