Posted: 9:36 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014
Winter weather prevented Hofstra from coming to Mississippi State to open the baseball season. Instead, the Bulldogs will square off against Western Carolina.
With Hofstra unable to escape the wintry clutches of Winter Storm Pax, Mississippi State had to scramble to find an opening day opponent, and the Bulldogs found a solid foe in one of the favorites to win the Southern Conference, the Western Carolina Catamounts.
Instead of facing The Pride in a four game set, the Bulldogs significantly increased their opening weekend competition with a three game set with the Catamounts, the 2013 Southern Conference regular season champions. Bobby Moranda's crew from Cullowhee, North Carolina, return many starters from their 2013 season.
Shortstop Aaron Attaway may be the best returning player for Western Carolina. In 2013, he hit .363 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs. Other returning infielders include first baseman Jacob Hoyle (.310, 11 HRs, 52 RBIs) and second baseman Bradley Strong (.295, 3 HRs, 28 RBIs). In the outfield, Dykota Spiess (.260, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs) and Cody Jones (.283, 3 HRs, 22 RBIs) return to the lineup, and they are joined by catcher Adam Martin (.286, 8 HRs, 36 RBIs) and designated hitter Luke Gragg (.293, 1 HR, 26 RBIs). Last year, the line up led the NCAA in home runs.
On the mound, the Catamounts return their ace, Jeremy Null. Last year, the now-junior pitcher finished the season 9-2 with 3.46 ERA and 109 strike outs. Another starter, Jordan Smith returns as well. He finished 2013 7-3 with a 3.73 ERA and 70 strikeouts. In the bullpen, Tyler Powell returns off a 34 appearance season that saw him fan 55 batters and post a 2.82 ERA.
Game times have been set for the weekend with action starting Friday at 6:30 pm, Saturday at 4 pm, and Sunday at 1:30 pm.