LSU - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and LSU Miss square off in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend on the campus of Mississippi State.

Weather - Thursday should see temperatures in the high to low 70s during the game with almost no chance for rain (10%). The winds should be from the southeast at 5 to 6 mph. | Friday should see temperatures in the low 80s to high 70s during the game with a very slight chance for rain (10%). Winds should be from the southeast at 6 mph. | Saturday should see temperatures in the high 80s with a 30% chance for rain. Winds should be from the south at 7 mph.

Gametimes (CT) - Thursday 6:06 p.m. (Comcast Cable-TV) | Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 2:00 p.m.

Coaches - Paul Mainieri, in his four years at LSU, has an overall record of 175-84, and an SEC record of 64-54. Three of his four teams have made it to NCAA Regional play with two advancing to Super Regionals, both of whom advanced to the College World Series. The 2009 team won the National Championship. His teams have a 17-6 NCAA postseason record.

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. Last year's MSU team was 23-33. He has an overall record of 48-62 and is 15-44 in SEC games. 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.

LSU Road/Mississippi State Home Records - LSU is 6-10 on the road while MSU is 21-10 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - LSU will start freshman RHP Kevin Gausman (4-6, 3.73 ERA) Thursday night, freshman RHP Kurt McCune (7-3, 3.30 ERA) Friday night and freshman RHP Ryan Eades (3-1, 4.86 ERA) Saturday afternoon.

Gausman, who usually throws his fastball in the low to mid 90s and has been clocked as high as 100 mph, has been outstanding in his last three SEC outings, allowing just 4 runs (3 earned) on 12 hits and 4 walks while striking out 25 in 23 innings. His ERA for those three games is 1.17. If MSU fans need something to hang their hats on, he hasn't been as effective on the road in the SEC as he has been at home. His SEC road ERA is 5.56 (22.2 IP, 14 ER). He's usually going to give LSU between 7 and 8 innings of work. In fact, in his last 6 SEC outings he has thrown 7 or more innings in 5 of them and threw a complete-game 4-hitter against Tennessee last weekend.

McCune hasn't been quite as dominating as Gausman has in his last three outings but he's still been very good, allowing 8 runs (7 earned) on 21 hits and 4 walks while striking out 14 in 21 innings for an ERA of 3.00. But like Gausman he has struggled somewhat on the road in the SEC, allowing an ERA of 5.27 (27.1 IP, 16 ER). I'm not sure if this means anything but he was more effective on the road early than he has been of late. In his last two SEC road games he has given up 12 earned runs in 10.2 innings.

This will be Eades second SEC start of the season. Last weekend he threw 4.1 innings against Tennessee, allowing 5 runs (all earned) on 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4.

Mississippi State is expected to start sophomore LHP Luis Pollorena (6-3, 3.02 ERA) Thursday and junior LHP Nick Routt (2-2, 3.86 ERA) Friday night. Saturday's starter will be announced later, depending on how the first two games go.

After being one of MSU's primary lefties out of the bullpen, Pollorena has taken over the Thursday night starting role and performed ok. In his two starts, both on the road, he allowed 9 runs (all earned) in 12 innings. Although he hasn't started a game at home, something that may be to MSU's advantage is the fact that in his home SEC relief appearances he has only given up 2 earned runs in 10 innings.

Routt, after being limited in the number of pitches he could throw in his first few starts, was allowed to throw over 120 pitches in his last outing, which was against Ole Miss last weekend when he gave up 3 runs in 5.1 innings of work. That game was on the road. In home SEC starts this season Routt has only given up 2 earned runs (5 runs total) in 16 innings, which translates to an ERA of 1.10. His SEC road ERA is 6.62.

Relief Pitching (stats come from the last 3 SEC series) - LSU, in their last three SEC series, have used several relievers but their main guys appear to be Matty Ott (1-2, 6 S, 2.39 ERA), Kevin Berry (3-1, 2 S, 3.04 ERA), Jimmy Dykstra (3-0, 0 S, 5.82 ERA), Nick Rumbelow (2-0, 0 S, 4.85 ERA) and Joe Broussard (0-1, 0 S, 5.19 ERA). Ott and Berry appear to be the go-to relievers out of those five.

Ott is LSU's primary closer. In LSU's last three SEC series he has appeared in four games, all as the closer. Although not a strikeout pitcher, he's been very effective, throwing 4 innings, while not allowing a run on 1 hit and no walks to go along with his 2 strikeouts.

Berry is usually brought in to relieve the starting pitcher. In LSU's last three SEC series he has been used four times and has thrown 5.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4.

Dykstra is more a mop up reliever. It's not unusual for him to come in when the game is out of hand. In his last two SEC games he has thrown 1.1 innings, giving up 1 run (unearned) on 1 hit and 1 walk.

Rumbelow, like Dykstra, is a guy that is more often used when a game is out of hand. He has appeared in three games during LSU's last three SEC series. In 3 innings he has given up 3 runs (all earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2.

Broussard is another mop up guy. In LSU's last three SEC series, he has appeared in 3 games, allowing 2 (earned) runs on 4 hits and 0 walks in 3.1 innings.

