South Carolina - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and 2nd ranked South Carolina tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday - The temperatures should be in the low 80s to high 70s during the game with the winds out of the south at 10 mph. No rain is expected. | Saturday - The temperatures should be in the low 80s throughout the game with almost no chance for rain. Winds should be from the south at 10 to 12 mph. | Sunday - The temperatures should be in the low 80s with almost no chance for rain. Winds should be from the south at 9 mph.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 7:06 p.m. (ESPNU-TV) | Saturday 6:06 p.m. (FOX Sports-TV) | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

Coaches - Ray Tanner is going into his 15th season at South Carolina and has a record of 634-282, including a SEC regular season record of 247-171. Two of his teams have won the SEC overall championship. Twelve of his fourteen teams have appeared in NCAA Regionals with eight advancing to Super Regionals and four of those eight advancing to the College World Series. His 2010 team won the National Championship while his 2002 team was national runner-up. His teams have an NCAA post-season record of 60-27.

John Cohen, who is in his second 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. Last year's MSU team was 23-33. In five seasons at Kentucky and one 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.

South Carolina Road/Mississippi State Home Records - South Carolina is 7-4 on the road while Mississippi State is 18-6 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - South Carolina is expected to start junior LHP Michael Roth (8-1, 1.24 ERA) Friday, sophomore RHP Colby Holmes (3-1, 4.19 ERA) Saturday, and freshman RHP Forrest Koumas (4-0, 2.35 ERA) Sunday.

It doesn't get any easier for the Mississippi State hitters. After facing 7 of the top 11 ERA starting pitchers in the SEC during their first five SEC series, they face the top SEC ERA pitcher Friday night in Michael Roth. They face the 6th ranked one Sunday in Koumas. That's 9 of the top 11 in the SEC. Back to the matter at hand - Michael Roth. He appeared to be your normal Friday night SEC starting pitcher in his first outing against Georgia when he gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks in 6.1 innings. Georgia struck for 2 runs in the first and 1 in the third. In his next outing, against the then No. 1 ranked Florida Gator on their home field, he allowed 2 runs in 8.1 innings with both runs being scored in the 9th. From that point on, he has been wearing a Superman cape based on his stats. Against Kentucky he allowed 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk in 8 innings. Against Tennessee he allowed 0 runs on 6 hits and 1 walk in 7.2 innings. To top it off, he threw no-hit ball against then No. 1 ranked Vanderbilt for 5 innings, finally giving up 1 run on 3 hits in 7.2 innings. The run was scored in the 8th. In his last three outings he has given up a total of 2 runs on 12 hits and 4 walks in 23.1 innings, which translates to an ERA of 0.77. While he averages just a little less than a strikeout an inning, his forte is ground ball outs. He averages almost 2.5 ground ball outs to fly ball outs. Ok, maybe State has an advantage since the game is being played on their home field. Guess again. In his two SEC road starts he has given up 2 runs in 16 innings, an ERA of 1.13. Add to that the fact that Roth is a lefty and MSU is hitting .200 against SEC lefthanders.

The righty Holmes has had his ups and downs in SEC action so far this season. He's pitched in three of South Carolina's five SEC series and had a solid game, great game, and poor game. His first outing was against Kentucky who scored 2 runs on 7 hits and 0 walks in 5 innings against him. In his next outing he shut out Tennessee during his 7 innings of work. He was less effective against Vanderbilt, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk in 4.1 innings. Of the 8 runs he's given up in SEC games, 4 have been scored in the first three innings. He's not a guy who will walk many (1 in 16.1 SEC innings), so if the Dogs want to score on him, they'll have to do it by hitting. But something that could be a positive for MSU is the fact that they are the second best hitting team in SEC games only (a .313 batting average) - second to Vanderbilt (.316), the one team who hit Holmes well - against righthanded pitchers.

Although only a freshman, Koumas has been, for the most part, outstanding in SEC action this season. During his first three SEC starting appearances he threw 19.2 innings, giving up just 2 runs (1 earned) on 7 hits while walking 5 and striking out 15. He did look a little more human in his last start, when he gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk in 5.1 innings against Vanderbilt. He's been even better on the road than he has been at home in SEC games only when starting, with a road ERA of 0.68 compared to a home ERA of 2.31. Based on his four SEC outings, when he gives up a run, over half (3 of the 5) were allowed in the first 3 innings, but then he settles down and gives South Carolina a solid 3 innings before being taken out. He's thrown into the 7th or 8th inning in three of his four SEC appearances. One thing to watch out for is the fact that he hits a lot of batters, 9 in his 38.1 innings so far this season, and MSU batters are third in the SEC in being hit by a pitch (53 in 37 games).

Mississippi State will have sophomore RHP Chris Stratton (4-4, 4.66 ERA) throwing Friday night, junior LHP Nick Routt (0-2, 4.91 ERA) on the mound Saturday night and very likely junior RHP Devin Jones (2-4, 4.15 ERA) throwing Sunday afternoon.

