MSU - Georgia Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and Georgia will tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Georgia.

Weather - Friday should see temperatures in the high 50s during the game with a 10% chance for precipitation. Winds should be about 11 mph and from the west. | The temperatures should be in the low 70s during the Saturday game with a 10% chance of precipitation. Winds should be 13 to 15 mph and from the west. | Sunday should see temperatures in the mid to upper 70s for most of the game with no chance for rain. Winds should be from the southwest and about 5 mph.

Gametimes (Central Time) - Friday 5:30 p.m. | Saturday 1:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Coaches - Dave Perno is in his 10th season at Georgia. During that span his teams have recorded an overall record of 305-245-1 and an SEC record of 125-141-1. He has had two of his teams win the overall SEC championship. Five of his nine teams have made NCAA post-season play with three of those teams appearing in Super Regional play. Each of those three have also gone on to play in the College World Series. In post-season NCAA play his teams have accumulated a 26-15 record. Two of the three teams that have played in the College World Series have ended up runner-ups to the eventual national champions in the series.

John Cohen, who is in his third season at Mississippi State, came to State from Kentucky where he won the overall SEC Championship in 2006. At Kentucky, John Cohen's teams were 175-112 overall and 63-85 in SEC play. In his two seasons at MSU, his teams are 48-62 overall. In five seasons at Kentucky and two at Mississippi State, he has taken two of his teams to NCAA post-season play, although neither team advanced to Super Regional play. His teams have an overall NCAA post-season record of 4-4.

Georgia Home Record/Mississippi State Road Record - Georgia is 5-6 at home while MSU is 2-2 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Georgia will start sophomore LHP Alex Wood (2-3, 3.86 ERA) Friday, junior RHP Michael Palazzone (3-1, 2.15 ERA) Saturday and junior LHP Craig Gullickson (2-1, 5.21 ERA) Sunday.

Wood has been up and down during his last four outings, which includes starts against Florida State, UCLA, South Carolina and LSU. His best outing was against UCLA when he led his team to a 6-2 win by allowing just 1 run on 4 hits and 0 walks while striking out 11 in 7 innings. He continued that trend by following that game with a 2-run, 7-hit, 8.1-inning performance against South Carolina. His last outing was his least effective, with him giving up 7 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and 1 walk in 7.2 innings to LSU. Surprisingly, he has been more effective on the road than at home of late. In his last two home outings he has a 6.57 ERA (12.1 IP, 9 ER, 13 unearned runs). However, in his last 2 road games he has given up just 3 runs in 15.1 innings for a 1.65 ERA. The 2 road games were at UCLA and South Carolina while the two home games were against Florida State and LSU. Look for him to give Georgia at least 7 to 8 innings in his outing.

Palazzone, in his last four outings, has given up 12 runs but only 5 earned runs in 26.2 innings. Five of those seven unearned runs came against LSU in his last appearance. One thing of note about Palazzone, in his last four outings, he's given up most of his runs (9 of 12) in the first three innings. Once he got past the third inning he was tough from the 4th through the 7th, then he became a little more hittable in the 8th inning. He, like Wood, will give Georgia a solid 7 to 8 innings of work. Another important note is Palazzone's home ERA his last two home outings (FSU, LSU) is 0.64 while it's 2.84 in his last two road games.

During his last four outings, Gullickson has been the weak link in the rotation. In his last four appearances he has given up 7 runs (6 earned) in 15.2 innings of work. He hasn't lasted beyond the 5th in any of the four. His best outing among the four was a 0-run, 3-hitter in 5 innings against St. Mary's. In his other three outings (against Florida State, South Carolina and LSU) he threw 10.2 innings, giving up 7 runs (6 earned) on 13 hits. In those outings, he gave up 0 runs the 1st inning, and 2, 3, and 2 runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. So, you'll know pretty early if he has his stuff.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior RHP Devin Jones (2-3, 3.86 ERA) Friday, sophomore RHP Chris Stratton (4-1, 2.61 ERA) Saturday and junior LHP Nick Routt (0-0, 1.29 ERA) Sunday.

