MSU RHP Aaron Weatherford (2-0, 2.70) vs. Florida RHP Bryan Augenstein (2-3, 2.97)
MSU LHP Justin Pigott (2-1, 4.03) vs. Florida LHP Stephen Locke (2-2, 5.40)
MSU RHP Josh Johnson (2-0, 3.38) vs. Florida RHP Billy Bullock (2-3, 3.24)
BY GREGG ELLIS
Mississippi State has spent a lot of time on the road lately, a trend that's not going to change this weekend.
After four consecutive games away from Dudy Noble Field, the Bulldogs open Southeastern Conference play at Florida.
First pitch is slated for 5:30 p.m. today, with game times set for 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon Sunday.
"It's a great bonding experience," MSU coach Ron Polk laughed.
The Bulldogs own a 10-3 ledger after dropping an 11-8 decision to Dallas Baptist on Wednesday.
So far, State's strength has been at the plate.
MSU leads the SEC with a .374 clip, but its ERA of 4.54 is last. However, the starting rotation of Aaron Weatherford, Josh Johnson and Justin Pigott all fall below that number.
Weatherford, today's starter, has appeared in three games and is 2-0 with 2.70 ERA in 20 innings pitched. He has struck out 25 batters and has issued only four walks. Opponents are hitting just .211 against him.
The Gators will counter with righty Bryan Augenstein (2-3, 2.97).
"I'm pleased, but we don't have enough pitching depth right now to make me comfortable," Polk said. "The season will come down to if we can keep the rotation healthy."
Depth hasn't been an issue at other positions.
Unlike years past, Polk has options. Injuries aren't as magnified because he now has the numbers to plug in holes.
That's been evident at the plate. Regardless of the lineup, State is hitting at a consistent pace that's been absent the last few seasons.
Three players, led by Ed Easley, are ranked in the Top 10 in the SEC in hitting.
Easley owns a .500 average with a team-high 27 hits. Mitch Moreland has a .471 clip, followed by Brandon Turner at .420.
Florida (10-10) is hitting .289 and has a team ERA of 3.66.
"We aren't at a position to where we'd like to be at this point," Gators coach Pat McMahon said. "We just have a lot of new faces.
"We've played a heck of a schedule, which isn't always the scenario you'd like with younger players.
Florida has played seven games against ranked foes, posting a 2-5 mark.