Stratton, who consistently throws his fastball in the 91-93 mph range, threw ok in his first three SEC starts, giving up 12 runs (11 earned) in 20 innings for a 4.95 ERA. Half of the 12 runs were scored from the 6th on. In his last two outings, against Florida and Arkansas, he gave up 13 runs in 8.2 innings. The Florida game was an unusual one for him since he only threw 1.2 innings, giving up 7 runs. The Arkansas game was more typical, with him giving up 3 of his 6 runs prior to the 6th. Stratton has been a high pitch count per inning pitcher this season, throwing in the 16 to 17 pitch per inning range. The State coaches have tried to get him to become more economical and it appeared he did that in the second half of his Arkansas outing, averaging 11 pitches per inning in his last four innings against Arkansas.

Routt, who missed most of the 2010 season with an injury, is being brought back slowly by the MSU coaching staff. And he had been improving weekly until last weekend when he gave up 6 runs in 3 innings. Prior to that outing, he had given up just 3 runs in 12 innings with his best outing being his last, when he threw 5 innings against Florida, giving up just 1 run. Other than the Arkansas game when he gave up the 6 runs in the first three innings, he hadn't given up a run in the first three innings of any of his outings this season. Although it's not likely he will throw the entire nine innings, the State coaching staff is hoping to get between 5 and 7 innings out of him Saturday.

Devin, who throws his fastball in the low 90s, started on Friday during the first four SEC weekends but was removed from the rotation for the Arkansas weekend after not performing up to expectations in the previous four. In his first SEC four starts he gave up 20 runs (16 earned) on 22 hits in 14.1 innings. Although he didn't start against Arkansas, he did come in in relief and perform exceptional, striking out 6 in 2.2 innings, while giving up 0 runs on 1 hit and 2 walks. Whether he starts on Sunday will be determined by whether he is needed in relief during either of the first two games.

Relief Pitching - South Carolina basically uses two relief pitchers when the game is on the line and two others as lefty matchup relievers. The first two are sophomore RHP Matt Price (4-2, 11 S, 2.36 ERA) and senior RHP John Taylor (2-2, 0 S, 0.53 ERA). The latter two are junior LHP Bryan Harper (1-0, 1 S, 4.02 ERA) and sophomore LHP Tyler Webb (2-1, 0 S, 2.95 ERA).

Price, a draft-eligible sophomore after redshirting his first season at South Carolina due to a fractured right wrist, has been used exclusively as a closer in SEC games, throwing in 11. He has won 4, lost 1 and saved 6. He has only given up 1 run in his 11 outings (17.2 innings). He's a strikeout pitcher who is averaging a little over 1.5 strikeouts an inning in SEC play. And he's stepped it up a notch, strikeout-wise, in his last four SEC outings, striking out 14 in 6 innings of work against Vanderbilt and Tennessee. South Carolina has used him twice in four of their five series and three times in the other.

Taylor is basically Price's set-up man. In his 10 SEC outings, he has either been the 1st or 2nd reliever brought into a game. He usually throws between 1 and 2+ innings. He's been almost as effective sa Price, giving up just 2 runs in 16.1 innings of work. Although he only gives up a hit every other inning, walks have been a slight problem for him with 9 in the 16.1 innings. Like Price, he's used about 2 games a series in SEC action.

Harper has been used as a reliever in four SEC games and is usually brought in to get an out or two; basically he's a lefty matchup pitcher. In three of his four SEC games he recorded an out in each then was taken out. While he'll get his 1 out, he's also prone to give up a walk before being taken out. He's given up 1 run in 2.1 innings as a reliever in SEC action.

Webb, normally a mid-week starter, was used for the first time as a reliever in SEC action last weekend against Vanderbilt. He threw in two games, getting 2 outs while giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk to go along with his 1 strikeout. He, like Harper, looks to be a lefty matchup type reliever.

Mississippi State will primarily use six relievers in SEC games - junior RHP Caleb Reed (0-0, 6 S, 0.88 ERA), junior LHP Luis Pollorena (4-2, 0 S, 1.69 ERA), junior LHP Tim Statz (0-1, 0 S, 4.20 ERA), freshman RHP Taylor Stark (2-0, 1 S, 0.00 ERA), freshman RHP Daryl Norris (1-0, 1 S, 1.20 ERA) and sophomore LHP Chad Girodo (2-0, 0 S, 6.00 ERA).

Reed has been MSU's go-to guy out of the bullpen this season. He's a guy that can throw long relief and close, whatever is necessary. And he's been very effective in both situations. Other than his first SEC outing when he allowed 4 runs (3 earned) in 5 innings against Vanderbilt, he's completely shut down the other SEC teams he has faced in his other seven outings. In those 7 appearances he allowed 0 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks while striking out 13 in 13 innings. He's the kind of pitcher who can throw 1 or 2 innings and 5 if necessary. And he'll be effective in either role.