Jones had thrown well up until he got into SEC action. In his first four outings, he had given up just 4 runs on 16 hits in 26.1 inning but gave up 12 (10 earned) in 6.1 innings of work against Vanderbilt and Auburn. Although he gave up 12 runs and 11 hits he only walked 1 batter in the two outing. Of the twelve runs he gave up to Vanderbilt and Auburn, 4 were in the 2nd, 3 in the 3rd and 5 were in the 4th, so you should be able to tell very early in the game if Devin is on or off.

Stratton has had two subpar outings in two of his last three outings. Against Sacred Heart and Vanderbilt, he gave up 9 runs (8 earned) on 15 hits and 5 walks while striking out 8 in 13.2 innings. Although he gave up 4 runs in 6.2 innings against Vanderbilt, he really toughed it out and only gave up 2 in his first 6 innings. He finally started tiring and gave up his final two runs in the 7th. He looked sharper in his last outing, which was last weekend against Auburn when he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) in 7.1 innings. Early season trends are that Stratton is usually not going to give up more than 2 runs through the first 6 innings. The only times he has was against Sacred Heart when he gave up five runs through the first five innings of that game and against Auburn when he gave up 4 runs also through the first five innings. In his other four outings he has only given up a combined total of 3 runs through the first 6 innings, which spans a total of 24 innings.

Routt, who has thrown just twice this season after missing most of last season due to an injury, threw 3.1 innings against Lipscomb and 3.2 innings against Auburn. Through those 7 innings, he gave up just 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. Nick was on a pitch count in both games, hence the reason he only threw 47 pitches against Lipscomb and 60 pitches against Auburn. I expect his pitch count to be moved up to 75 for the Georgia game. Known as a low-pitch per inning type pitcher with good command, don't be surprised to see Nick throw 5+ innings if Georgia is not hitting the ball well against him. Although this Georgia team is made up mostly of new players since the 2009 season, Routt did throw against Georgia at Georgia that year (a 4-0 loss) and threw extremely well for the first 7 innings, giving up just 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks. Going into the bottom of the 8th with MSU trailing 1-0, Nick gave up 3 runs on a two-out, three-run home run. All four of his runs were given up on home runs.

Relief Pitching - Look for Georgia to primarily use six relievers in SEC type game, including junior RHP Tyler Maloof (0-0, 8 S, 7.45 ERA), sophomore LHP Blake Dieterich (1-1, 1 S, 1.65 ERA), senior RHP Eric Swegman (1-0, 0 S, 5.79 ERA), senior RHP John Herman (1-3, 0 S, 9.28 ERA), rs-sophomore RHP Earl Daniels (0-0, 0 S, 6.75 ERA) and sophomore LHP Patrick Boling (0-2, 0 S, 6.59 ERA). I'm only using the last four weekend series stats with the Georgia relievers since those were typical SEC type games.

Don't let his ERA fool you. He may have gotten hit early in the season but Maloof has been lights out during his last few games, closing all of them. In his last five games, he has thrown 3.2 innings, allowing no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 4. And those games have included the likes of LSU, South Carolina, Southern Cal, UCLA and Florida State, so he's performed well against great competition. Don't look for Georgia to use him unless they have a one or two run lead.

Look for Dieterich to be used in long relief. In his last four outings, he has thrown 1 inning, 1.2 innings, 3.1 innings and 2 innings. The last two outings were against South Carolina and LSU. He was fairly effective in those outings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits and 4 walks in 8.0 innings. He struck out 2. Against SEC opponents South Carolina and LSU, he was the most effective during his last four appearances, giving up just 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks in 5.1 innings.

Swegman, in his last four outings, has struggled with his control, giving up 8 walks in 4 innings while allowing 2 runs on 3 hits to go along with 1 strikeout. He's usually going to be the first reliever to be called out of the bullpen. In fact, of those last four outings, he was the first reliever brought in from the bullpen three times. Due to his command issues, don't look for Georgia to stick with him more than an out or two if he doesn't have control of his pitches.

Herman, like Swegman, has struggled with his control of late. In his last three outings he has given up 4 walks in 3 innings. And those walks have cost him 2 runs (1 earned). The plus side is he didn't give up a hit in the three appearances. But, like Swegman, don't look for Georgia to stick with him very long if he gives up a walk or two to the first few batters he faces.

