by Knox Bardeen
HOOVER, Ala. -- In the second game of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. on Wednesday, the third-seeded Florida Gators (41-15, 22-8 SEC) will play the No. 6 seed, Mississippi State (34-21, 14-16 SEC). The game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the Alabama-Arkansas game and will be broadcast on CSS.
Florida took the season series over Mississippi State this season, 2-1, in early April. After losing a 2-run game to open the series, the Gators belted out 18 runs in game two and won a decided Game 3 by two runs. Wednesday will be the 13th time Florida and Mississippi State have met in the SEC Tournament, each team winning six times.
The Bulldogs will start freshman Evan Mitchell Wednesday. The right-handed Mitchell is 5-1 with a 3.48 ERA this season in four starts and eight relief appearances. His record is 2-1 with a 6.46 ERA in his four starts and he hasn't started a game since his April 17 start against then-13th-ranked Arkansas. Mitchell has pitched extremely well in relief lately, throwing 4 13 innings of relief at Memphis on May 17 and striking out 11 batters.
Florida will use junior Tommy Toledo to start on Wednesday. Toledo made just two starts this season, going a total of 4 13 innings and losing both games. He's 3-3 overall, with a 3.10 ERA in 29 innings of work. Toledo hasn't started since April 20 and hasn't made it out of the third inning in any of his two starts.
No team in SEC history has qualified for the SEC Tournament more times than the Gators' 31 appearances. They are 49-52 overall at the tournament.
The last time Florida and Mississippi State met in the SEC Tournament was in 2002 when Florida eliminated Mississippi State.
The Gators have won the SEC Tournament five times: 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1991.
Florida leads the overall series record against Mississippi State, 52-40. However, the Gators are just 2-4 against the Bulldogs at neutral sites.
In his four years with the Gators, Florida coach Kevin OSullivan has an .826 winning percentage at home, .513 at opponents stadiums and is just .250 at neutral sites.
Florida beat Mississippi State two-of-three times this season, and had series wins over three of the other tournament teams: Vanderbilt, Georgia and Alabama. The Gators did not play Auburn this year, and lost season series to South Carolina and Arkansas.
Bulldog starter Evan Mitchell has not allowed an earned run in his last nine innings of work, all relief innings. Hes allowed just six hits over that time and struck out 14 batters.
Mississippi State enters Wednesdays game having lost three of its last five games after being outscored 43-21.
The Bulldogs have won just one of their seven series against teams among the tournament field. They beat Auburn, and lost series to South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Alabama.
Mississippi State is 2-0 this year at neutral-site games and 11-2 in middle-of-the-week contests.