March 15, 2019 1:49:00 PM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The Arizona Diamondbacks already have a good idea of what Mississippi State pitcher Ethan Small can do.
After ranking 22nd in the Southeastern Conference last year with 122 strikeouts as a redshirt sophomore, Small was scooped up by the Diamondbacks in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball first-year draft.
Small, a left-hander, is dominating hitters even more this year.
So when the seventh-ranked Diamond Dawgs open their conference season at 5:30 tonight at fourth-ranked Florida, Small is getting the starting call for MSU. Small (1-0) has struck out 40 in his first four starts, ranking him first in the SEC and fifth in the nation.
Mississippi State (16-1) arrives at Florida's McKethan Stadium riding a 12-game win streak, the team's longest streak since 2013 when they won 17 straight.
"If you would have told me we'd be where we are right now at the beginning (of the SEC season), I'd tell you I'd take it," MSU coach Chris Lemonis said after Wednesday's 18-1 win over Grambling State. "I think we've learned a lot. We had to learn so much about our pitching, I felt like, and our position players, but mainly our pitching."
After MSU begins the showdown series with Small tonight, JT Ginn, a freshman, will start Saturday's game and Keegan James, a redshirt junior, will start Sunday's game. Together, they are a combined 7-0.
Small will go against Florida starter Tommy Mace, a sophomore right-hander who has won all four of his starts this season.
Florida (14-5) has won four straight, and scored 39 runs in its last three games. The Gators scored 20 on Tuesday against Florida State.
The Diamond Dawgs are cruising into Florida on the heels of Wednesday's 18-1 win over Grambling State. Senior outfielder Jake Mangum, the SEC leader in hits last season with 101, had four hits to bring his career hit total to 301. He is the fifth in MSU history to reach 300 hits.
MSU's only loss came in the fifth game of the year, a 1-0 10-inning loss to Southern Miss on February 22.
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