MSU - Arkansas Baseball Series Preview

No. 16th ranked Mississippi State and 11th ranked Arkansas tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Arkansas.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the low 60s to high 50s during the game. There is a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms. Winds should be from the south at 4 to 5 mph. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the low 60s during the game with a 30% chance for isolated thunderstorms. Winds should be from the south at 10 to 11 mph. | Sunday - The temperatures should be in the mid 60s. There is a 10% chance of rain. Winds should be from the north at 8 mph.

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

Coaches - Dave Van Horn is coaching his 11th season at Arkansas, In his first ten seasons he has won one SEC championship. His teams have an overall record of 405-223 and are 159-139 in SEC regular season action. All ten of his teams have advanced to NCAA post-season action with five advancing to Super Regional play. Three of those five teams won the Super Regionals and appeared in the College World Series. His teams are 31-23 in NCAA post-season 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.

Arkansas Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Arkansas is 15-3 at home while Mississippi State is 2-2 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Look for Arkansas to start junior RHP Barrett Astin (2-1, 2.48 ERA) on Friday, junior RHP Ryne Stanek (2-1, 2.35 ERA) Saturday, and senior LHP Randall Fant (1-0, 1.19 ERA)Sunday.

Astin has taken over the SEC starting duties from freshman Trey Killian, and he's done a decent job. In his only SEC start, which was against South Carolina last weekend, he gave up 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5 in 5.1 innings. For the season, he has started 4 games, allowing 7 runs (6 earned) on 18 hits and 6 walks to go along with his 15 Ks in 21.2 innings of work. He's better at home than on the road, with a home ERA of 0.82 and a road ERA of 4.21.

Fant has been very good this season. In four starts he has thrown 6 or more innings in three of them. In his two SEC starts he has thrown 12.2 innings, giving up 4 runs (2 earned) on 10 hits and 1 walk while striking out 12. He rarely walks a batter, walking just 1 in 22.2 innings as a starter. Although he has been very, very good, whether on the road or at home, his home ERA is 0.75 while his road ERA is 1.68.

Projected as an early first-round draft choice in this June's MLB draft, Stanek is a hard-thrower (92-94 mph consistently, 97 tops) who pitched his best game last weekend, allowing 2 unearned runs on 3 hits and 1 walk, to go along with his 7 Ks in 9 innings against South Carolina. Prior to that game, he had been struggling with control, walking 8 over 9 innings in his two prior outings. Up until the 9 inning game, he had only been throwing 4+ to 5+ innings per start this season. Oddly, he has pitched better on the road than he has at home. In his two road starts he has a 0.61 ERA while in his four home starts he has a 3.94 ERA.

Mississippi State is expected to start senior LHP Luis Pollorena (4-0, 2.77 ERA) on Friday, senior RHP Kendall Graveman (2-2, 2.84 ERA) on Saturday. No starter has been announced for Sunday's game.

Pollorena - who normally throws in the high 80s, touching 90 at times - has been moved into the SEC starting rotation in place of Evan Mitchell, who has been struggling with his control. Although he has not started an SEC game this year, he has started two non-conference games, allowing 7 runs (6 earned) in 9.1 innings. In his one SEC appearance this season (in relief), he threw 4.1 innings against Kentucky, allowing 0 runs on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 3.

Graveman, who has two SEC starts to his credit, has pitched well, allowing 4 runs in 11.0 innings. He continues to be a ground ball out machine, recording 16 ground ball outs to 4 fly ball outs in his 2 SEC outings.

Look for either sophomore LHP Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 2.83 ERA) or, if he can't go, junior Evan Mitchell (0-1, 4.12 ERA) to start Sunday's game. Lindgren has been decent as an SEC starter, allowing 7 earned runs on 12 hits and 4 walks while striking out 8 in 10.2 innings of work. He had been starting on Friday night but had a complication during his Tuesday bullpen and has been moved back to Sunday, that is if he can throw this weekend. Mitchell, who throws in the 92-94 range, topping out at 95-96, has struggled with his control during his two SEC starts this season, walking 6 in 4+ innings of work. In his last four outings, he has walked 15 in 11.2 innings.

Relief Pitching - Look for Arkansas to primarily use four pitchers in relief, sophomore LHP Jalen Beeks (2-0, 2 Saves, 0.90 ERA), junior RHP Brandon Moore (1-0, 0 S, 1.09 ERA), junior RHP Colby Suggs (0-0, 1 S, 3.68 ERA) and freshman Trey Killian (3-2, 0 S, 3.08 ERA). There are others they may use if there is a blow out game, but those are the primary four.

Beeks has been used in middle relief in SEC games and he's done really well in that role, giving up no runs on 3 hits while walking 4 and striking out 3 in 6.1 innings of work. He'll usually throw between 1+ and 2+ innings when he comes in.

