The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Bulldogs battle LSU for SEC West title to end regular season

Alayna Stevens | The Reflector
Bulldogs battle LSU for SEC West title to end regular season

One of the biggest rivalries in college baseball, Louisiana State University versus Mississippi State University, will decide the champion of the SEC west.

There are a plethora of storylines heading into the the weekend series as the No. 13 Bulldogs  (34-19, 17-10 SEC) face-off against No. 6 Tigers (36-17, 18-9 SEC). With MSU a game behind LSU, the team that wins the series will finish the season on top of the SEC West standings and potentially the SEC standings. 

MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro will face his previous team, where he was the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for three years before taking over at MSU.

Cannizaro said he thinks it will be cool and not awkward to coach across from a lot of players he helped recruit and coach. While he does still want to beat them, Cannizaro said he does not deny he still wants LSU to do well.

“You are in the cages with them, you are on the field with them,” Cannizaro said. “You’re eating with them, you are doing all kinds getting to know those kids deeper than their swings, deeper than starting a double play and those kind of things. I certainly want the best for those kids, my family wants the best for those kids, but at the same time we’re in a completely different jersey now and we want to beat them.”

Unless MSU hosts a regional, the series will be the last time Bulldog fans get to see the Left Field Lounge and Dudy Noble Field in its current condition. MSU will start construction on the upgraded stadium after the season. There will be a ground-breaking ceremony in-between the stadium and the Palmeiro Center at 2 p.m. on Saturday before the final regular season game of 2017.

“It really is the greatest environment in college baseball and the crowds are going to be tremendous here this weekend,” Cannizaro said. “I think we are going to honor the past and do all those kind of things and kind of send this stadium out in style.”

The baseball games themselves will feature LSU’s outstanding starting pitching rotation against the bats of Brent Rooker and the rest of MSU’s offense.

LSU’s starting rotation boasts a one-two punch in game one starter Alex Lange and game two starter Jared Poche’. Their starting rotation have gone an average of six innings a game this season.

Senior Poche’ was drafted in the 14th round of the MLB draft last year but decided to go back to LSU. The Lutcher, Louisiana, native is 8-3 on the season and has thrown 79.2 innings in his 13 starts. Batters are hitting for an average of .231 against Poche’. His ERA is 3.16 and he has thrown one complete game this season.

Lange, a junior from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is boasting a 2.92 ERA and is 6-5 on the season. He started 13 games, throwing three complete games, and has pitched a total of 83.1 innings. Batters are hitting for an average of .236 against Lange this season. He has thrown 100 strikeouts on the season, so he averages 1.2 strikeouts an inning.

Brent Rooker said he and the rest of the team are excited to the challenge of LSU’s high caliber arms.

“Alex Lange is going to be a first round draft pick and Jared Poche’ is one of the best pitchers, really in SEC history with the amount of wins and the amount of success he has had in this league for four years,” Rooker said. “So that is the reason you come to the league is to face guys like that, to live up to that challenge and to see where you stand against those guys.”

LSU’s challenge is battling MSU’s Brent Rooker, Jake Mangum and Ryan Gridley at the top of MSU’s batting order. Rooker, the redshirt junior and Germantown, Mississippi, native has a batting average of .406, he has batted 71 runs this season, hit 20 home runs, boasts a slugging percentage of .885, and has an on-base percentage of .514.

With Rooker’s historical success this season, he is seeing less and less hittable balls. He issued walks more and more of late as teams would rather put him on first than let him hit. He has been walked 38 times this season.

“It is just having to become a little bit more patient because I am not getting as much to hit,” Rooker said. “I am taking a few more walks, just something I have improved on throughout the season is just kind of learning when to take my walks instead of trying to do too much. Just kind of take what the pitchers are giving me, which a lot in the last couple weeks is balls, not much to hit.”

Mangum and Gridley have swapped spots in the batting order. Mangum has been the leadoff man all season long for MSU, but on Tuesday night, Cannizaro moved him to the three-hole behind Rooker. Cannizaro said he moved the sophomore from Pearl, Mississippi, behind Rooker to challenge teams that pitch around Rooker. Moving Mangum, who won the SEC batting title last season, behind Rooker makes it harder for teams to pitch around Rooker.

“When Jake Mangum is healthy, he has the best hand-eye coordination out of anybody in America,” Cannizaro said. “He gets hits, it doesn’t matter if it is right-handed, left-handed, side-armers, it doesn’t matter. So when they pitch around Brent Rooker, they have to face him.”

The series will start tonight at 6 p.m. and will broadcast on the SEC Network. Cannizaro said Konnor Pilkington will start game one, Denver McQuary will start game two and game three’s starter will be decided on Friday night after game two ends.               

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Reflector

Your donation will support the student journalists of Mississippi State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Reflector

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Bulldogs battle LSU for SEC West title to end regular season