by Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeen
With one weekend Southeastern Conference series remainingand the Western Division up for grabs, Mississippi State (32-19, 13-14 SEC)will close out the season by hosting Louisiana State University (34-19, 11-16SEC) at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Miss. Thursdays game will be broadcaston CSS at 7 p.m. ET 6 p.m CT.LSU will send freshman KevinGausman to the mound on Thursday. Gausman has a 4-6 record with a 3.73 ERAand leads the Tigers with 79 strikeouts. Gausman was named SEC Freshman of theWeek on Monday after a complete-game shutout of Tennessee in his most recentouting. In his last three starts Gausman has notched 25 strikeouts and moved upto No. 4 in the SEC in strikeouts. Hes given up just three earned runs overhis last three starts, totaling 23 innings.Mississippi State will counter with sophomore Luis Pollorena. The southpaw is 6-3with a 3.02 ERA, and will be making his third start of the season after beingmoved into the rotation from the bullpen. Pollorena gave up four earned runs in6 23 innings of work in his last start, striking out four Ole Miss hitters andwalking two.The Bulldogs are in a four-way tie for first place in SECsWestern Division at 13-14. LSU is in last place, but just two games out offirst and mathematically still alive with a shot at the divisional crown. LSUwould have to sweep Mississippi State and get a lot of help elsewhere in theSEC to move into first place, and with all that help, it would still just be ashare of the title if things went perfectly for the Tigers.With a sweep of LSU, the Bulldogs are guaranteed, at least,a share of first place in the division.
LSU is playing solid baseball of late, winning nine-straight home games and 10 of its last 12. Kevin Gausmans SEC Freshman of the Week honors this week marks the second time this season hes been bestowed with the award. His complete-game shutout of the Volunteers was the first by a true freshman at LSU since Brett Laxton in the 1993 College World Series championship game.
LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook not only went 9-for-14 last weekend against Tennessee, but he leads the SEC in home runs (13), triples (5), slugging percentage (.697), total bases (129) and steals (28). This season, Mahtook has 20 times provided the Tigers with a multi-hit game.
Mississippi State leads the overall series against LSU 195-166-1, but LSU has won nine of the last 12 games.
The battle for the SECs batting title will be waged this weekend between Mississippi States Jarrod Parks and LSUs Mikie Mahtook. Parks ranks No. 1 with a .398 (68-for-171) batting average, while Mahtook ranks second with a .373 (69-for-185) average.
LSUs Mikie Mahtook may have the SEC lead with 28 stolen bases, but Bulldog Nick Vickerson is just three behind with 25 swipes. Watch Vickerson and Mahtook on the basepaths this weekend.