Daniels has performed extremely well of late, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk in 2.2 innings of work in his last three outings (Florida State, South Carolina and LSU). He's more of a middle reliever type who throws about an inning an outing. He's also more of a contact type pitcher, striking out just 1 batter in his 2.2 innings.

Boling has struggled in his last four outings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks while striking out 6 in 3.1 innings. He's a middle reliever type guy as well, but I could see him being brought in as a left match-up reliever if Georgia needed a strikeout and a lefthander was coming to bat. After giving up 1 run on 3 hits in 1 inning against South Carolina, he didn't pitch against LSU so it's very possible he's going to be one of the last guys brought in from the pen this weekend.

A question mark early in the season, the Mississippi State's bullpen, for SEC games, appears to primarily consist of junior RHP Caleb Reed (0-0, 3 S, 1.65 ERA), sophomore LHP Chad Girodo (2-0, 5.68 ERA), junior LHP Luis Pollorena (2-0, 0 S, 1.72 ERA), freshmen RHPs Daryl Norris (1-0, 1 S, 0.75 ERA) and Taylor Stark (1-0, 1 S. 0.00 ERA) and sophomore RHP Andrew Busby (1-0, 4.32 ERA). Other possibilities are freshman RHP Victor Diaz (0-0, 0 S, 4.50 ERA), junior LHP Tim Statz (0-1, 0 S, 5.56 ERA) and freshman LHP C.T. Bradford (0-0, 1 S, 9.82 ERA).

Reed has really come into his own this season and been very effective out of the pen. He has been used as a long reliever, a closer and a righthanded matchup pitcher. No matter the situation he has been effective in eight of his nine appearances. In his nine outings, he has only given up a hit or more in three. Other than a season-long five inning appearance against Vanderbilt when he gave up 4 runs, he hasn't allowed another run this season. In his two outings against Auburn last weekend (his 2 other SEC appearances), he threw 1.2 innings, giving up just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 2. Although he only throws his fastball in the 87-89 range, he throws three or four other pitches and he comes from over the top and side-armed. Plus, he will normally strike out around 3 batters per 2 innings of work.

Girodo has added a cutter to his repertoire and he has been outstanding with it. After struggling in his first four outings of the season (10 IP, 8 ER), he has really pitched well in his two SEC appearances, throwing 2.2 innings, giving up no runs on 1 hit and no walks while striking out 3. I look for him to be more of a left match-up guy or a guy who comes in after one of the righthanded starters to give Georgia a different look.

Pollorena, who throws in the high 80s, has proven to be a excellent addition to the MSU pitching staff. A middle reliever, Pollorena has been used once in SEC action. In a game against Auburn he threw 2.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 1.

Norris is a freshman who has only pitched three times this season but has been effective in all three. His one SEC outing was his best of the season, throwing 5.1 innings while giving up no runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2 against Auburn last Sunday. His performance helped him win the SEC Freshman of the Week award earlier this week. He's the type pitcher who can give you an inning or five innings if the game calls for it.

Stark, who throws in the low 90s and has a devastating slider at times, has appeared in four games. In 5.2 innings, he has given up no runs on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 7. When he's got command of his pitches (which he has so far this season), he can be a true strikeout pitcher. He has only appeared in 1 SEC game, giving up no runs on no hits or walks while striking out none against No. 2 ranked Vanderbilt. He earned the save in the game.

Busby, who could be used in long relief this weekend, throws in the high 80s to low 90s and has great downward movement on his pitches. As long as he has command of his pitches, he's a strikeout guy who also gets a lot of ground ball outs and rarely gives up a hit or a walk. But when he doesn't have good command he is hittable. When you look back at each of the games you notice that when Busby has good command and doesn't have a three-ball count he's almost always successful but when he gets to a three-ball count, he rarely gets the man out. So, you should know how he will fare based on his command with the first few batters that he faces.

