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Mississippi State will begin 2013 preseason baseball practice Friday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field sporting its highest preseason national ranking since 1989.

Baseball America ranked John Cohen’s fifth MSU baseball edition at No. 5 in its annual preseason poll announced Thursday by the Durham, N.C.-based publication. State picked up a fourth top 20 ranked Thursday afternoon when USA TODAY Sports listed the Bulldogs in a tie for 18th in that publication’s coaches’ poll.

The No. 5 ranking by Baseball America is the program’s highest since State took a school-best No. 1 preseason national ranking into the 1989 campaign.

The Bulldogs open their formal preseason team workouts with a trio of afternoon scrimmages this weekend — Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. All MSU baseball practices are open to the public.

Collegiate Baseball ranked State 13th and Perfect Game at 16th in the two previously-announced preseason polls.

North Carolina heads up the Baseball America rankings, which include eight teams from the Southeastern Conference: No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 5 Mississippi State, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Kentucky, No. 13 Ole Miss and No. 17 Florida.

Ten voters among USA TODAY’s panel of 31 college coaches put No. 1 Arkansas atop their ballots. LSU (No. 3), South Carolina (No. 5), Vanderbilt (No. 8), Florida (No. 13), Kentucky (No. 15), Mississippi State (t-No. 18) and Texas A&M (No. 24) also represented the SEC in the rankings.

Mississippi State’s oldest sport opens its 123rd season of competition and a school-record 37-game home schedule Feb. 15-17 when the Bulldogs host Portland in a four-game set at Dudy Noble Field. The sale of State baseball season tickets, available through the MSU Athletic Ticket Office (www.HailState.com/tickets – 662-325-2600) have climbed to 5,283 and nearing the school-record 5,632 total distributed in 2010.

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