MSU-Alabama Baseball Series Preview

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

Weather - Friday should see temperatures in the high to low 70s during the game. There is only a slight chance of rain. | Saturday should see temperatures in the high 80s with winds from the west-southwest at 5 mph. No rain is expected. | Sunday's weather should be very similar to Saturday's weather.

Gametimes (CT) - Friday 6:35 p.m. | Saturday 2:05 p.m. | Sunday 1:05 p.m.

Coaches - Mitch Gaspard is entering his third year as the Alabama head coach. During his first two seasons he has an overall record of 77-53 and an SEC record of 29-31. He has led both of his previous squads to NCAA Regional berths with the 2010 squad advancing to a Super Regional. His teams are 7-5 in Regional play..

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.

Mississippi Stat Road Record/Alabama Home Record - Alabama is 14-10 at home while Mississippi State is 3-10 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations (stats are from SEC series) - Alabama is expected to start freshman RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-3, 4.54 ERA) Friday night, freshman LHP Jon Keller (1-4, 4.37) Saturday and either freshman LHP Justin Kamplain (1-4, 4.33) or freshman LHP Taylor Guilbeau (3-2, 5.75) Sunday.

Don't let his overall stats fool you, Turnbull has been one of the top starters in the SEC the last two weekends, allowing just 1 run (unearned) on 6 hits and 6 walks in 12.1 innings. He struck out 11 in that same period. During his last outing, against South Carolina, he had a no-hitter through 7 innings before bad weather caused the game to be delayed and played the next day.

Keller has struggled in SEC games, allowing 14 runs in 28.2 innings. But he has been a much better pitcher at home than on the road in SEC play, with a 2.45 home SEC ERA and a road SEC ERA of 7.84.

Guilbeau has had a rough go of it in his SEC starts, allowing 13 runs (12 earned) in 10.1 innings. He's only gotten out of the 3rd inning in 1 of his 3 starts when he threw 6 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 1 hit and 4 walks. He has been much better at home than on the road in SEC action, only allowing 2 runs in 6 innings in his one SEC home start. On the road he has an SEC ERA of 8.71.

Kamplain has also had a tough time in SEC action, allowing 19 runs (17 earned) in 28.1 innings. But like Guilbeau he has been much better at home with a home SEC ERA of 2.92 compared to a road SEC ERA of 7.31.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior RHP Chris Stratton (8-0, 2.39 ERA) Friday, junior RHP Kendall Graveman (3-3, 3.04) 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 seven SEC outings he has gone into the 6th inning or longer each time. He's given up no more than 3 runs in 5 of his outings. While he has been very consistent whether on the road or at home, he is not quite a good on the road as he is at home, as evidenced by his 3.09 road ERA compared to a home ERA of 1.74. He has been dominating his last two outings (both at home), allowing 1 run on 9 hits and 1 walk while striking out 17 in 18 innings.

Graveman has been a very solid Saturday starter for MSU this season. He has been very good in 4 of his 7 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. While he has been very, very good in home SEC games, he has struggled somewhat on the road, giving up 13 runs (10 earned) in 19.1 innings which translates to a 4.66 ERA.

Mitchell has been used in all but one SEC series this season, although just two as a starter. He wasn't used last weekend against Ole Miss but the previous 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) - Alabama will primarily rely on five pitchers in relief, three of whom are freshman. Those three include RHPs Jake Hubbard (2-2, 3 S, 3.19 ERA), and Jay Shaw (0-1, 0 S, 5.62) and LHP Jon Keller (1-4, 0 S, 4.37). Other pitchers include junior RHP Charley O'Sullivan (2-2, 0 S, 5.59) and junior RHP Trey Pilkington (2-3, 1 S, 5.67)

Hubbard has been Alabama's closer this year as a true freshman. As you would expect from a freshman, he has been inconsistent. In 5 of his 11 relief appearances he has given up no runs while in his other 6 he has given up 10. While he has thrown more than an inning several outings, he's more of a 1 inning type closer.

Shaw has had an up and down season in SEC games, more down than up. He's given up runs in 5 of his 7 SEC relief appearances. More of a middle reliever, he's struggled of late, giving up 3 runs in 2.1 innings in his last two outings.

