MSU - Kentucky Baseball Series Preview

No. 14 ranked Mississippi State and 8th ranked Kentucky tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Kentucky.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the high 30s during the game. No rain is expected. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the high 40s to low 50s during the game. Skies should be partly cloudy with a slight chance (10%) of rain. | Sunday - The temperatures should be in the mid to high 30s with a 70% chance for rain and possibly snow. Winds should be from the south/southeast at 16 miles per hour.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:30 p.m. (ET) | Saturday 12:00 p.m. (ET) | Sunday 1:00 p.m. (ET)

Coaches - Gary Henderson is entering his fifth season as the head coach at Kentucky. His first four teams had an overall record of 129-99 and an SEC record of 51-69. His 2012 team advanced to an NCAA regional where it had a 2-2 record.

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.

MSU Road/Kentucky Home Records - MSU is 1-0 on the road while Kentucky is 9-2 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Kentucky is expected to start sophomore LHP A.J. Reed (2-2, 2.83) Friday, senior LHP Jerad Grundy (4-1, 1.93) Saturday and junior LHP Corey Littrell (3-0, 2.84) Sunday.

Reed has come on strong after struggling earlier in the season. In his first two outings this season, he allowed 6 runs (all earned) on 13 hits and 0 walks while striking out 7 in 9.1 innings. His ERA was 5.70 during those two starts. Since that time, he has thrown 19 innings in 3 starts, allowing 6 runs (3 earned) on 17 hits and 5 walks while recording 14 strikeouts. His ERA was 1.42. When he's on, Kentucky will get 6 to 7 innings out of him.

Grundy has done the exact opposite of Reed this season. After having three great outings to start the season (IP 21.0, H 9, R 3, ER 1, BB 3, SO 24, 0.43 ERA), he has struggled in his last two appearances, giving up 6 runs on 12 hits and 5 walks while striking out 4 in 11.2 innings. His ERA during those two starts was 4.62. Last weekend against Florida the three runs he gave up were all in the first two innings of the game.

Littrell struggled in a big way in his first two starts this season, giving up 9 runs (7 earned) on 13 hits and 7 walks while striking out 7 in 9.2 innings for a 6.49 ERA. Since then, he has been dominant on the mound, giving up just 3 runs on 19 hits and 1 walk while recording 24 strikeouts in 22 innings of work. He has been exceptional in the first 5 innings of those three starts, having given up just 1 run in the first five innings. In his last three outings, he has thrown 7 or 8 innings.

Mississippi State is expected to start sophomore LHP Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 1.85) Friday night, junior RHP Evan Mitchell (0-1, 2.75) on Saturday and senior RHP Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.36) Sunday afternoon.

Lindgren has became the ace of the MSU pitching staff this season. Other than one outing (against Central Arkansas) when he was taken out of the first inning after getting hit by a batted ball, he has thrown 5+ or more innings in each of his other four appearances. Other than his last outing, when he gave up 3 runs in 5.2 innings against LSU, he has given up no more than a 1 run in a game. He is at his best in the first five innings of a game, having given up just 2 runs during the first five innings of all of his starts (20.1 IP, 2 ER). During his first 2 starts this season he had a 1.59 ERA. During his last three starts he had a 2.08 ERA. While the ERA may be a little better in the first 2 starts, his overall pitching has been better the last three outings, with him giving up just 7 hits and 1 walk while striking out 20 in 13 innings. Something that you may not know about Lindgren is he has a 3 to 1 groundball to flyball out ratio. In his five starts he has 30 groundball outs to 10 flyball outs. Something else that could come into play this weekend is the fact that Kentucky's batters only hit .200 against lefthanded pitchers last weekend against Florida.

Mitchell very likely has the best overall stuff on the MSU pitching staff. What is keeping him from being a dominant pitcher is his lack of command. While teams are only hitting .125 against him ( 8 hits in 19.2 IP), he has walked 16, hit 4 and thrown 4 wild pitches. Because of the lack of command, the MSU coaches have had a short leash with him in his starts. He has thrown no more than 5 innings in any start and has even been taken out in the 3rd innings in a couple of outings.

Graveman has been very, very solid so far this season. With the exception of one start, he has given MSU between 5+ and 6+ innings per outing. Graveman has been a groundball out machine (44 groundball outs to 10 flyball outs in his 5 starts), something that could be important for him this weekend due to Kentucky's short right field fence. Something that is a little concerning is how he performed against Kentucky last season. A predominantly lefthand hitting team once again this season, Kentucky scored 4 runs on 11 hits and 0 walks while striking out 3 times in 6 innings against Graveman last seasons.

Relief Pitching - While Kentucky's starting pitching has been a strength this season, the bullpen is not as strong. In close games this season, Kentucky has relied on 3 to 4 pitchers, including junior RHP Trevor Gott (2-0, 6 Saves, 0.79 ERA), senior RHP Walter Wijas (1-0, 0 S, 0.87), freshman LHP Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0 S, 0.00) and sophomore RHP Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 0 S, 3.31).

Gott is Kentucky's closer, a role that he has been, for the most part, very, very good in. I say for the most part because he has struggled a bit of late. In his two outings against Florida last weekend, he gave up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2 in 2.1 innings. Other than those two outings, he has been very, very good, giving up no runs in 9 innings. Something of interest is the fact that he has been at his best when he gets flyball outs and at his worst when he is getting groundball outs. In the two Florida outings, when he gave up the 2 runs, he recorded 5 groundball outs and no flyball outs.

Wijas is Kentucky's middle reliever. He is usually the first reliever in for starters Reed and Littrell. So far this season, he has performed well in that role, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) on 9 hits and 2 walks while striking out 9 in 10.1 innings.

