Samantha Ricketts and her Mississippi State softball team have shown some progress against Southeastern Conference competition in recent weeks.
After getting off to a dismal 0-13 start against conference foes, Mississippi State has since gone 3-2 in its last five SEC games, including 2-1 against South Carolina this past weekend to take the series from the Gamecocks. That’s not great, but it is progress. Much needed progress for Ricketts and the Bulldogs.
Now, State seems to have a bit of momentum and is looking to take on one of the best teams in the SEC. In a midweek doubleheader, the Mississippi State softball team will look to find a way to defeat the Tennessee Lady Vols.
Here’s what you need to know before the doubleheader begins:
How do the two teams compare at the plate?
The Tennessee Lady Vols are incredibly productive and proficient hitters, among the best in the Southeastern Conference. Tennessee is consistent, hitting .316 through 46 games so far this season, which is good for third-best in the SEC.
Tennessee is also third in the SEC in the following categories:
- Slugging percentage (.539)
- On base percentage (.406)
- Runs scored (277)
- Hits (370)
- Triples (11)
On the base paths, Tennessee is incredibly dangerous as well. The Lady Vols lead the SEC with 88 stolen bases and 97 steal attempts.
Mississippi State doesn’t beat out the Lady Vols in many categories, but the Bulldogs are better than the Lady Vols at hitting home runs (62 to 57), drawing walks (154 to 145), and getting on base after being hit by a pitch (56 to 39).
While State is still pretty good at the plate with a .274 batting average and a .472 slugging percentage, but Tennessee is notably better in that regard.
What about in the circle?
The Tennessee Lady Vols have remarkably dominant pitchers. It’s not a stretch to say that they might have the best group of pitchers (at least statistically) in the SEC this season.
So far this season, Tennessee has a 1.62 ERA while their opponents are batting with a meager .163 batting average against them. On top of that, Tennessee’s pitchers have combined to throw 26 complete games and have allowed just 169 hits this year.
And while Mississippi State’s batters often rely on hitting home runs to get the offense going, Tennessee hasn’t exactly allowed too many homers this year, giving up just 28 this season. That’ll make things difficult as the Bulldogs try to generate runs in this doubleheader.
Mississippi State’s pitchers have thrived at times during their more recent outings, but they just haven’t been as good as the Lady Vols. Through 317.2 innings pitched, Mississippi State has managed to have a 3.48 ERA. Opposing batters have a .242 batting average and have hit 42 home runs against the Bulldogs so far this season.
How have they performed against their recent opponents?
Over the past 10 games, Mississippi State has won exactly half of them. Those ten games are broken down like this:
- Lose 3-4 at Mizzou
- Lose 5-6 at Mizzou
- Win 8-0 vs. Jackson State
- Win 10-3 vs. Jackson State
- Lose 5-7 vs. Texas A&M
- Win 8-1 vs. Texas A&M
- Lose 1-8 vs. Texas A&M
- Lose 7-8 at South Carolina
- Win 6-2 at South Carolina
- Win 7-1 at South Carolina
So, the Bulldogs have won three of their last five, which is solid. In that stretch, State is averaging 5.8 runs per game. The Mississippi State softball team will need that kind of offense to show up against Tennessee.
Speaking of Tennessee, the Lady Vols have gone eight and two over their last 10 games. Here’s how that breaks down:
- Win 3-0 vs. Tennessee State
- Lose 2-3 at South Carolina
- Win 11-0 at South Carolina
- Win 4-2 at South Carolina
- Win 3-1 vs. Georgia
- Win 9-3 vs. Georgia
- Lose 8-11 vs. Georgia
- Win 2-1 at Auburn
- Win 3-2 at Auburn
- Win 2-1 at Auburn
So, yeah. The Tennessee softball team is good. Really, really good.
What is the history like between these two teams?
Mississippi State, historically, has not fared well against the Lady Vols. Of the 60 times these two teams have faced each other, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have won exactly 18 matchups.
Tennessee has taken the other 42 victories.
Which is a lot.
And it’s not exactly like Mississippi State is significantly better against the Lady Vols when the Bulldogs face them in Starkville. MSU has managed to win seven home games and has lost 19 against Tennessee. When the two teams have met up in Knoxville, things have been about the same. Tennessee has won 21 games there while the Bulldogs have managed to win just 10.
If you’re doing the math and thinking how that doesn’t add up, it’s because Tennessee has won two games at a neutral site while State has won one.
All in all, this is a series that the Lady Vols have no issue controlling.
The Bulldogs are fighting an uphill battle here. Tennessee is an incredible team that dominates in almost every aspect of the game.
It’s not that it’s impossible for Mississippi State to pull off a win in this doubleheader, it’s just that it’s incredibly difficult for the Mississippi State softball team to do. It’d be even more unlikely for the Bulldogs to come away with two wins here.
Which is something this team could desperately use as it works to polish up its resume prior to postseason play. Mississippi State’s RPI currently sits at No. 33, which is solid, but the Bulldogs have struggled mightily at times this year, especially in conference play.
All stats via SECSports.com