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SEC Tournament Gameday: MSU v Florida pre-game


David Miller



Southeastern Conference Tournament at Regions Park (Hoover, Ala.) 


Game 2: No. 3 Florida (41-15, 22-8) v No. 6 Mississippi State (34-21, 14-16) 


Florida won season series 2-1 in Starkville. 




---MSU starting pitcher: 


Fr. RHP Evan Mitchell (5-1, 3.48 ERA) - Mitchell has four starts this season and threw 67 pitches in MSU''s 18-0 loss to Florida on April 9. Mitchell gave up two earned runs on four hits, walked one and struck out one. Mitchell hasn''t started a game since a pitching 2/3 of the first inning against Arkansas on April 17. However, he struck out 11 in a relief appearance at Memphis on May 17.  




---Florida starting pitcher: 


Jr. RHP Tommy Toledo (3-3, .310 ERA) - Toledo has started two of his 22 appearances this season. Toledo gave up two hits and struck out two batters in Florida''s win over Kentucky Saturday. In Florida''s 3-1 win over MSU in the rubber-match of their season series, Toledo gave up a hit and a walk in 2/3 of an inning. 




---Utilizing the dimensions of Regions Park 




Mississippi State''s offense has been built for its home park, Dudy Noble Field.  


The deep gaps make for one of the SEC''s toughest to drive the ball out for home runs. The Bulldogs'' offensive statistics this season reflect an approach coach John Cohen foreshadowed with the NCAA''s new bat regulations and the dimensions at DNF at the beginning of the year: manufacturing runs with plate discipline and base-running.  


The Bulldogs are third in the SEC in on-base percentage (.387), first in walks (245), second in hit-by-pitch (82), second in sacrifice flies and fourth in stolen bases (82).  


Conversely, Florida is eighth in walks, 10th in hit-by-pitches and eighth in stolen bases with nearly half as many as the Bulldogs.  


The Gators however, lead the league in home runs with 52, twice as many as MSU. Florida also is second in the SEC in batting average.  


At Regions Park, site of the Southeastern Conference tournament, the eight teams involved will play to a park with dimensions longer than those of their home parks -- even Dudy Noble.  


Regions Park measures 340 feet to left and right field, 385 in the gaps and 405 to center field. For comparison, Florida''s Alfred A. McKethan Stadium measures 329 feet to left, 325 to right, 365 to left-center, 375 to right-center and 400 to center field.  


"I think any team you ask, pitching and defense is gonna help you win games," Florida coach Kevin O''Sullivan said, "But I think even probably more so because Hoover does have a big ballpark. I think a lot of that does have to do with outfield defense, too. You got to have some guys who can cover some ground out there. So it''s always been a pitchers'' ballpark, but more so (this year) because of the bats. But I think teams are swinging the bats better now than two months ago. I think guys are getting used to the barrels, I think they''re more used to it. 


"As much as the pitching maybe had the advantage the first half of the year, I don''t see that gap that big right now the way some teams are swinging the bats." 


However, for a team that''s thrived in a bigger ballpark, the Bulldogs feel like they have an advantage over teams who thrive off power.  


"I think it helps out teams like us and Vandy, who have a big ballpark," MSU''s Ryan Collins said. "We play the small-ball game and we rely on getting base hits and hitting gaps. We''re not like South Carolina and Auburn that are gonna go out and try and drop tanks. I think it plays to our advantage." 






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