Keller has been used more as a starter in SEC action but was up and down in that role. He would have a good outing where he gave up 1 or 2 runs, then follow that with an outing where he gave up 4 or 5. Last weekend he was used out of the bullpen but struggled in that role, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in 1.2 innings.

O'Sullivan, after being an SEC starter earlier in the season (3 GS, 13.1 IP, 14 R, 12 ER), was moved to the bullpen. In his 2 games he has been either really good (2.0 IP, 0 R) or really bad (1.0 IP, 4 R).

Pilkington, like O'Sullivan started in SEC games for Alabama but struggled in that role (2 GS, 4.2 IP, 12 R). He's since been moved to the bullpen and has been more effective, giving up 5 runs in 12.2 innings his his 5 appearances. When effective, Alabama will throw him 2+ to 4+ innings.

You can expect Mississippi State to primarily use six pitchers in relief, including senior RHP Caleb Reed (1-5, 8 S, 3.10 ERA), junior LHP Luis Pollorena (3-0, 0 S, 1.46), 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, 1.35) and freshman LHP Jacob Lindgren (1-1, 0 S, 3.18).

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. In five of his last seven SEC games in relief he has allowed 0 runs on 8 hits in 12.2 innings. He did give up 2 runs last weekend against Ole Miss but he threw 3.2 innings in that relief appearance. 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, including an outstanding appearance last weekend in a start against the top hitting team in the SEC, the Ole Miss Rebels. In that game he allowed no runs in 5.1 innings. In his previous four SEC outings, all in relief, he had 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. Unless he starts against Alabama I expect him to be used in a similar fashion this weekend.

Holder, a freshman with a live arm (90-94 mph fastball), 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 6.0 SEC innings in his 5 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 four of his five SEC relief appearances he has only thrown 1 to 2 outs. And he's been very good in that role, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits and 0 walks in 4 innings of SEC work.

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

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 SEC Games - Alabama has five players hitting .300+ or higher. Leading the way is freshman Ben Moore, who comes in hitting .429 (9-of-21, 4 RBI) in his last 5 SEC games. Following him is sophomore Austen Smith who is hitting .368 (7-of-19, 7 RBI), senior James Tullidge is hitting .357 (5-of-14, 1 RBI), senior Josh Rosecrans comes in at .333 (4-of-12, 1 RBI), and senior Hunter Gregory is batting .313 (5-of-16, 3 RBI).

Others include senior Taylor Dugas who is hitting (6-of-21, 0 RBI), junior Brett Both comes in hitting .250 (4-of-16, 3 RBI), senior James Reaves is hitting .200 (4-of-20, 3 RBI) and junior Kenny Roberts comes in at .125 (2-of-16, 1 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by sophomore Adam Frazier who is hitting .313 (5-of-16, 0 RBI), junior Mitch Slauter is hitting .273 (6-of-22, 5 RBI), freshman Matthew Britton is batting .267 (4-of-15, 2 RBI), senior Brent Brownlee is .250 at the plate (2-of-8, 2 RBI), while junior Trey Porter comes in at .231 (3-of-13, 0 RBI).

Others include sophomore Hunter Renfroe who comes in hitting .105 (2-of-19, 2 RBI), sophomore Daryl Norris at .063 (1-of-16, 3 RBI, still not 100% from his knee injury) and three others who are hitting .000, including redshirt freshman Wes Rea (0-of-15, 1 RBI) who is playing with an injured shoulder, freshman Tyler Fullerton (0-of-7, 1 RBI) and junior Sam Frost (0-of-7, 0 RBI),

How Alabama and MSU Matchup
Alabama Category Mississippi State
28-17 Record 27-17
.252 Batting Average .254
207 (4.6 pg) Runs 214 (4.9 pg)
19 Home Runs 18
.334 OB % .361
34-50 Stolen Bases-Attempts 36-59
141 (3.1 pg) Walks 183 (4.2 pg)
274 (6.1 pg) Strikeouts 301 (6.8 pg)
324 (7.2 pg) LOB 371 (8.4 pg)
5.23 Team ERA 2.87
5 Saves 10
196 (4.4 pg) Walks 129 (2.9 pg)
280 (6.2 pg) Strikeouts 394 (9.0 pg)
.280 Batting Average Against .245
.967 Fielding % .970

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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