Pollorena, a lefty who throws his fastball in the high 80s touching 90 at times, has been extremely effective in non-SEC games this season. And MSU is working him into SEC action to the tune of about 1 appearance per series. He's been decent so far, giving up 4 runs (2 earned) in 7.1 innings. His control has been iffy in SEC action as reflected by his 6 walks. With South Carolina having so many lefthanded hitters in their lineup, he should be fairly effective against them. It's possible, if Devin Jones throws in one or both of the first two games in the series, he could even get a start in the series.

Statz struggled early in non-SEC games but has come on strong in SEC play and has actually gotten better in each outing. After giving up 2 runs (both unearned) on 2 hits and 3 walks in 4.1 innings against Vanderbilt in his first SEC appearance, he has only given up 1 run in his last three SEC outings, spanning 5 innings. And his last two outings, against Georgia and Arkansas, he has been a shutdown guy, giving up 0 runs on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4 in 3.2 innings. He's a guy who will throw anywhere between 1 and 2 innings, but due to being a starter most of his high school and junior college career, can also be used in long relief if necessary.

Stark, a low 90s fastball guy with an outstanding slider, has been brought along slowly by the Bulldog staff and he's responded extremely well. He's only been used in three of the five SEC series but State's coaches aren't afraid to bring him in during crucial situations. He saved a game against Vanderbilt (ranked No. 1 at the time) and kept Florida (ranked No. 4 at the time) at bay with MSU nursing a 7-5 lead at the time. In those two games he threw 3.2 innings combined while giving up no runs on 0 hits and 1 walk. MSU won both games.

Norris has been up and down in his four SEC outings. After dominating Auburn to the tune of 0 runs on 2 hits and 0 walks in 5.1 innings in his first SEC outing of the season, he next threw against Georgia and gave up 1 run on 1 hit and 1 walk in 0.2 inning. In his next SEC appearance he gave up a hit and walked 3 in 1.1 innings, although he gave up no runs. Against Arkansas last weekend he threw 1 inning, allowing no runs on 1 hit and 0 walks. He's more of a guy that will come in if the starter is having problems early because, if effective, Norris has proven he can eat up the innings.

Girodo is a lefty matchup type reliever. After throwing 1 and 1.2 innings in his first two SEC outings, in his last four he's been brought in to get an out or two if a couple of lefties are coming to bat. His success hasn't been what you would hope for, though, with him giving up 4 runs (3 earned) in 1.2 innings in those four appearances. The thing he can get you is a strikeout. Of his five outs in those 1.2 innings, three were strikeouts.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - South Carolina has four players hitting .300 or above, led by senior Brady Thomas who is hitting at a .563 clip (9-for-16, 3 RBI). Following him is senior Scott Wingo at .389 (7-for-18, 4 RBI), sophomore Evan Marzilli at .333 (5-for-15, 1 RBI) and junior Adam Matthews at .300 (3-for-10, 1 RBI).

Others include junior Peter Mooney who comes in at .211 (4-for-19, 3 RBI), senior Robert Beary also at .211 (4-for-19, 3 RBI), junior Jackie Bradley at .174 (4-for-23, 2 RBI), sophomore Christian Walker at .167 (3-for-18, 0 RBI) and senior Adrian Morales at .077 (1-for-13, 2 RBI). In part-time duty, junior Steven Neff is hitting .167 (1-for-6, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate in the last five games by senior Jarrod Parks who is hitting .462 (6-for-13, 1 RBI), followed by senior Wes Thigpen who is hitting at a .444 clip (8-for-18, 6 RBI), senior Nick Vickerson at .333 (4-for-12, 2 RBI) and freshman C.T. Bradford at .304 (7-for-23, 0 RBI).

Others include senior Cody Freeman at .294 (5-for-17, 3 RBI), senior Jonathan Ogden at .158 (3-for-19, 0 RBI), freshman Adam Frazier at .143 (2-for-14, 1 RBI) and senior Ryan Collins at .100 (1-for-10, 0 RBI). In part-time work, senior Jaron Shepherd is hitting .333 (3-for-9, 1 RBI), followed by senior Trey Johnson who comes in at .250 (2-for-8, 1 RBI), junior Brent Brownlee at .250 (2-for-8, 1 RBI), freshman Daryl Norris at .143 (1-for-7, 1 RBI) and freshman Taylor Stark at .125 (1-for-8, 0 RBI).

How South Carolina and MSU Match Up
South Carolina Category Mississippi State
29-7 Record 23-14
.287 Batting Average .284
226 (6.3 pg) Runs 228 (6.2 pg)
32 Home Runs 14
.386 OB % .394
26-38 Stolen Bases-Attempts 57-76
161 (4.5 pg) Walks 162 (4.4 pg)
210 (5.8 pg) Strikeouts 245 (6.6 pg)
305 (8.5 pg) LOB 316 (8.5 pg)
2.55 Team ERA 3.90
13 Saves 9
112 (3.1 pg) Walks 115 (3.1 pg)
299 (8.3 pg) Strikeouts 300 (8.1 pg)
.214 Batting Average Against .248
.978 Fielding % .974

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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