Auburn - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and 24th ranked Auburn tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Auburn.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the low 70s to high 60s during the game. There is a 50% to 60% chance of scattered thunderstorms. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the high 70s to low 80s during the game. There is a 30% chance of scattered thunderstorms. | Sunday - Temperatures should be in the low 80s during the game. There is a very slight chance of rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:00 p.m. | Saturday 3:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Coaches - John Pawlowski is in his fourth season as Auburn's head coach. In his three completed seasons at Auburn his team were 103-75 overall and 45-45 in SEC play. His 2010 team, which was 20-10 in SEC action, won the SEC West and hosted an NCAA Regional. They were 3-2 in the regional but failed to advance to a Super Regional.

John Cohen, who is entering his fourth season as the head coach at Mississippi State, has an overall record of 86-87, including a 38-25 record in 2011, and a 29-60 record in SEC play. His 2011 team appeared in NCAA post-season play, winning the Atlanta Regional 3-0 and going 1-2 in the Gainesville Super Regional against Florida, the 2011 College World Series national runner-up. He has a 4-2 overall record in post-season NCAA play while at MSU.

Auburn Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Auburn is 11-6 at home while Mississippi State is 1-4 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Look for Auburn to start senior RHP Derek Varnadore (1-2, 4.23 ERA) Friday, sophomore LHP Will Kendall (3-0, 1.98 ERA) Saturday and freshman LHP Daniel Koger (1-1, 1.67 ERA) Sunday.

Varnadore, in his last three outings, has preformed well, giving up just 8 runs (6 earned) in 20 innings for a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 11 while walking 7 and allowing 15 hits in the 20 innings. He's normally going to give Auburn 6 to 7 innings in his outing. He's more of a flyball out than groundout pitcher, giving up 29 flyouts to 16 groundouts in his last three appearances. He's not going to wow you with his stuff, but he will be consistent.

Prior to SEC play, Kendall was very, very good, basically dominating teams that he faced. Since getting into SEC action, he has been solid, although not dominating. In his two SEC appearances he has given up 6 runs in 11 innings for an ERA of 4.91. Kendall is a control pitcher who has only allowed 2 walks while striking out 2 in his 11 SEC innings of work.

Although just a freshman, Koger has been the best of the three SEC starting pitchers, allowing just 2 earned runs (5 runs total) in 13 innings of SEC action. During those thirteen innings, he gave up just 1 walk and 13 hits while striking out 4.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior RHP Chris Stratton (5-0, 2.21 ERA) on Friday, redshirt-junior LHP Nick Routt (1-3, 4.01 ERA) on Saturday and junior RHP Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.45 ERA) on Sunday.

Stratton, with the way he has been pitching in SEC action the first two weekends, has moved into contention for a late first-round draft spot in this year's Major League Baseball Draft. In his first two SEC appearances he has thrown 15.2 innings, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks while striking out 26.

Although Routt has a high ERA, he is starting to show signs of being the Nick Routt that we saw his freshman season. His strength as a freshman was the best changeup in the SEC. Due to arm soreness the following season he dropped the pitch and was never able to find a changeup to replace it, that is until now. He used his new changeup to strike out 8 batters last weekend in 4.2 innings. He did give up 2 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in the outing, but there were definitely some positive signs thanks to his changeup.

Graveman has been the biggest surprise on the MSU pitching staff during the early portion of the season. During his two SEC outings, he has given up just 3 runs on 18 hits and 5 walks while striking out 2 in 14.1 innings. Although not a power-pitcher, he has been a groundball machine, recording 27 outs on ground balls while also recording 8 flyball outs in his 2 SEC appearances.

Relief Pitching - Look for Auburn to use four main guys out of the bullpen - senior RHP Justin Bryant (1-1, 3 S, 6.00 ERA), junior RHP Slade Smith (2-3, 2 S, 5.48 ERA), senior RHP Cory Luckie (1-0, 0 S, 3.52 ERA), and sophomore RHP Dillon Ortman (0-1, 0 S, 1.00 ERA).

During SEC action, Bryant has strictly been a one-inning type closer. In his four SEC outings he has thrown no more than an inning once, throwing 1.1 innings. In his 4 outings he has thrown a total of 3.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 1 hit and 2 walks to go along with his 2 Ks.

Smith has been used as a closer but Auburn is not afraid to throw him up to 4 innings in an outing. During his 4 SEC appearances he has thrown 9.1 innings, giving up no runs on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4.

Luckie has been used mostly as a late inning reliever in SEC action, throwing 4 innings in his 4 appearances. He has been very effective in that role, giving up no runs on no hits and 1 walk while striking out 1 in SEC action.

