Kentucky - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and 2nd ranked Kentucky tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at MSU.

Weather - Thursday - The temperature will be in the upper to mid 70s during the game. No rain is expected. The winds will be from the north at 3 mph. | Friday - The temperature will be in the upper to mid 70s during the game. No rain is expected. | Saturday - The temperature will be in the upper to mid 80s during the game. No rain is expected. The winds will be from the east/southeast at 6 mph.

Gametimes (CDT) - Thursday 6:30 p.m. | Friday 7:00 p.m. (TV-SportSouth) | Saturday 2:00 p.m.

Coaches - Gary Henderson is entering his fourth season as the head coach at Kentucky. His first three teams had an overall record of 84-81 and an SEC record of 33-57. None of those teams advanced to NCAA post-season 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 during his first three seasons. 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.

Kentucky Road Record/Mississippi State Home Record - Kentucky is 12-7 on the road while MSU is 25-8 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations (Stats are from SEC games only) - Kentucky will start junior LHP Taylor Rogers (6-3, 4.60 ERA) the Thursday game, junior LHP Jerad Grundy (4-2, 3.91) will start the Friday game and sophomore LHP Corey Littrell (8-0, 2.22) will be the Saturday starter.

Rogers has been a solid opening night starter for Kentucky. He has been very good of late, though, giving up just 7 earned runs in his last three outings for a 3.18 ERA. On the road he has had his problems, showing a road ERA of 6.33 (15 ER, 21.1 IP). He's normally going to throw between 5 and 6 innings in his starts.

Grundy, like Rogers, has performed well in his last three SEC outings, giving up 6 earned runs in 18 innings which translates to a 3.00 ERA. However, also like Rogers, he has struggled on the road in the SEC, giving up 11 earned runs in 16.1 innings for a road ERA of 6.06.

Littrell, despite being the third game starter, has become Kentucky's ace. He has been very, very good of late, showing an ERA of 1.35 in his last three outings. And he's been even better on the road than at home with a road ERA of 1.07 and a home ERA of 3.41. He's likely to throw between 6+ to 7+ innings in his outings.

Mississippi State - Junior RHP Chris Stratton (9-1, 2.220 ERA) will start the Thursday game, junior RHP Kendall Graveman (4-3, 2.69) will start the Friday game while one of three pitchers - sophomore RHP Evan Mitchell (2-1, 3.79), junior LHP Luis Pollorena (3-0, 1.61) or redshirt junior LHP Nick Routt (2-5, 4.02) - will likely start the Saturday game.

Stratton, a likely first-round draft choice in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft, has been very, very good throughout most of his SEC outings. In his last three he has been dominating, giving up just 2 earned runs on 18 hits and 3 walks in 23 innings for a 0.78 ERA. He's also performed extremely well in home SEC games, giving up 6 earned runs on 20 hits and 4 walks in 31 innings for a 1.74 ERA. He's normally going to pitch between 7 and 9 innings in his outings.

Graveman has been almost as good as Stratton, especially in his last three SEC outings and home SEC games. In his last three starts he has a 1.93 ERA (4 ER, 18.2 IP) and his home SEC ERA is 2.05 (6 ER, 26.1 IP). Graveman has been a groundball out machine this season. When he's on, he'll normally average 2-1 to 3-1 groundball outs to flyball outs.

Mitchell has normally pitched in long relief in SEC games. He's been very effective in 5 of his 8 SEC outings, giving up 2 earned runs in 15.1 innings in those 5 games. In his last three SEC appearances he has allowed 1 earned run in 7.1 innings. His nemesis this year has been walks. He has walked 19 in 23.2 SEC innings.

Pollorena has started two SEC games this season and performed well, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in 8 innings. He has appeared in 4 SEC home games (none as a starter) and given up 0 runs in 9 innings. In his last three SEC appearances he has thrown 11 innings, giving up 1 unearned run on 7 hits and 3 walks while striking out 10.

Routt was an SEC rotation starter earlier in the year but was moved to the bullpen after being ineffective in his starter's role. In his last three SEC games he has thrown 7.1 innings, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 0 walks. Although it wasn't against an SEC team, in his outing this past Tuesday night, he consistently threw a 92-94 miles per hour moving fastball and a nice changeup in 1 inning of work.

Relief Pitching (Stats are from SEC games only) - Kentucky will mainly use 5 pitchers in relief, including senior RHP Alex Phillips (5-2, 6 S, 3.40 ERA), junior RHP Tim Peterson (3-0, 1 S, 2.62), sophomore RHP Trevor Gott (3-0, 9 S, 2.79), freshman LHP Sam Mahar (3-3, 2 S, 2.75) and freshman LHP A.J. Reed (4-1, 0 S, 3.00).

Phillips has been the go-to guy for Kentucky as either a middle reliever, late reliever or closer. Early on in SEC action he was more often than not effective in that role, but of late he hasn't been as effective, giving up 9 runs (5 earned) in 5 innings in his last four SEC outings. When he's on, he'll give Kentucky 2 to 3 innings. When not, he'll quickly give up a few hits and runs.

Peterson has been used mostly in middle relief and, for the most part, performed well in that role. He has given up no runs in 8 of his 11 SEC games. Something to key on is in his last two SEC outings he didn't record an out and gave up hits to both of the batters he faced.