You can expect Mississippi State to use upwards of eight or nine pitchers in relief, including junior RHP Caleb Reed (0-1, 11 S, 1.02 ERA), freshman RHP Taylor Stark (2-0, 2 S, 2.25 ERA), junior LHP Tim Statz (0-1, 0 S, 3.92 ERA), sophomore LHP Chad Girodo (332-0, 0 S, 5.90 ERA), junior RHP Devin Jones (2-5, 0 S, 4.44 ERA), freshman RHP Daryl Norris (2-0, 1 S, 1.83 ERA), freshman LHP C.T. Bradford (0-0, 1 S, 9.72 ERA), freshman RHP Evan Mitchell (5-1, 0 S, 3.48 ERA) and possibly sophomore Chris Stratton.

Reed has been MSU's go-to guy this season, both as a long reliever and a closer. In MSU's last three SEC series he has pitched in 7 games, allowing 2 runs (earned) on 11 hits and 6 walks while striking out 12 in 10.2 innings. It wouldn't surprise me to see him pitch in at least two games and maybe even three if he doesn't pitch too much in the first game or two.

Stark, who throws a low 90s fastball and a devastating slider, is another guy who can close for the Bulldogs. In his last three outings he has allowed 1 run on 0 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6 in 4.2 innings. I see he and Reed been the two main guys out of the pen this weekend due to LSU having so many righthanded hitters.

Statz has thrown in 3 games during MSU's last three SEC series. He's been somewhat decent, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out none in 4.1 innings. I can see him giving MSU an inning this series if needed.

Girodo is another lefty who State has thrown in 3 games in the last 3 SEC series. He allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 0 walks while striking out 5 in 4.2 innings. Like with Statz, I can see him giving MSU an inning this series if needed.

Jones may match up better with LSU than other teams in the SEC due to so many righthanders in the LSU lineup. He's been used in 3 of the last 9 SEC games MSU has played and thrown 4.0 innings, allowing 1 (unearned) run on 5 hits and 4 walks while striking out 2.

Norris hasn't been as effective in relief of late compared to how well he did early on but being a righty he could match up better with LSU. He's only thrown in 1 game in the last 3 SEC series, throwing 1/3 of an inning while allowing no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk to go along with his 1 strikeout. I could see him being brought in early if a starter has to come out early and being used in long relief if he shows that he's effective.

Bradford hasn't pitched much lately due to an injury but did pitch in last week's SEC series with Ole Miss. Although he allowed 5 runs in 3.1 innings, he pitched well his first inning. I could see him coming in for an inning or two if needed.

Mitchell is sort of the wild card. I don't see him being used more than an inning or two in the series, possibly on Saturday due to throwing 73 pitches against Memphis Tuesday night. He's pitched well of late, especially Tuesday night against Memphis when he used a low 90s fastball and a very good slider to strike out 11 in 4.1 innings of work, allowing no runs on 4 hits and 1 walk.

Although Stratton may end up being a reliever this series, it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up starting the Saturday game. He's been hit pretty hard recently, although he did pitch well against Tennessee a couple of games ago. And with LSU being mostly righthanded hitters, Stratton might match up better against them than he has with some other SEC teams.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - LSU is hot right now with six players hitting .364 or better. Leading the way is junior Mikie Mahtook who is hitting .545 (12-for-11, 7 RBI). Following closely is sophomore Alex Edward who comes in at .500 (10-for-20, 4 RBI), junior Tyler Hanover at .471 (8-for-17, 2 RBI) and freshman Jacoby Jones at .400 (8-for-20, 3 RBI), sophomore Mason Katz at .391 (9-for-23, 8 RBI) and sophomore Raph Rhymes at .364 (8-for-22, 3 RBI).

Others include junior Austin Nola who is hitting .238 (5-for-21, 2 RBI) and junior Trey Watkins at .056 (1-for-18, 0 RBI). In part-time duty junior Grant Dozar is hitting .429 (3-for-7, 2 RBI) and freshman Ty Ross comes in at .143 (1-for-7, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by senior Wes Thigpen who is hitting .364 (4-for-11, 3 RBI), followed by senior Jonathan Ogden at .357 (5-for-14, 1 RBI), senior Nick Vickerson at .333 (5-for-15, 2 RBI) and junior Brent Brownlee at .308 (4-for-13, 4 RBI). Freshman Adam Frazier, in limited action, is hitting at a .429 clip (3-for-7, 2 RBI).

Others include freshman C.T. Bradford who is hitting .278 (5-for-18, 6 RBI), senior Ryan Collins at .250 (4-for-16, 5 RBI), senior Jaron Shepherd at .235 (4-for-17, 3 RBI), senior Jarrod Parks at .188 (3-for-16, 2 RBI), and senior Cody Freeman at .056 (1-for-18, 1 RBI). In part-time duty freshman Hunter Renfroe is hitting .250 (2-for-8, 1 RBI) and senior Trey Johnson is hitting .000 (0-for-6, 1 RBI).

How LSU and MSU Match Up
LSU Category Mississippi State
34-19 Record 33-19
.300 Batting Average .286
360 (6.8 pg) Runs 334 (6.4 pg)
31 Home Runs 25
.380 OB % .391
82-116 Stolen Bases-Attempts 80-107
203 (3.8 pg) Walks 238 (4.6 pg)
314 (5.9 pg) Strikeouts 341 (6.6 pg)
379 (7.2 pg) LOB 463 (8.9 pg)
4.21 Team ERA 4.11
8 Saves 15
159 (3.8 pg) Walks 176 (3.4 pg)
374 (7.1 pg) Strikeouts 412 (7.9 pg)
.248 Batting Average Against .263
.968 Fielding % .973

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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