Florida - MSU Baseball Series Preview

25th ranked Mississippi State and 5th ranked Florida tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Florida.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the high to mid-70s during the game. Winds should be from the east at 9 mph. There is only a slight chance of rain. | Saturday - .Temperatures should be in the high to mid-70s during the game. Winds should be from the east at 9 to 10 mph. There is about a 20% chance of rain. | Sunday - Temperatures should be in the mid-80s during the game. Winds should be from the east to southeast at 9 mph. There is a 30% chance of rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:00 p.m. | Saturday 6:00 p.m. | Sunday 12:00 p.m.

Coaches - In his four years as a head coach at Florida, Kevin O'Sullivan has a 176-82 record and has taken Florida to four NCAA appearances, advancing to three Super Regionals. His 2010 and 2011 teams advanced to the College World Series. The 2011 team was the CWS runner-up. His teams have a 80-40 SEC record and have won the SEC Eastern Division three times while winning the overall SEC Championship twice. In NCAA post-season play, his teams have a 18-9 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.

Florida Home Record/Mississippi State Road Record - Florida is 24-7 at home while Mississippi State is 5-11 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Florida will start junior RHP Hudson Randall (5-1, 3.53 ERA) Friday night, junior LHP Brian Johnson (5-4, 4.29) Saturday night and sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.43) Sunday afternoon.

Randall has been a very good starter for Florida. He's normally going to give them 6+ innings in his outings. He has pitched a little better at home than he has on the road in SEC action, with a 2.87 SEC home ERA and a 3.93 SEC road ERA. In his last three SEC outings he has an ERA of 3.44.

Johnson has been a solid second starter for Florida. Surprisedly, he's been a much better pitcher on the road than he has been at home in the SEC. His home SEC ERA is 6.33 while his road SEC ERA is 2.14. In his last three outings he has a 5.51 ERA, two of which were at home. He's normally going to give Florida between 4 and 6 innings in his outings.

Whitson has been injured for part of the season but appears to be healthy now. He's only started three SEC games this season, one of which was at home. In his last outing, which was last weekend, he threw 4.2 innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks while striking out 2.

Mississippi State will start junior RHP Chris Stratton (9-0, 2.19 ERA) Friday, junior RHP Kendall Graveman (3-3, 2.97) Saturday and I'm guessing either junior LHP Luis Pollorena (3-0, 1.32) or redshirt junior LHP Nick Routt (2-5, 4.23) Sunday.

Stratton has been one of the most effective starters in the SEC this season. He's been almost as good on the road as he has been at home, with a road ERA of 2.37 and a home ERA of 1.74. During his last three SEC outings, he has been at his best this season with a 0.36 ERA in 25 innings. During those 25 innings, he gave up just 1 run on 16 hits and 1 walk while striking out 23.

Graveman has been a solid second starter for MSU. He has been better at home than on the road in the SEC this season, showing a 4.13 road ERA and a 2.05 home ERA in SEC play. In his last three SEC outings (2 at home, 1 on the road) he has a 2.25 ERA, giving up 5 earned runs on 15 hits and 3 walks while striking out 13 in 20 innings. He's normally going to give MSU 5 and 7 innings, although when he's on he can complete a game.

Pollorena has started a couple of SEC games and been solid. While he's only given up 1 run (unearned) on 6 hits and 3 walks to go along with 9 strikeouts, he's only thrown a total of 8 innings. If he's on, then he could give MSU around 5 innings. If not, then look for him to go 2 or 3 innings. If he doesn't start, then he could be used in relief. He's been very effective out of the pen in SEC games, giving up no runs in 4.2 innings.

Routt started the season as one of MSU's SEC rotation pitchers but was ineffective. He has been moved to the bullpen since then and has had some good and not so good outings. It's possible he may start due to his history against Florida. He's thrown 10.2 innings against them, giving up 4 runs (3 earned). If he doesn't start, then he could be used in long relief, possibly giving MSU 3 or 4 innings.

Relief Pitching - Florida could use upwards of six pitchers in relief excluding any pitchers that might be used for mop up innings if any of the games get out of hand. The six are junior LHP Steve Rodriguez (3-1, 2 S, 1.84 ERA), junior RHP Austin Maddox (2-2, 12 S, 1.58), senior RHP Greg Larson (6-0, 0 S, 1.55), sophomore LHP Daniel Gibson (0-0, 0 S, 2.70), freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi (4-2, 0 S, 3.69) and sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (4-1, 0 S, 3.61).

Rodriguez has been used in middle relief most of the SEC season, although in his last two outings he was used as a closer. He has appeared in 15 SEC games and been outstanding in 11 of them. In his last 5 outings he has stepped it up even more and been exceptional, giving up 0 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 12 in 9.1 innings.

Maddox has been Florida's closer throughout the SEC season and he's been very, very good of late (8 G, 17 IP, 1 ER, 0.52 ERA) after struggling in his first 5 SEC outings (5 G, 8.1 IP, 6 ER, 6.48 ERA).

Larson has been used mainly in middle relief, mostly for a couple of outs to an inning of work. While he did struggle a little bit during the middle part of the SEC schedule (4 G, 8 IP, 3 ER), he was very good early on (5 G, 3.2 IP, 0 ER) and has been very good of late (3 G, 3 IP, 0 ER).