Gott has been Kentucky's closer and he has been outstanding in that role. He has appeared in 10 SEC games and only given up runs in 1 (he gave up all of his 3 runs in one game) and a hit in 2. He's normally going to throw about an inning.

Mahar has gotten better as the season has progressed. After giving up 3 runs (all earned) in his first 5.1 innings of SEC ball, he pitched extremely well last weekend against Alabama, giving up no runs on 2 hits and no walks in 3 innings.

Reed has pitched in 5 SEC games and has been decently effective, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) in 8 innings. He's normally going to pitch 1 to 2 innings in games that Kentucky is behind in.

Mississippi State will primarily use between 5 and 7 pitchers in relief, including 2 of the 3 pitchers I mentioned above (see their info above), freshman RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 4 S, 0.00 ERA), senior RHP Caleb Reed (1-5, 8 S, 2.86), redshirt freshman LHP Ross Mitchell (1-0, 0 S, 1.61), freshman LHP Jacob Lindgren (1-2, 1 S, 3.14) and possibly redshirt sophomore RHP Ben Bracewell (0-0, 0 S, 0.63).

MSU had been bringing Holder along slowly in SEC game but has used him as the main closer in the last two series against Alabama and Florida. MSU won 3 of those 6 games and he earned a save in all three wins. He wound up throwing in 4 of the 6 games and threw 4.1 innings, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 5.

Reed started out as MSU's SEC closer but was somewhat inconsistent in that role early on. With the emergence of Holder, Reed has become more of a right-on-right matchup guy. I could see him doing that this weekend and I could also see him throwing a couple of innings in long relief if he comes in and is throwing well.

Ross Mitchell started out as a left-on-left type reliever and has done well in that role. But in his last outing, which was last weekend against Florida, he pitched in long relief and did well, giving up no runs on no hits and 1 walk while striking out 1 in 3.1 innings. I could see MSU using him in that role again this weekend if needed.

True freshman Lindgren hasn't thrown in the SEC as much as Holder, another true freshman, but MSU has been using him more of late. He has been decently effective in his SEC outings, giving up 4 earned runs in 8 innings. He's brought in to face lefties in the lineup.

Bracewell hasn't pitched much in SEC games this season (2 G, 1.2 IP) while recovering from minor muscle strains. But he looked really sharp this past Tuesday against Central Arkansas, throwing 2.1 innings of perfect ball while striking out 4. He, basically, looked like the Bracewell of his freshman season, throwing an 89-91 mph fastball and an excellent low-80s slider. In the outing, he threw 27 pitches, 21 for strikes.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 SEC Games - For Kentucky, a veteran team position-wise, four players are hitting above the .300 mark in their last 5 SEC games, including junior Brian Adams who comes in at .455 (5-of-11, 3 RBI), senior Michael Williams who is at .389 (7-of-18, 3 RBI), sophomore J.T. Riddle at .316 (6-of-19, 2 RBI) and freshman Austin Cousino at .313 (5-of-16, 1 RBI).

Others include redshirt junior Cameron Flynn who is hitting .286 (4-of-14, 1 RBI), junior Luke Maile at .278 (5-of-18, 3 RBI), senior Thomas McCarthy at .250 (5-of-20, 3 RBI), sophomore Matt Reida at .176 (3-of-17, 1 RBI) and junior Zac Zellers at .083 (1-of-12, 0 RBI). In part-time action sophomore Paul McConkey leads the way with a .667 batting average (4-of-6, 1 RBI) followed by freshman A.J. Reed who comes in at .400 (2-of-5, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by sophomore Hunter Renfroe who is hitting .368 (7-of-19, 2 RBI) in the last five SEC games, followed by junior Trey Porter who comes in hitting .333 (6-of-18, 1 RBI).

Others include sophomore Adam Frazier who is hitting .222 (4-of-18, 1 RBI), senior Brent Brownlee who is at .167 (2-of-12, 0 RBI), junior Mitch Slauter at .158 (3-of-19, 1 RBI), freshman Matthew Britton at .091 (1-of-11, 1 RBI), junior Sam Frost at .091 (1-of-11, 1 RBI), freshman Tyler Fullerton at .091 (1-of-11, 1 RBI) and redshirt freshman Wes Rea at .056 (1-of-18, 1 RBI). In part-time action sophomore Daryl Norris is hitting .143 (1-of-7, 1 RBI) and sophomore Taylor Stark is hitting .000 (0-of-7, 0 RBI).

How Kentucky and MSU Match Up
Kentucky Category Mississippi State
41-12 Record 31-21
.302 Batting Average .249
346 (6.5 pg) Runs 237 (4.6 pg)
54 Home Runs 19
.392 OB % .356
42-53 Stolen Bases-Attempts 39-63
204 (3.8 pg) Walks 213 (4.1 pg)
341 (6.4 pg) Strikeouts 355 (6.8 pg)
443 (8.4 pg) LOB 439 (8.4 pg)
3.52 Team ERA 2.70
18 Saves 14
133 (2.5 pg) Walks 151 (2.9 pg)
408 (7.7 pg) Strikeouts 446 (8.6 pg)
.263 Batting Average Against .240
.974 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

Gene's Page Top Stories