Ole Miss - MSU Baseball Series Preview

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

Weather - Friday should see temperatures in the high to low 70s during the game. Winds should be from the south at 9 mph. No rain is expected. | Saturday should see temperatures in the low 80s with winds from the south/southwest at 9 mph. There is a slight chance of rain. | Sunday should see temperatures in the low 80s with winds from the north/northwest at 7 mph. There is a very slight chance of rain.

Gametimes (CT) - Friday 7:00 p.m. (SportsSouth-TV) | Saturday 2:00 p.m. (SportSouth-TV) | Sunday 1:30 p.m. (CSS-TV)

Coaches - Mike Bianco's teams have an overall record of 434-252 during his eleven-year career. His teams have a 179-148 SEC record and have won one SEC overall championship and two Western Division conference championships. Nine of his eleven teams have advanced to NCAA Regional play with four moving on to Super Regional play. None have played in the College World Series. His teams have a 20-19 NCAA postseason record.

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.

Ole Miss Road/Mississippi State Home Records - Ole Miss is 7-8 on the road while Mississippi State is 22-6 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations (stats come from SEC series) - Ole Miss is expected to start sophomore RHP Bobby Wahl (5-0, 2.15 ERA) Friday night, sophomore RHP Mike Mayers (4-2, 3.70 ERA) Saturday and TBA Sunday.

Wahl has been a very good Friday night guy for Ole Miss. In his six SEC starts he has only had 1 bad outing, that was against Alabama on the road when he gave up 4 runs in 5.1 innings. Other than that outing, he has not given up more than 2 runs in any of his other SEC starts. What those stats don't tell you is that he has only thrown 4.0, 4.1 and 3.2 innings his last 3 SEC starts. But during that same span he has only given up 4 runs. The one advantage that MSU may have with Wahl is his SEC road ERA is 4.60 while his home ERA is 0.51.

Mayers has been a solid Saturday guy. His best outing was last weekend against Arkansas when he gave up 0 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks in 6.1 innings. Other than that outing, he's normally been a guy who will give up between 3 and 4 runs per start and throw between 5 and 7+ innings. He's a little better at home than on the road with an SEC home ERA of 3.37 and an SEC road ERA of 3.85.

Ole Miss, in their Sunday SEC games, has started either freshman RHP Sam Smith (2-3, 5.19) or senior RHP R.J. Hively (3-3, 3.19) Sunday. Both have struggled in that role of late. In fact, Hively, in his last 2 SEC starts, has given up 11 runs in 9 innings. Smith started last weekend against Arkansas and gave up 5 runs in 1+ innings.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior RHP Chris Stratton (7-0, 2.71 ERA) Friday, junior RHP Kendall Graveman (3-2, 2.92) Saturday and probably sophomore RHP Evan Mitchell (1-1, 3.98) Sunday.

Stratton continues to be one of the most effective starters in the SEC. In his six SEC outings he has gone into the 6th inning or longer each time. He's given up no more than 3 runs in 4 of his outings. While he has been very consistent whether on the road or at home, he is a little bit better when throwing at home as evidenced by his 2.45 home SEC ERA and his 3.09 road ERA. Due to how well he has pitched this season (fastball velo 92-94 - tops 95-96 - into the late innings and excellent control to the tune of 8 walks in 45.1 SEC innings), it appears he has moved himself into the first round of the June MLB Draft.

Graveman has been the surprise of the MSU pitching staff this season. He has been very good in 4 of his 6 starts, giving up no more than 3 runs in any of the 4. He's normally given MSU either 5+ or 9 innings. In fact, he leads the SEC in complete games with two. Last weekend was his best performance with him giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 in 9 innings. He only allowed three balls out of the infield during the game. While he's been solid the entire season, he's been spectacular in home SEC games, giving up just 6 runs (3 earned) on 15 hits and 2 walks to go along with his 17 Ks in 20 innings. His home SEC ERA is 1.35.