Dwyer was used more in the first part of the season than of late. His role was more of a late reliever. He has been good in that role but Kentucky hasn't used him as much of late except in mid-week games.

Shepherd started the season well, throwing 11 innings while allowing 4 runs (3 earned). However, in his last three outings he has been ineffective, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 in 5.1 innings of work.

Mississippi State has an abundance of relievers to choose from. They include sophomore RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0. 7 S. 3.65 ERA), sophomore LHP Ross Mitchell (4-0, 1 S, 1.25), freshman RHP Myles Gentry (1-0, 0 S, 2.70), junior RHP Ben Bracewell (0-0, 1 S, 0.00), sophomore RHP Will Cox (2-1, 0 S, 1.93), senior LHP Chad Girodo (3-0, 0 S, 0.79) and senior LHP Luis Pollorena (4-0, 0 S, 3.32).

Holder has been MSU's closer this season. And he has been very effective in that role other than two outings against Central Arkansas and one appearance against LSU when he gave up 5 runs in 4 innings of work. He seemed to get back to the Holder of old against Alcorn State his past Tuesday, allowing no runs while striking out 2 in his 1 inning of work. He'll usually come in and pitch for one inning.

Mitchell, a middle reliever, has been paired with starter Evan Mitchell this season. It's not unusual for him to pitch between 3 and 4 innings in that role. He's even thrown 6 innings once. He's only given up 4 runs (3 earned) in 21.2 innings of work this season. He had good success against Kentucky last season, throwing 5.1 innings in three outings, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 0 walks while striking out 3.

Gentry has really performed well in his role this season, mostly as a middle reliever. In 16.2 innings, he has given up 6 runs (5 earned) on 6 hits and 6 walks while striking out 17. Teams are only hitting .115 against him. Over half of his earned runs (3) were against LSU last weekend. Other than that, he has been very good, including his last outing this past Tuesday night when he threw 4 innings against Alcorn State, giving up 1 unearned run on 0 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8.

Bracewell is more of a late reliever for MSU. In his 9.1 innings of work he has given up no runs on 2 hits while walking 4 and striking out 8. Teams are only hitting .077 against him. He had good success against LSU last weekend, throwing 3.2 innings, while giving up no runs on 0 hits and 3 walks to go along with his 1 strikeout.

Cox, who was a starter during the first part of the season, has become more of a right on right matchup reliever of late. In that role, he has thrown 3.2 innings, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 4.

Girodo is a left on left matchup reliever. And, for the most part, he has been very, very good in that role. In 11.1 innings he has struck out 19 while giving up 1 run on 5 hits and 1 walk. Teams are only hitting .125 against him. In his 12 games this season he has only had two poor outings, one against Central Arkansas and one against LSU. He redeemed himself in a big way this past Tuesday night when he came in against Alcorn State and struck out the side with men on 2nd and 3rd and no outs with MSU leading by one run. He could play an important part in this weekend's series due to the number of lefthanded hitters Kentucky has.

Although Pollorena has been used mostly in mid-week games of late, I could see him being an important piece of the bullpen this weekend due to Kentucky's strong lefthand hitting lineup. He faced them three times last season and allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 5 in 6 innings.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Kentucky freshman Kyle Barrett leads the way with a .385 batting average (5-of-13, 2 RBI). Not far behind is sophomore A.J. Reed at .368 (7-of-19, 3 RBI), sophomore Austin Cousino at .364 (8-of-22, 4 RBI) and junior J.T. Riddle at .300 (6-of-20, 3 RBI). Others include senior Zac Zellers at .263 (5-of-19, 3 RBI), junior Matt Reida who comes in hitting .211 (4-of-19, 3 RBI), sophomore Max Kuhn who is hitting .182 (4-of-22, 1 RBI) and junior Micheal Thomas who is also hitting at a .182 clip (2-of-11, 5 RBI).

In limited activity, junior Paul McConkey is hitting .167 (1-of-6, 0 RBI) and sophomore Jeff Boehm is hitting .125 (1-of-8, 1 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Adam Frazier who comes in hitting .476 (10-of-21, 2 RBI). Following him is senior Nick Ammirati who is hitting .417 (5-of-12, 1 RBI), junior C.T. Bradford who is hitting at a .412 clip (7-of-17, 4 RBI), junior Hunter Renfroe at .381 (8-of-21, 13 RBI). senior Trey Porter at .364 (4-of-11, 0 RBI). junior Brett Pirtle at .333 (5-of-15, 3 RBI) and junior Alex Detz who also comes in hitting .333 (5-of-15, 2 RBI). Senior Mitch Slauter is hitting .300 (3-of-10, 3 RBI) and junior Demarcus Henderson comes in hitting .091 (1-of-11, 0 RBI).

In limited action, senior Sam Frost comes in at a .429 clip (3-of-7, 0 RBI), sophomore Wes Rea who is hitting .222 (2-of-9, 3 RBI), junior Daryl Norris at .111 (1-of-9, 1 RBI) and freshman Jacob Robson at .000 (0-of-6, 2 RBI).

How Kentucky and MSU Match Up
Kentucky Category Mississippi State
16-4 Record 20-4
.297 Batting Average .322
152 (7.6 pg) Runs 171 (7.1 pg)
14 Home Runs 11
.405 OB % .423
31-36 Stolen Bases-Attempts 33-41
90 (4.5 pg) Walks 111 (4.6 pg)
115 (5.8 pg) Strikeouts 147 (6.1 pg)
177 (8.9 pg) LOB 207 (8.6 pg)
2.63 Team ERA 2.27
6 Saves 9
46 (2.3 pg) Walks 85 (3.5 pg)
149 (7.5 pg) Strikeouts 225 (9.4 pg)
.253 Batting Average Against .197
.974 Fielding % .971

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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