Ortman has thrown in 2 SEC games during the first two weekends, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 0 walks while striking out 3 in his 2 innings of work.

Mississippi State is expected to use upwards of eight pitchers for relief duty including senior RHP Caleb Reed (0-4, 5 S, 3.00 ERA), sophomore RHP Evan Mitchell (1-0, 0 S, 4.86 ERA), junior LHP Luis Pollorena (0-0, 0 S, 3.24 ERA) and five freshmen - RHPs Brandon Woodruff (0-0, 0 S, 5.14 ERA), Trevor Fitts (2-0, 0 S, 1.50 ERA), Jonathan Holder (1-0, 1 S, 0.00 ERA), Tanner Gaines (1-0, 0 S, 1.08 ERA) and LHP Jacob Lindgren (1-0, 0 S, 3.52 ERA).

Reed has been MSU's closer this year. He has pitched in two SEC games so far this year and has had a difficult time of it, giving up 5 runs in 5.1 innings. Control has been an issue in the two games, with him walking 6.

Mitchell has been the guy MSU uses behind Saturday starter Nick Routt. He was very effective in that role against LSU, allowing just 1 run in 4.1 innings, but had a tough time this past weekend against Arkansas, giving up 4 runs in 1/3 of an inning.

So far this season Pollorena has not pitched in an SEC game but I expect that to possibly change this weekend. In his last two outings, he has only given up 1 run in 5.1 innings.

MSU is bringing Woodruff, a fourth-round draft choice last summer, along slowly, with him getting in an SEC game for the first time last week. Although he did give up 2 runs in 1/3 of an inning, he showed signs of being effective.

Fitts is another freshman who has only appeared in 1 SEC game so far. He had a solid outing, giving up no runs on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2 in 1.1 innings.

Holder, yet another freshman, has had the best outing in SEC play of all the freshmen. In his one appearance he allowed no runs on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 1 in 2 innings of work.

Gaines, a redshirt freshman, has also thrown in one SEC game, allowing no runs on 1 hit and 0 walks while striking out none in 2/3s of an inning.

The last freshmen, Lindgren, has appeared in 1 SEC game, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 0 walks while striking out 3 in 2.2 innings.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Auburn three players are hitting above .300, led by junior Garrett Cooper who is hitting .368 (7-of-19, 2 RBI) while sophomore Zach Alvord comes in at .353 (6-of-17, 6 RBI) and senior Justin Bryant also is hitting .353 (6-of-17, 1 RBI).

Others include sophomore Ryan Tella who is hitting .286 (6-of-21, 3 RBI), senior Cullen Wacker .278 (5-of-18, 2 RBI), senior Caleb Bowen .273 (3-of-11, 0 RBI), senior Creede Simpson .217 (5-of-23, 0 RBI), sophomore Jay Gonzalez .200 (3-of-15, 1 RBI) and sophomore Dan Glevenyak at .071 (1-of-14, 3 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Sam Frost who is hitting .583 (7-of-12, 3 RBI), followed by redshirt freshman Wes Rea at .375 (6-of-16, 2 RBI), sophomore Adam Frazier who comes in at .368 (7-of-19, 2 RBI) and junior Mitch Slauter at .357 (5-of-14, 1 RBI).

Others include sophomore Hunter Renfroe who is hitting .250 (5-of-20, 6 RBI), redshirt freshman Demarcus Henderson .118 (2-of-17, 2 RBI), freshman Matthew Britton at .091 (1-of-11, 0 RBI) and freshman Tyler Fullerton at .067 (1-of-15, 1 RBI).

Part-time starters include Nick Ammirati, a junior, who is hitting .500 (2-of-4, 1 RBI), redshirt freshman Brayden Jones who comes in at .167 (1-of-6, 1 RBI) and C.T. Bradford, who is returning from an injury, at .000 (0-of-6, 0 RBI).

How Auburn and MSU Match Up
Auburn Category Mississippi State
15-10 Record 17-9
.305 Batting Average .284
152 (6.1 pg) Runs 138 (5.3 pg)
11 Home Runs 11
.402 OB % .382
57-79 Stolen Bases-Attempts 32-45
112 (4.5 pg) Walks 102 (3.9 pg)
137 (5.5 pg) Strikeouts 180 (6.9 pg)
222 (8.9 pg) LOB 228 (8.8 pg)
3.35 Team ERA 2.84
5 Saves 7
68 (2.7 pg) Walks 74 (2.8 pg)
153 (6.1 pg) Strikeouts 244 (9.4 pg)
.251 Batting Average Against .241
.961 Fielding % .969

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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