April 22, 2014 9:24:04 AM
STARKVILLE -- The starting pitcher for the No. 20 Mississippi State baseball team's game at 6:35 tonight against No. 16 Ole Miss in the Governors Cup matchup at Trustmark Park remains a mystery.
Coming off a three-game weekend sweep of Missouri and the start of another three-game Southeastern Conference series looming Thursday against Texas A&M, MSU (26-15, 10-8 SEC) listed its starting pitcher as "TBA" for the annual matchup against Ole Miss in Pearl.
Today's game is MSU's only likely chance in the next three weeks to earn a quality win until it faces league leader Alabama on the road in the final regular-season series.
"The game (today) is a tough one," MSU coach John Cohen said Sunday after the sweep at Missouri. "We are going to compete our hearts out. Sometimes when you're at your most tired and at the end of your rope you can reach down deep and really do some special things. Hopefully we'll come out (today) and play well."
Cohen and MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson likely will choose from freshmen Dakota Hudson, Austin Sexton, or Vance Tatum. Sexton and Tatum (starter) pitched against Alcorn State on April 15. The left-handed Tatum allowed two runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four. Tatum received the emergency call 30 minutes before the first pitch because Hudson was suffering from back tightness and shoulder discomfort. Cohen hoped more rest would lead to Hudson being available against Missouri, but the freshman from Tennessee wasn't used, which could set him up to see his first action since April 6 at LSU. He allowed six runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Tigers in his first appearance in nearly a month.
Sexton has a 21.60 ERA in 3 1/3 innings against SEC competition, while Tatum, who is being groomed as the second left-hander in the bullpen behind junior Jacob Lindgren, has a 9.00 ERA in three appearances (two innings).
Ole Miss (30-11, 10-8) ended its series loss vs. LSU on Saturday. The extra day of rest will allow Rebels coach Mike Bianco to send left-handed senior Jeremy Massie (2-2, 2.34) to the mound for his seventh start of the season. Massie has 25 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .224 against him. Massie has pitched against MSU twice this season. He recorded a ground ball out in the eighth inning before giving way to Josh Laxer in MSU's dramatic comeback win in 10 innings. The next day, Massie pitched the final three innings and earned the save in a 12-2 victory that clinched the series in Starkville. He held MSU to two hits and struck out three.
Since that loss to Ole Miss in Starkville, MSU won four games in a row as it tries to maintain a hold on a bid to the 2014 NCAA tournament. A win tonight would even the season series against a Rebels, who are ranked in the top 10 of the Ratings Percentage Index.
"A lot of people look at whether you win a series or win three games," Cohen said Saturday after his team beat Missouri. "Winning a series is a good thing. However, the final game of this series is very important. We need to win games, and it does not matter the opponent or which day or where we stand in a series. We need wins."
n No. 8 Alabama baseball team will play host to Southern Mississippi: At Tuscaloosa, Ala., Coming off a Southeastern Conference road series win at Tennessee, the No. 8 Alabama baseball team (28-12, 12-6 SEC) will play host to Southern Mississippi (24-17, 13-5 C-USA) at 6:05 tonight at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
This week, Alabama is ranked No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and Perfect Game USA. Alabama remained in the top-10 in the Baseball America poll, earning a top-10 national ranking in back-to-back weeks by Baseball America for the first time since the 2006 season. It's the highest by Baseball America since a No. 4 ranking on June 5, 2006. UA is also ranked No. 17 by the NCBWA and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
After winning the first two games of the series at Tennessee (8-5 and 7-6), Alabama closed the series with a 10-9 loss, which snapped a six-game win streak for the Tide. Alabama has won 13 of its last 17 games and 24 of the last 31 overall.
n MSU's Silkwood earns SEC honor: At Birmingham, Ala., With a complete-game shutout Friday at No. 4 Tennessee and another strong start Sunday against the Lady Vols, Mississippi State freshman Alexis Silkwood has been named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week. It is the first such honor of Silkwood's career and her third league award this year as she was selected as the SEC Freshman of the Week on Feb. 17 and March 3.
It is the second-straight week a Bulldog has been named the SEC Pitcher of the Week as senior Alison Owen received the award on April 14. For MSU, it is the second time in program history with back-to-back SEC Pitcher of the Week selections as Owen won the award on Feb. 25 and March 4, 2013.
During last week's four games, Silkwood went 2-0 while helping the Bulldogs to a 3-1 record, including the series victory at No. 4 Tennessee. She held batters to a .200 average and struck out 23 in 15 1/3 innings.
With the weekend's two wins at Tennessee, MSU became the first program to win the series against both Alabama and Tennessee in the same season since Florida in 2011. MSU improved to 35-15, which is tied with the 2008 squad for the best 50-game mark in program history.
Staff Reports were included in this report.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.