LSU - MSU Baseball Series Preview

No. 8 ranked Mississippi State and 2nd ranked LSU tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Dudy Noble Field.

Weather - Friday - The temperatures should be in the mid 60s with a 5 mph southwest wind. | Saturday - The temperatures should be in the mid 60s with a 5 mph southwest wind. | Sunday - The temperatures should be in the low 70s with a 13 mph southwest wind.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 6:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

Coaches - LSU head coach Paul Mainieri is entering his 7th season at LSU. He has an overall record of 258-122-2 and is 96-82-2 in SEC play. Four of his teams have advanced to NCAA postseason play with three advancing to a Super Regional and two of those continuing on to the College World Series. One of his teams, the 2009 squad, won the national championship. His teams are 21-8 in NCAA postseason play.

John Cohen, who is entering his fifth season as the head coach at Mississippi State, has an overall record of 126-111, including a combined 78-49 in 2011 and 2012, and a 45-74 record in SEC play (30-30 SEC W-L record in 2011-2012). His 2011 and 2012 teams appeared in regionals with his 2011 team advancing to a Super Regional. His teams overall NCAA postseason record is 5-4.

LSU Road/Mississippi State Home Records - LSU is 1-0 on the road while MSU is 17-2 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - LSU is expected to start sophomore RHP Aaron Nola (2-0, 2.77) Friday, junior RHP Ryan Eades (3-0, 1.80) Saturday and sophomore LHP Cody Glenn (3-0, 0.73) Sunday.

Nola has been very good, although a little inconsistent, as the Friday starter for LSU. In his four starts he has either been outstanding or very good. What I mean by that is against Maryland and Brown he threw 13.2 innings, allowing 1 run (unearned) on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 20. Against BYU and Washington he threw 12.1 innings, allowing 8 runs (all earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks while striking out 12. Something of note in the BYU and Washington games, he gave up all of his runs against BYU in the 3rd while he gave up all of his runs against Washington in the 7th. You take away the game against BYU and he has been extremely good for the first 6 innings of the other three games, giving up just 1 run and it was unearned.

Eades, like Nola, has been a very, very good starter for LSU. He have thrown 6 to 6+ innings in each of his four starts. In his first three outings he was exceptional, giving up just 2 runs (1 earned) in 18.1 innings of work. His last start, which was against Washington, is the only one that you might consider a blemish on his record. In that game, he gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks while throwing 6.2 innings. All four of the runs were scored in the 4th inning.

It's starting to sound like a broken record but once again LSU's starter on Sunday, Glenn, has been very, very good. However, unlike Nola and Eades, Glenn has been consistent in all four of his starts. He has only allowed 16 hits while walking 3 in 24.2 innings of work. Unlike the other two starters, he's not as much of a strikeout pitcher, striking out 14 in the 24.2 innings. He has given up 1, 0, 0 and 2 runs in the four outings. The two runs were against Washington, the only team that has been able to solidly hit the LSU starters this season. Oddly enough, Washington, as a team, is only hitting .245 and has a 4-11 overall record.

Mississippi State is expected to start sophomore LHP Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 0.96) Friday night, junior RHP Evan Mitchell (0-0, 2.30) on Saturday night and senior RHP Kendall Graveman (1-1, 2.61) Sunday afternoon.

Lindgren has been phenomenal this season. Prior to his last start, when he was taken out after being hit by a line drive in the first inning against Central Arkansas, he had thrown 18.1 innings, allowing 2 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks while striking out 22. And he has progressively gotten better in every category in each of his starts, including runs allowed, hits allowed, walks and strikeouts. In fact, his strikeouts per game has gone from 3 to 6 to 13 while his hits have decreased from 5 to 3 to 1. He's given MSU between 5+ to 7 innings per outing. The only question mark is will he be 100% recovered from the bone bruise in his leg that he suffered last Friday?

Mitchell, like Lindgren has great stuff, but unlike Lindgren he hasn't been able to harness it. His fastball velo is the best on the staff, consistently low to mid 90s, topping out at 96. Teams don't hit him that well, with him having given up just 7 hits in 15.2 innings. His downfall this season have been the walks, 13 in the 15.2 innings. While he hasn't given up more than a run in any of his outings, the MSU coaching staff is quick to take him out if he has walk issues early. He's thrown no more than 5 innings in any one outing and has even thrown 3 and 2.2 innings in a couple of his outings.

