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Representing two of the five teams battling for the final three spots in next month's SEC Softball Tournament, Mississippi State (31-16, 7-11 SEC) and South Carolina (27-20, 4-14 SEC) will battle it out in a critical three-game conference series this weekend at the MSU Softball Stadium.

The Maroon and White's conclusion to its 2013 home schedule is part of Senior Weekend, starting with a 6 p.m. first pitch Friday. Saturday's game, as well as Sunday's Senior Day contest, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Admission is free, but for those who cannot attend, free live audio as well as video will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).


"Both teams are fighting for position in the SEC Tournament and the postseason," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "All three games are going to go down to the wire. We are going to try to take it one pitch at a time and one moment at a time."


State is currently ninth and Carolina 12th in the SEC standings, with the top 10 teams making the conference tournament. The Gamecocks can move up significantly with some success this weekend, but will have to snap a five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. Starkville's Team has won 18 of the last 21 games in the series.


Stuedeman's 2013 senior class is comprised of five players, and represents the first senior class to record back-to-back winning seasons since 2008. They are also the nucleus of a squad that currently owns a .660 winning percentage, the best single-season winning percentage in the since the program restarted in 1997. Thanks to the quintet, MSU is ranked 25th in the latest RPI, its highest ranking in two seasons under Stuedeman, who is also 23-6 in the month of April in two seasons as head coach.


The Bulldogs are three wins away from surpassing last year's win total of 33 (33-24), but have needed every inning to tally the total. Nearly half (22-of-47) of MSU's games this season have been decided by two runs or less. State is 11-7 in one-run games and 2-2 in two-run games.


Great pitching and solid defense has been one of the reasons for State's close-game success this season. After pitching five shutouts in 57 games total in 2012, the MSU pitchers have doubled last year's total with 10 so far in 2013. On 11 other occasions, opponents have scored just one run (10-1). In conference games only, MSU is fourth in the SEC with a .971 fielding percentage. The Bulldogs' .968 overall fielding percentage in 2013 ranks third in school history.


On offense, MSU is led lately by senior outfielder Jessica Cooley, who in her last seven games is hitting .562 with a .682 on-base percentage and a 1.625 slugging percentage. The powerful righty has tallied 11 RBIs, seven runs, five homers, four walks and three stolen bases during the aforementioned stretch. Cooley was instrumental in helping MSU upset then-No. 4 Alabama last Friday at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The Alabama native crushed a triple to the wall in right and scored the game-winning run, helping the Maroon and White snap the Crimson Tide's 27-game winning streak against MSU dating back to April 2004.


She is part of a 2013 offense which is the most balanced offense statistically in school history, owning the single-season school records for home runs per game (0.96), walks per game (3.66) and stolen bases per game (2.32).


For live in-game updates of the series, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.

4/26 10:17 AM | IP: Logged
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