Last summer Mississippi State travelled to Gainesville, Fla. with a trip to the College World Series on the line. This time around Omaha, Neb. May not be hanging in the balance but don’t tell that to the Bulldogs.
“They know what’s at stake. These kids are so savvy,” said Mississippi State head coach John Cohen of his team’s knowledge of where they stand in regards to potentially hosting a NCAA Regional. “They are always talking about that stuff, that’s what college kids do. That’s the fun of being a college baseball player. They are just uber aware of what’s going on.”
However, they’ll have a difficult challenge in front of them with the No. 6 Florida Gators.
From top to bottom the Gators (36-13, 14-10) are as good of a team as you’ll find in college baseball. They have the right combination of experience and talent, particularly on the mound.
Hudson Randall will bring a 5-1 record and a 3.53 ERA into the series opener and will be matched up with one of the best the SEC has to offer in MSU’s Chris Stratton (9-0, 2.19).
“The stuff part isn’t what’s phenomenal. What’s phenomenal is what’s between his ears,” Cohen said of Randall. “He just knows how to pitch. The more you watch him he creates that sinking movement to the left hander and he cuts that thing away from the right-hander. He really works both sides of the plate.”
At the plate State will receive a boost with the return of outfielder / pitcher Taylor Stark to the lineup. Stark has been sidelined with a hamstring injury for the past six weeks but Cohen feels he’s 100 percent and excited to have him in the lineup.
“I think he is a very skilled hitter and not having him for the last five or six weeks has hurt our club,” said Cohen who will sever the second game of his two-game suspension. “He’s got some thunder in that bat and he is a very athletic kid. Having him back means a lot.”
Game one of the three game series is set for a 6 p.m. first pitch and can be heard on the Mississippi State radio network.