Graveman has been very, very solid, although not dominating like Lindgren. Other than one outing this season, he has given MSU between 5+ and 6+ innings per outing. A ground ball out machine (34 ground ball outs to 8 fly ball outs in his 4 starts), Graveman has been snake bit defensively. He's given up 10 runs this season, although only 6 have been earned in his 20.2 innings of work. A positive for Graveman is how well he did against LSU last season, throwing 9 innings, while allowing just 1 run on 10 hits and 3 walks. He had 19 groundball outs, including 4 double plays, in that game.

Relief Pitching - Look for LSU to use upwards of 6 guys in the bullpen, most of whom are either seniors or juniors. Leading the way is senior LHP Chris Cotton (1-0, 5 saves, 0.84 ERA). Following him are senior RHP Joey Bourgeois (1-0, 0 S, 3.12), junior RHP Will LaMarche (0-0, 0 S, 3.38), senior RHP Kevin Berry (2-0, 0 S, 0.00), freshman LHP Hunter Devall (1-0, 0 S, 2.08) and junior RHP Nick Rumbelow (1-0, 0 S, 4.26).

Cotton, a former walk-on who doesn't impress you with his size (5-foot-10, 166) when he walks onto the mound, has been dominating as LSU's closer this season. In all 10 of his appearances he has been the closer. And he has been very, very good in all 10. The only run he has given up was when he threw more than an inning. In that game, he threw 2 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits. It's not unusual for LSU to use him in 2 games in a series. A strikeout pitcher, he has 15 Ks in his 10.2 innings of work. He has walked no one.

Hard-throwing Bourgeois (low to mid 90s fastball) is usually the guy who sets up Cotton. In five of his nine outings, he came in prior to LSU bringing in Cotton to close out the game. He has been very solid so far this season, giving up just 3 runs in 8.2 innings. A strikeout pitcher, he has struck out 14 in his 8+ innings. And like Cotton, he rarely walks anyone, walking just 1 this season.

LaMarche, like Bourgeois, is a hard-throwing righty (mid 90s). He has mostly been used in middle relief, usually throwing 1 to 1+ inning. And he has been fairly effective, giving up just 3 runs in 8 innings.

Berry is more of a middle relief type guy. And in half of his appearances he has thrown in games that were started by Eades. He'll usually throw between 1 and 2 innings.

Devall has been used in either middle or late reliever duties this season. When he's brought in, the game is usually out of hand. He was better during the first part of the season than he has been of late. In his first 6 appearances he threw 4.2 innings, allowing 0 runs on 3 hits. In his last two outings, he has thrown 4 innings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits.

Rumbelow has been used in relief in 5 games, four of them in middle relief when either Nola or Glenn starts. He has been so-so in that role, giving up 3 runs in 4.1 innings.

Mississippi State has an abundance of relievers to choose from. They include sophomore RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0. 6 S. 3.86 ERA), sophomore LHP Ross Mitchell (4-0, 1 S, 0.96), freshman RHP Myles Gentry (0-0, 0 S, 1.59), junior Ben Bracewell (0-0, 1 S, 0.00), junior LHP C.T. Bradford (0-0, 0 S, 0.00), redshirt freshman Preston Brown (0-0, 0 S, 2.45), sophomore RHP Trevor Fitts (0-0, 0 S, 1.29), sophomore RHP Will Cox (2-0, 0 S, 1.02), senior LHP Chad Girodo (3-0, 0 S, 0.93) and freshman RHP John Marc Shelly (0-0, 0 S, 0.00).

Holder was one of the SEC's most dominating closers last season and continued that dominance into this season, that is up until last weekend when he gave up 4 earned runs against Central Arkansas in his two outings (2 IP, 4 ER). But prior to those two appearances he had given up just 1 run (unearned) in 7.1 innings. He allowed 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 16 in those outings.

Ross Mitchell, who may be the premier middle relief pitcher in the SEC, dominates in his role just as well as Holder does in his. In 18.2 innings, he has only allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 20 hits and 6 walks while striking out 13. He has appeared in 7 games this season and has thrown 3 or more innings in 4 of them. His primary role during weekend games has been to come in relief of Evan Mitchell. Evan, due to his walk issue, has been taken out of games very quickly and Ross has been brought in. And he has excelled in that role, throwing 13 innings, while allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9. When the Mitchell's are paired up in a game that Evan starts, their combined ERA in those games is 1.88.