Gibson is a sophomore that the Florida coaching staff seems to be picking his spots. He's appeared in 6 SEC games, three of which were out of hand when he came in. In those game, he's normally going to throw a couple of innings. In the other games he's appeared in he's normally been brought in to get 1 or 2 outs. He's been fairly successful, allowing a run in 2 of his 6 appearances.

Magliozzi is a freshman who is being brought along slowly. He's appeared in 4 SEC games and has been sporadic, giving up 4 runs in 7.2 innings.

Crawford has been used almost exclusively as a starter in SEC duty and he was very, very good in that role. But he was put in the bullpen last weekend with the return of Whitson to the three-man SEC rotation. In his one outing last week he threw 3 innings, giving up 1 unearned run on 3 hits and 0 walks while striking out 2.

Mississippi State will primarily used six pitchers in relief, including senior RHP Caleb Reed (1-5, 8 S, 2.98 ERA), freshman RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 3 S, 0.00), freshman LHP Jacob Lindgren (1-1, 1 S, 2.70), sophomore RHP Evan Mitchell (2-1, 0 S, 3.82), redshirt freshman Ross Mitchell (1-0, 0 S, 1.89) and freshman Brandon Woodruff (0-1, 0 S, 3.27).

Reed has been MSU's closer most of the SEC season, through last weekend he was used as more of a setup guy for Holder. When he's on, he'll give MSU a solid 2 to 3 innings. But if the State coaches use him like they did last weekend, he'll be brought in to get a couple of outs in a couple of games this weekend.

Holder has been brought along slowly but has been used more of late. He was used as MSU's closer last weekend against Alabama and excelled in that role, throwing 2.2 innings, while giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk to go along with his 2 Ks.

Lindgren is another freshman who has been brought along slowly by the State coaches. He has had some good SEC outings and some others that weren't as good. But he's a guy who will matchup well against lefties.

Evan Mitchell is a guy who was used earlier in the SEC season as a long reliever but hasn't been used as much the last two SEC series. If one of the starters gets into early trouble I could see him being brought in to pitch 3 or 4 innings.

Ross Mitchell has been used as a lefty matchup reliever, a role he's been good at up until last weekend when he gave up 2 runs in 1 inning in the 2 games he pitched in. He pitched 4.2 innings this past Tuesday so he may be saved until the Sunday game if he's used this weekend.

Woodruff is a guy that the State coaching staff has been trying to use in SEC action. He was used in middle relief last weekend and did well for an inning, then ran into control issues that caused him to be taken out. I could see him being used in that role once again this weekend.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 SEC Games - For Florida freshman Justin Shafer leads with the way with a .333 batting average (5-of-15, 2 RBI), followed by junior Brian Johnson who is hitting .316 (6-of-19, 3 RBI) and junior Mike Zunino is also at .316 (6-of-19, 0 RBI).

Others include freshman Josh Tobias at .286 (4-of-14, 0 RBI), senior Preston Tucker at .261 (6-of-23, 4 RBI), freshman Casey Turgeon at .235 (7-of-17, 0 RBI), senior Daniel Pigott at .210 (4-of-19, 1 RBI), junior Austin Maddox at .143 (2-of-14, 0 RBI) and junior Nolan Fontana at .125 (2-of-16, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Trey Porter who is hitting .400 (6-of-15, 1 RBI), followed by junior Mitch Slauter who is hitting .294 (5-of-17, 4 RBI).

Others include freshman Tyler Fullerton who is batting .250 (3-of-12, 2 RBI), junior Sam Frost at .250 (2-of-8, 1 RBI), sophomore Adam Frazier who is hitting .222 (4-of-18, 2 RBI), senior Brent Brownlee who comes in at .188 (3-of-16, 0 RBI), sophomore Daryl Norris who is hitting .067 (1-of-15, 3 RBI), sophomore Hunter Renfroe who comes in hitting .059 (1-of-17, 0 RBI), and redshirt freshman Wes Rea at .000 (0-of-18, 1 RBI).

In part-time duty, freshman Phillip Casey is hitting .500 (2-of-4, 3 RBI) and freshman Matthew Britton is hitting .167 (1-of-6, 0 RBI). Although he hasn't hit in any of the last 5 SEC games, sophomore Taylor Stark, now that he is approved for hitting after been injured most of the SEC season, might also start a game or two this weekend. He hit this past Tuesday against Mississippi Valley State and was 2-of-4 with 2 RBI.

How Florida and MSU Match Up
Florida Category Mississippi State
36-13 Record 30-18
.286 Batting Average .254
292 (6.0 pg) Runs 233 (4.9 pg)
59 Home Runs 18
.363 OB % .361
44-67 Stolen Bases-Attempts 38-62
183 (3.7 pg) Walks 197 (4.1 pg)
255 (5.2 pg) Strikeouts 326 (6.8 pg)
363 (7.4 pg) LOB 403 (8.4 pg)
2.91 Team ERA 2.78
15 Saves 13
90 (1.8 pg) Walks 138 (2.9 pg)
383 (7.8 pg) Strikeouts 420 (8.8 pg)
.250 Batting Average Against .245
.980 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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