Two teams with a good shot to be playing baseball in Omaha come this June are about to possibly provide a postseason preview in Starkville.
No. 3 Mississippi State plays host to No. 2 Arkansas in a three-game series this weekend with both the Bulldogs and Razorbacks looking to make an early-season statement.
So what do you need to know as State and Arkansas get set to face off? Let's take a look.
- Friday, March 26 - 6:30 p.m. central
- Saturday, March 27 - 2 p.m. central
- Sunday, March 28 - 2 p.m. central
Where to watch/listen
You'll have several ways to keep up with all the action this weekend. First off, all games of the series can be viewed by streaming from online to your device of choice courtesy of SEC Network+. In addition, Sunday's series finale will also be carried on regular television by SEC Network.
On the radio, you can listen to Friday's game via the MSU Baseball Radio Network. You can find your affiliate by CLICKING HERE. It bears mentioning that with the MSU men's basketball team playing in the NIT on both Saturday and Sunday, radio conflicts could make those two days local-only radio broadcasts for baseball. So you might want to make note of that if you're planning to listen to the Saturday and Sunday baseball games.
No matter where you are or what other sports are going on, you can access audio of all the baseball games via TuneIn.com or the TuneIn app. Fans can simply search "Mississippi State baseball" on the TuneIn app. TuneIn is available for download on iOS and Android, plus more than 200 connected devices. Game audio can also be heard via Mississippi State's website HERE.
Who's scheduled to start on the mound?
Friday: MSU LHP Christian Macleod (2-1, 1.74 ERA) vs. Arkansas LHP Patrick Wicklander (0-0, 2.51 ERA)
Saturday: MSU RHP Will Bednar (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Arkansas RHP Zebulon Vermillion (2-0, 2.13 ERA)
Sunday: MSU RHP Jackson Fristoe (2-1, 1.71 ERA) vs. Arkansas LHP Lael Lockhart (1-1, 2.38 ERA)
Up to this point
No. 3 Mississippi State enters this weekend's series at 17-4 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The Bulldogs have won 10 of their last 11 games, including taking two out of three games last weekend at then-No. 19 LSU.
Arkansas opens play tonight with a 16-3 overall record with a 2-1 conference mark. The Razorbacks have won their last four, but just prior to that, did scuffle through a three-game losing streak that saw them suffer defeats to Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma before also falling 16-1 in their SEC opener at Alabama. The Razorbacks bounced back to take the next two games from the Crimson Tide and beat Memphis twice earlier this week.
On the mound
As a team, the Razorbacks have an earned run average of 3.80 and opponents are hitting .203 off of Arkansas pitching. That ERA is a bit deceiving though because of a couple of factors. One, a large chunk of the damage against Razorback arms was done versus four little-used relievers. Also, 15 of the 71 earned runs Arkansas has allowed this year came in the one blowout loss at Alabama.
For Mississippi State, everyone is well aware by now the backbone of the Bulldogs is their pitching. MSU has the second-lowest team ERA in the nation at 2.30. The only team ahead of State is Rider, who has a 2.03 ERA, but has only played four games this season while MSU has played 21.
At the plate
Arkansas possesses an overall potent offense with similar characteristics to the LSU lineup Mississippi State faced a week ago. The Razorbacks hit a respectable, but not breathtaking, .279 as a team entering Friday's action. However Arkansas strength is in, well, its strength. The Razorbacks have blasted 31 home runs as a team. That total ranks fourth in all of Division I college baseball.
And it bears noting that Arkansas' pop is spread throughout its roster. Of the 15 Razorbacks to get an at-bat this season, 12 of them have at least one home run. Overall, Arkansas is 15th in the nation in slugging percentage (.486). It's a lineup and bench that can seemingly strike at any time.
Mississippi State hasn't been as flashy as Arkansas offensively, but the Bulldogs have been about just as effective. MSU has actually scored 15 more runs than the Razorbacks so far in 2021. That has been aided as Mississippi State has averaged eight runs and nine hits per game over the last five contests. Of course two of those games were against non-conference, midweek competition.