It will be a homecoming for three current Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday night in Biloxi. None more than Biloxi native Cody Brown who has become a vital part of MSU's lineup and a key piece of the outfield defensively.
Brown, along with pitchers Zac Houston and Konnor Pilkington, make their return to the Coast at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when the No. 5 Bulldogs play Louisiana-Monroe at the Biloxi Shuckers' MGM Park.
The game precedes MSU's weekend series at No. 10 LSU.
The Bulldogs (24-12-1, 8-7) are coming off their first SEC series loss after dropping all three games against Texas A&M on a not-so Super Bulldog Weekend in Starkville. Now the challenge is to put that series in the rearview. As an upperclassman, Brown will be counted on to help.
"Every day we take the field, I feel like we're going to win 100 percent. I think we've proved that and we're going to keep proving that," Brown said. "Everyone confidence. We have confidence in everyone that we put out there.
"We know what we're capable of and we know what we've got to do. We've got a tough rest of the way. Every weekend is tough in the SEC no matter who you play on the road or at home."
Brown is currently right in the middle of a logjam in the outfield with talent abounding between him, juniors Brent Rooker and Reid Humphreys, and standout freshman Jake Mangum. With captain Jacob Robson still out with a hand issue, Brown's playing time has increased this year.
The junior from Biloxi High has been clutch again this year at the plate with a .271 batting average and two grand slams. The second of those came two weeks ago helping MSU get some separation in their game two win at No. 1 Florida.
He followed that up by gunning down a runner at the plate in the Sunday game against the Gators, ending a dangerous inning to keep things scoreless. The Bulldogs went on to win the series. As Brown mentioned, the depth across the board is as good as it has been in Starkville.
"We've got plenty of guys that can go out there and get it done," Brown said. "We've got great starting pitching, great relief pitching and our offense and top notch, too. The strength of our team is that we have depth everywhere. We have tons of depth in the outfield especially."
Houston (2-0, 2.00) will earn the start Wednesday, head coach John Cohen announced this week. The Poplarville native will make his third start of the year but first in the midweek.
He has flashed an eyebrow-raising velocity of mid-to-high 90s with his fastball. In 18 innings this year, the junior pitcher has struck out 23 batters and walked 12.
Cohen said Houston likely will only throw a couple of innings Wednesday as they look to utilize him when MSU travels down south to Baton Rouge, La.
Pilkington, the former East Central ace, was moved off of the midweek starter spot and has been in the weekend mix for MSU. In eight appearances -- with six starts -- the right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. He has 21 strikeouts and 10 walks in 21 1/3 innings of work. He's also holding opposing batters to a .228 batting average.
Hopes of hosting
In order for the Bulldogs to bounce back from their sweep last weekend, winning in Biloxi becomes even bigger -- especially with hosting aspirations still on the table.
"Most of these kids come out of a culture of summer baseball where they're playing 50 to 60 games," Cohen said. "They're kids. They can digest that and move on forward. I think all of them are going to respond well and get excited about a big midweek game in Biloxi and an opportunity to play a good LSU team."
The Bulldogs got good news on Tuesday as Cohen updated the hamstring injury of Saturday starter Austin Sexton. The junior pitcher who was injured early in the ball game against Texas A&M last Saturday was feeling better this week according to Cohen and was expected to be in the rotation when MSU heads to Baton Rouge this weekend.