Gentry has been the surprise of the staff. He has been used mainly in middle to long relief, primarily for either Graveman or Lindgren. He started the season as a matchup guy who came in and got an out or two. He was so effective in that role, the MSU coaching staff has started using him for 1 to 1+ inning, throwing him 4 innings in one outing recently. He was the only pitcher on the staff who dominated Central Arkansas hitters last weekend, throwing 5.1 innings against them, while giving up no runs, hits or walks and striking out 4. In his last four outings, he has given up no runs, hits or walks while striking out 5 in 8 innings.

Bracewell has been MSU's other closer at times. He's usually going to throw a couple of outs to an inning when he comes in. It's not unusual to see him throw in a couple of weekend games. In his 7 outings, he has given up no runs on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 7 in 5.2 innings. Teams are only hitting .116 against him.

Bradford has been a purely matchup reliever. He usually is brought in from centerfield to pitch to one lefty, then sent back to centerfield after facing the one batter. For the most part, he has been successful in that role, striking out 3 in 2 innings while giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk.

Brown has been mainly used as a middle relief matchup guy who comes in and throws a couple of outs to an inning. He has been very good in that role, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 in 7.1 innings.

Fitts is another pitcher who has been used mainly in middle relief. He has performed well in that role, allowing 1 run on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6 in 7 innings.

Cox was used as a mid-week starter during his first three outings (15 IP, 1 ER), but was used in middle relief last weekend against Central Arkansas. He did ok, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 in 2.2 innings.

Girodo has been another surprise on the staff. A guy who came in throwing in the mid 80s when he first got to MSU, he now throws in the high 80s to low 90s. He is primarily used as a matchup lefty who comes in and pitches an inning to an inning-plus. He has excelled in that role, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and 0 walks while striking out 15 in 9.2 innings.

Shelly is MSU's closer in games that are out of hand. So far this season he has performed extremely well in that role, allowing no runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 in 7.1 innings.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - LSU is led by freshman Alex Bregman who is hitting .555 (11-of-20, 5 RBI). Following him is freshman Mark Laird who comes in hitting at a .455 clip (10-of-22, 4 RBI) and senior Mason Katz at .412 (7-of-17, 11 RBI). Senior Raph Rhymes is hitting .286 (6-of-21, 4 RBI), junior Ty Ross is hitting .250 (4-of-16, 3 RBI), junior Christian Ibarra is also hitting .250 (3-of-12, 4 RBI), junior Jacoby Jones is hitting .214 (3-of-14, 1 RBI) as is sophomore Chris Sciambra (3-of-14, 0 RBI).

In limited action, sophomore Jared Foster is hitting .400 (2-of-5, 1 RBI), sophomore Tyler Moore is hitting .167 (1-of-6, 0 RBI) and freshman Andrew Stevenson comes in hitting .000 (0-of-6, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Hunter Renfroe who comes in hitting .550 (11-of-20, 13 RBI). Following him is senior Sam Frost who is hitting .500 (5-of-10, 1 RBI), junior Alex Detz is hitting .353 (6-of-17, 2 RBI), junior Adam Frazier comes in at .333 (6-of-18, 3 RBI), junior Demarcus Henderson is hitting .308 (4-of-13, 2 RBI) and senior Mitch Slauter is hitting the ball at a .235 clip (4-of-17, 4 RBI). Following him is junior Brett Pirtle who comes in hitting .231 (3-of-13, 1 RBI), senior Trey Porter is at .214 (3-of-14, 3 RBI) and junior C.T. Bradford comes in at .056 (1-of-18, 0 RBI).

In limited action, junior Daryl Norris is hitting .600 (3-of-5, 3 RBI), as is freshman Kyle Hann (3-of-5, 1 RBI). Senior Nick Ammirati is hitting .333 (3-of-9, 1 RBI) and freshman Jacob Robson is also hitting at a .333 clip (6-of-6, 0 RBI).

How LSU and MSU Match Up
LSU Category Mississippi State
16-1 Record 18-2
.321 Batting Average .324
127 (7.5 pg) Runs 147 (7.4 pg)
13 Home Runs 9
.417 OB % .421
19-26 Stolen Bases-Attempts 28-36
85 (5.0 pg) Walks 87 (4.4 pg)
71 (4.2 pg) Strikeouts 120 (6.0 pg)
149 (8.8 pg) LOB 163 (8.2 pg)
2.41 Team ERA 1.84
5 Saves 8
30 (1.8 pg) Walks 65 (3.3 pg)
150 (8.8 pg) Strikeouts 190 (9.5 pg)
.206 Batting Average Against .188
.980 Fielding % .975

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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