Mitchell has been used in every SEC series this season, although just two as a starter. The last two weekends against South Carolina and Tennessee he drew the Sunday start and allowed 5 runs (3 earned) in 7.2 innings. In his other four outings, all in relief, he had a couple of good games (1 ER, 8 IP) and a couple of bad ones (6 ER, 4 IP). Walks have really hurt him in SEC action, with 14 in 19.2 innings.

Relief Pitching (stats are from SEC series) - Ole Miss' relief pitching for SEC action consists mainly of six pitchers, possibly seven. Junior RHP Brett Huber (1-2, 7 S, 4.85 ERA) junior LHP Dylan Chavez (3-3, 1 S, 3.77), sophomore RHP Aaron Greenwood (1-0, 0 S, 4.29), freshman RHP Chris Ellis (3-0, 0 S, 3.22), redshirt junior Tanner Bailey (1-0, 0 S, 2.95) and freshman RHP Hawtin Buchanan (1-0, 0 S, 1.38). Hively (3-3, 1 S, 3.19), if he doesn't start, could also be used in the bullpen.

Huber has been Ole Miss' primary closer during SEC action. Although his SEC stats aren't good (6 earned runs in 7 innings), he's actually thrown well in most of his SEC appearances, giving up no runs in 5 of his 7 outings. In his other two, he gave up 6 runs in 1.2 innings. So, he's either really good or really bad. He's normally going to pitch an inning when in the game.

Chavez also has poor SEC stats (8 earned runs in 13.2 innings). Used mostly in middle relief, he has been up and down throughout the SEC action. He'll pitch a good game, then give up a run or two in his next outing. Currently, he's pitching well, giving up no runs in his last 3 SEC appearances. Prior to those outings, he had given up 6 runs in 3.2 innings. Based on those stats, you should know fairly quickly if he will be effective.

Greenwood is an inning eater. He'll normally throw 2 to 2+ innings but he'll also give up 1 to 2 runs. He's mostly been used in middle relief.

Ellis, like Chavez, has been inconsistent in SEC action. He's appeared in five SEC games and has given up 0 runs in three games and 3 runs in each of the other two. He's at his best when he comes in just to get an out or two to close out an inning.

Bailey has been used as a closer in 3 of his 4 SEC appearances. He's been very effective in three of his four appearances, giving up no runs in 4 innings. Although not an SEC team, he started against Memphis Tuesday and was very effective, giving up no runs or hits in 4 innings. It's possible, if he's not used Friday or Saturday, he could end up starting for Ole Miss on Sunday.

Buchanan, after not being used much in SEC action during the early part of the season, has been used quite a bit recently. In his four SEC relief appearances he has given up 2 runs in 5.1 innings. He's a strikeout pitcher who has recorded 9 in his 5.1 SEC innings, including 5 in 2.2 innings against Arkansas.

Hively has been used as an SEC starter until last weekend. After giving up 11 runs in 9 innings in his last two starts, he was moved to the bullpen last weekend and had a good outing, giving up 0 runs in 2.2 innings.

You can expect Mississippi State to primarily use six pitchers in relief, including senior RHP Caleb Reed (1-5, 7 S, 2.92 ERA), junior LHP Luis Pollorena (2-0, 0 S, 1.86), freshman RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 1 S, 0.00), sophomore RHP Taylor Stark (1-0, 0 S, 2.57), redshirt freshman LHP Ross Mitchell (0-0, 0 S, 1.42) and freshman LHP Jacob Lindgren (1-1, 0 S, 3.18). Two other pitchers could also factor into the weekend, hard-throwing freshman RHP Brandon Woodruff (0-1, 0 S, 3.43) and redshirt junior LHP Nick Routt (2-4, 0 S, 4.22)

Reed struggled early, allowing 5 runs in 5.1 innings in his first 2 SEC games, but has performed well since then with the exception of 1 relief appearance and 1 SEC start. In five of his last six SEC games in relief he has allowed 0 runs on 8 hits in 12.2 innings. Based on his relief outings, you'll know very quickly if he's on or off. If on, then he'll give MSU 2 to 3 innings of scoreless pitching.

