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No. 19 MSU softball faces No. 5 Florida in critical conference series

 

ing up the school’s charts this season with 15 home runs.

ing up the school’s charts this season with 15 home runs. Photo by: Kelly Price/Mississippi State Media Relations

 

Scott Walters

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State freshman catcher Mia Davidson does not know how she will handle her first Super Bulldog Weekend. 

 

If her track record in Starkville is any indication, the Hillsborough, North Carolina native will handle everything just fine. 

 

"I know this is the biggest weekend of our season," Davidson said. "I am really excited to see what it is all about. The place is going to be packed and everybody is going to be pulling for us. It will be an exciting time for all of us." 

 

No. 19 MSU (33-12 overall, 6-9 Southeastern Conference) welcomes No. 5 Florida (38-7, 12-3) for a three-game Super Bulldog Weekend three-game SEC series this weekend. 

 

The opener is at 6 tonight at Nusz Park. 

 

When it comes to Super Bulldog Weekend, coach Vann Stuedeman has a pretty good track record, too. 

 

"Still remember my first Super Bulldog Weekend, Kentucky was ranked and we took all three games in the series," Stuedeman said. "A few years later, we took a series from Alabama on this weekend. Don't tell me it's not a special weekend. I am glad softball gets to help be center stage." 

 

Davidson has been center stage throughout the season for the Bulldogs. 

 

She leads the team with a 426 average and 15 home runs. On Thursday, she was chosen as one of 25 finalists for Schutt Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I National Freshman on the Year. 

 

Davidson leads the SEC with an .865 fielding percentage. Her home run total is third best in a season in program history. 

 

"You really can't get caught up in the awards and honors because there is a lot of season left to be played," Davidson said. "Right now, it's fun for all of us playing a game that we have always loved. This team is close. That is what has made it so successful. We really believe in each other." 

 

Stuedeman knew the impact Davidson could make on her program. The recruitment process began in seventh grade. She headlined the most highly-regarded signing class under Stuedeman's watch. Two of the newcomers are out with season-ending injuries. That has not kept the Bulldogs from flirting with the best start in program history. 

 

"There isn't anything Mia can't do on a softball field," Stuedeman said. "If she was a baseball player, she would have a chance to make millions of dollars one day. That is how gifted she is." 

 

Davidson has three pickoffs and eight caught stealings, again keeping her among the conference leaders. 

 

This weekend, MSU will try to win a conference series at home for the first time this season. The series wins have come at Missouri and Ole Miss. 

 

With a Ratings Percentage Index of 21, MSU is on the cusp of hosting a regional for the first time in program history. The RPI can be helped with the final three conference opponents -- Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina -- all being in the Top 12. 

 

The Nusz Park attendance records are littered with Super Bulldog Weekend games. Campus will be packed with alumni in town for the spring football and baseball games. That has always led to a spirited weekend at the three-year-old park. 

 

MSU took two of three from South Carolina a year ago on Super Bulldog Weekend. The Saturday game was watched by a crowd of 1,413. 

 

"There is nothing like Super Bulldog Weekend," said MSU junior first baseman Sarai Niu, a California native. "You can smell the grills. It's neat that the fans actually tailgate for softball games. Even though West Coast softball, it's not something I am used to." 

 

While Florida has won two of the last four national champions and also played in last year's title series, Stuedeman believes her squad has a chance. 

 

"You want to have something to play for when April comes to an end," Stuedeman said. "We have certainly done that. The crowd is going to be working so hard on our behalf. We will need to find some of that Super Bulldog Weekend magic. It's possible." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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