Diaz, Statz and Bradford are other pitchers who might be used this weekend. Diaz, who is being brought along carefully this season, has been used just once in SEC action and that was just for one out. Bradford, who has only thrown 3.2 innings this season in four appearances and is also a starting outfielder, started against Vanderbilt and lasted one inning before being replaced. Now a reliever only, he wasn't used last weekend against Auburn. Statz has been used in middle and long relief in the SEC but it appears Busby, Reed and Norris will handle that role this weekend.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - In the last five games, Georgia is led at the plate by freshman Connor Welton who is hitting .583 (7-for-12, 2 RBI) followed by rs-sophomore Kevin Ruiz at .438 (7-for-16, 4 RBI) and junior Zach Cone at .350 (7-for-20, 3 RBI).

Other hitters are junior Levi Hyams who is hitting .294 (5-for-17, 1 RBI), freshman Brandon Stephens at .273 (3-for-11, 3 RBI), sophomore Kyle Farmer at .263 (5-for-19, 6 RBI), junior Chase Davidson at .143 (2-for-14, 1 RBI) and junior Peter Verdin also at .143 (2-for-14, 1 RBI.

In part-time action, sophomore Brett DeLoach has hit .286 (2-for-7, 1 RBI), sophomore Curt Powell comes in at .222 (2-for-9, 0 RBI), junior Colby May at .167 (1-for-6, 0 RBI) and junior Jonathan Hester at .000 (0-for-5, 0 RBI).

For Mississippi State true freshman Adam Frazier leads the pack with a .500 batting average (6-for-12, 6 RBI) followed by another true freshman Daryl Norris who is hitting .471 (8-for-17, 2 RBI) in the last five games. Senior Ryan Collins comes in not far behind with a .467 average (7-for-15, 4 RBI), followed by seniors Jonathan Ogden and Jarrod Parks at .389 (Ogden 7-for-18, 5 RBI) (Parks 7-for-18, 6 RBI). Not far behind those two is senior Cody Freeman at .353 (6-for-17, 6 RBI). Senior Nick Vickerson is also hitting .300 (6-for-20, 3 RBI).

Others include true freshman C.T. Bradford at .263 (5-for-19, 2 RBI) and senior Jaron Shepherd who is hitting .231 (3-for-13, 4 RBI.

In limited action, senior Wes Thigpen is hitting a robust .556 (5-for-9, 3 RBI) followed by true freshman Taylor Stark at .333 (2-for-6, 4 RBI) and sophomore Sam Frost at .167 (1-for-6, 0 RBI).

Other Notes:

Although Mississippi State is the 4th best hitting team in the SEC, they are 1st in on-base percentage (.419). Part of the reason for that is MSU leads the SEC in walks with 128 and is second in being hit by a pitch with 40. While MSU is hitting .308 as a team, they are hitting .322 against lefthanded pitchers this season (83-for-258). Two of Georgia's starters are lefthanded. MSU is tops in the SEC in hitting with the bases loaded (.464, 26-for-56). Mississippi State is second in the SEC in batting average with runners in scoring positing, hitting .352. Mississippi State also leads the SEC in 2-out RBI with 69. In SEC games only, MSU is a huge leader in 2-out RBI with 25. The next closest team is Alabama with 11. No other team has more than 9.

Pitching-wise, Mississippi State, among all SEC teams, has the second best batting average against righthanded hitters (.207, 101-for-488). The positive for State is Georgia is primarily a righthanded hitting team. Mississippi State's pitching is the best in the SEC with 2 outs with a .163 batting average (69-for-259).

How Georgia and MSU Match Up
Georgia Category Mississippi State
11-14 Record 19-6
.261 Batting Average .308
115 (4.6 pg) Runs 189 (7.6 pg)
9 Home Runs 11
.324 OB % .419
20-27 Stolen Bases-Attempts 42-56
57 (2.3 pg) Walks 128 (5.1 pg)
171 (6.8 pg) Strikeouts 154 (6.2 pg)
177 (7.1 pg) LOB 217 (8.7 pg)
4.84 Team ERA 3.30
31 (1.2 pg) Unearned Runs Allowed 10 (0.4 pg)
9 Saves 6
101 (4.0 pg) Walks 76 (3.0 pg)
169 (6.8 pg) Strikeouts 206 (8.2 pg)
.283 Batting Average Against .232
.968 Fielding % .975

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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