Moore has been used mostly in middle relief. He's also done well in his role, although walks have been his nemesis so far this season. In his three SEC outings he has given up 6 walks in 6 innings, although he has only allowed 2 hits.

Suggs, a hard-thrower, is Arkansas' closer. In the two SEC games that he has closed he has thrown 1 inning in each, allowing no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 2.

Killian, who can throw in the high 80s to low 90s at times, has been starting for Arkansas most of the season and even started one SEC game. However, in the game against Ole Miss he was roughed up, allowing 7 runs (all earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out no one in 3 innings. He has been moved to the bullpen since then and has appeared in one SEC game, striking out the one batter he faced.

Look for Mississippi State to primarily used five pitchers in relief - redshirt sophomore LHP Ross Mitchell (5-0, 1 S, 1.16 ERA), sophomore RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 7 S, 3.55 ERA), senior LHP Chad Girodo (2-1, 0 S, 1.20 ERA), redshirt junior RHP Ben Bracewell (0-0, 1 S, 0.00 ERA) and freshman RHP Myles Gentry (3-0, 0 S, 2.25 ERA).

Mitchell has been paired with Evan Mitchell in SEC action. And he's done really well in that role, allowing 1 run in 7 innings of work. Look for him to once again be the first pitcher brought in this weekend if any of the starters get hit early.

Holder is MSU's closer. He had been doing really well in that role early on but has struggled of late. In SEC action, he has appeared in two games, giving up 1 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in 2.1 innings of work. He has struck out 1.

Girodo is a left-on-left matchup pitcher. He has appeared in 5 of MSU's 6 SEC games this season, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2 in 4 innings of work.

Bracewell is more of a late inning type reliever in SEC action. And he's been very good in that role, allowing no runs on 1 hit and 5 walks while striking out 5 in his 6.1 innings of work. He's normally going to throw 1 to 2+ innings when he comes in.

Gentry has been used in middle relief in SEC action. While he has been very, very effective in that role in non-SEC games, he has struggled in his SEC outings, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1 in his 2 innings of work.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Arkansas sophomore Brian Anderson leads the way with a .500 batting average (7-of-14, 2 RBI), followed by senior Jacob Mahan who comes in hitting .381 (8-of-21, 3 RBI), and senior Matt Vinson at .350 (7-of-20, 3 RBI). Also hitting at least .300 is junior Dominic Ficociello who comes in hitting an even .300 (6-of-20, 2 RBI). Others include redshirt junior Jacob Morris who is hitting .286 (4-of-14, 5 RBI), redshirt freshman Tyler Spoon who comes in at .208 (5-of-24, 7 RBI), sophomore Joe Serrano at .200 (4-of-20, 1 RBI), junior Jake Wise at .188 (3-of-16, 1 RBI), freshman Willie Schwanke at .100 (1-of-10, 2 RBI) and in part-time duty redshirt sophomore Eric Fisher at .000 (0-of-7, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Hunter Renfroe who comes in hitting at a .467 clip (7-of-of-15, 8 RBI). He also has an amazing .619 on-base percentage in the last five games. Senior Nick Ammirati is not far behind, coming in with a .455 batting average (5-of-11, 4 RBI). Not far behind those two is junior Adam Frazier who comes in hitting .381 (8-of-21, 1 RBI) and junior Brett Pirtle who is hitting .333 (6-of-18, 2 RBI). Pirtle's on-base % is .455. Junior C.T. Bradford comes in hitting .200 (4-of-20, 3 RBI), as does redshirt sophomore Wes Rea (3-of-15, 2 RBI). Close behind them is junior Demarcus Henderson who is hitting at a .182 clip (2-of-11, 0 RBI) and junior Daryl Norris who comes in at .167 (2-of-12, 1 RBI). Others include junior Alex Detz who is hitting .077 (2-of-13, 1 RBI) but has a .450 on-base percentage, and freshman Jacob Robson who comes in at .000 (0-of-6, 1 RBI) but like Detz has a very good on-base percentage, .400. In part-time duty, Trey Porter is hitting .400 (2-of-5, 3 RBI).

How Arkansas and MSU Match Up
Arkansas Category Mississippi State
19-7 Record 22-6
.284 Batting Average .310
167 (6.4 pg) Runs 197 (7.0 pg)
13 Home Runs 15
.371 OB % .411
28-33 Stolen Bases-Attempts 42-51
118 (4.5 pg) Walks 131 (4.7 pg)
165 (6.3 pg) Strikeouts 180 (6.4 pg)
219 (8.4 pg) LOB 234 (8.4 pg)
1.64 Team ERA 2.53
6 Saves 9
77 (3.0 pg) Walks 106 (3.8 pg)
214 (8.2 pg) Strikeouts 256 (9.1 pg)
.189 Batting Average Against .206
.963 Fielding % .974

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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