Pollorena has been very good of late. In his four SEC outings he has given up no runs on 2 hits and 0 walks in 4.2 innings. Initially, he was used as a lefty matchup guy, but against Tennessee he threw 3 innings, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 0 walks. I expect him to be used in a similar fashion this weekend.

Holder, a freshman with a live arm, has been brought along slowly and is usually used once a weekend, normally for an inning or two. So far, he has been very effective in that role, giving up no runs in 5.2 SEC innings in his 4 SEC outings.

Stark, after being injured for the first few SEC series, has been getting back into pitching shape. In his four SEC outings, he has been very good in three of the four. When he's on, he'll give MSU an inning to an inning-plus.

Ross Mitchell is normally a lefty matchup guy. In three of his four SEC relief appearances he has only thrown 1 to 2 outs. And he's been very good in that role.

Lindgren is another freshman who is being brought along slowly. He has been used in three SEC games and pitched decent, giving up 3 runs in 6.1 innings.

Woodruff, although he has seen very limited SEC action, has really looked exceptional in 2 of his last 3 non-SEC starts and could factor into long relief. Against Southern Miss and South Alabama he allowed 4 hits and 2 walks in 10 innings. When he's on, he's a guy who can consistently throw his fastball in the 90-94 mph range into the 6th inning. He also has excellent command of that pitch as well as his off-speed pitches.

Routt has struggled through most of the season but showed signs of improvement in his last outing against Southern Miss, giving up no runs in 3 innings. It's also possible he could be used in long relief this weekend.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 SEC Games - Ole Miss has four players hitting over .400, including junior Alex Yarbrough at .500 (11-of-22, 4 RBI), senior matt snyder at .429 (9-of-21, 4 RBI), sophomore Will Allen at .421 (8-of-19, 3 RBI) and freshman Auston Bousfield at .421 (8-of-19, 0 RBI).

Others include junior Andrew Mistone who is hitting .294 (5-of-17, 0 RBI), junior Tanner Mathis who comes in at .273 (6-of-22, 3 RBI), sophomore Preston Overbey at .176 (3-of-17, 0 RBI), and senior Zach Kirksey at .100 (1-of-10, 1 RBI). Part-time hitters are senior Blake Newalu who is hitting .444 (4-of-9, 0 RBI), freshman Will Jamison who comes in at .400 (2-of-5, 1 RBI), junior Josh Gatlin at .333 (2-of-6, 2 RBI) and sophomore Austin Anderson at .111 (1-of-9, 1 RBI).

Mississippi State has two hitters batting .300 or better - junior Trey Porter at .333 (6-of-18, 1 RBI) and sophomore C.T. Bradford at .300 (6-of-20, 0 RBI).

Others include sophomore Adam Frazier who is hitting .263 (5-of-19, 4 RBI), redshirt freshman Wes Rea .250 (4-of-16, 3 RBI), sophomore Hunter Renfroe at .211 (4-of-19, 0 RBI), freshman Tyler Fullerton at .200 (2-of-10, 1 RBI), junior Mitch Slauter at .130 (3-of-23, 2 RBI), sophomore Daryl Norris at .125 (2-of-16, 0 RBI), and junior Sam Frost at .105 (2-of-19, 2 RBI). In part-time duty freshman Matthew Britton is hitting .375 (3-of-8, 3 RBI).

How Ole Miss and MSU Match Up
Ole Miss Category Mississippi State
27-14 Record 25-16
.313 Batting Average .261
256 (6.2 pg) Runs 204 (5.0 pg)
28 Home Runs 17
.388 OB % .366
34-46 Stolen Bases-Attempts 36-58
130 (3.2 pg) Walks 172 (4.2 pg)
205 (5.0 pg) Strikeouts 281 (6.9 pg)
332 (8.1 pg) LOB 353 (8.6 pg)
3.45 Team ERA 2.96
9 Saves 9
90 (2.2 pg) Walks 125 (3.0 pg)
352 (8.6 pg) Strikeouts 373 (9.1 pg)
.244 Batting Average Against .246
.976 Fielding % .969

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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