MSU - Texas A&M Baseball Series Preview

No. 16th ranked Mississippi State and Texas A&M tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Texas A&M.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the high to mid 60s during the game. There is 0% chance for rain. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the mid 70s during the game with winds from the southeast at 10 mph. There is 0% chance of rain. | Sunday - Temperatures should be in the low 80s with winds from the south at 15 mph. There is 0% chance of rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:35 p.m. | Saturday 12:35 p.m. | Sunday 1:05 p.m.

Coaches - Rob Childress, who is entering his 8th season as the head coach of Texas A&M, has accumulated a 289-153-2 overall record and a 101-82-2 Big 12 Conference record. He has won two conference championships, one outright (2008) and the other as co-champions (2011). His teams have advanced to NCAA regionals in 6 of the 7 seasons, with three advancing to Super Regionals and one of those advancing to the College World Series. His teams have an NCAA postseason record of 17-16.

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.

Texas A&M Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Texas A&M is 17-5 at home while Mississippi State is 5-4 on the road.

Schedule Comparison - Texas A&M (6-6 in the SEC) has played Georgia (SEC Record 2-10), Ole Miss (4-8), South Carolina (8-4) and Auburn (3-9). Their combined SEC records are 17-31. Mississippi State (5-7 in SEC action) has played LSU (11-1), Kentucky (6-6), Arkansas (8-4) and Florida (5-7). Their combined records are 30-18.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Texas A&M will start sophomore RHP Daniel Mengden (4-1, 1.86 ERA) on Friday and junior RHP Rafael Pineda (3-2, 2.52) on Saturday. Sunday's starter hasn't been announced but I'm guessing freshman RHP Grayson Long (3-1, 3.48) will start.

Mengden has been Texas A&M's most effective starter in SEC competition. In his four starts he has given up 7 runs (5 earned) on 23 hits and 3 walks while striking out 18 in 26.2 innings. He's normally going to throw between 6 and 8 innings. He's most effective at home, giving up just 3 runs (1 earned) on 13 hits and 0 walks to go along with his 13 Ks in 15 innings of work. That translates to a 0.60 home ERA. His SEC road ERA isn't bad either, 3.08.

Due to the ineffectiveness of Texas A&M's other SEC starters, Pineda took over starting duties last weekend. And he did an outstanding job against Auburn, giving up just 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks in 7.2 innings of work. His only other SEC appearance was in relief against Ole Miss. In that game he gave up 1 run on 2 hits and 0 walks in 2 innings of work.

Like Pineda, Long was added to the SEC starting rotation, although he had his first start two weekends ago against South Carolina. He pitched well, giving up 2 runs (both earned) on 1 hit and 3 walks in 5.1 innings. Last weekend, against Auburn, was another story. He allowed 4 runs (all earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks in 2.1 innings of work.

Mississippi State is expected to start senior LHP Luis Pollorena (5-1, 3.29 ERA) on Friday, senior RHP Kendall Graveman (4-2, 1.99) on Saturday and very likely sophomore LHP Jacob Lindgren (2-1, 3.31) on Sunday.

Pollorena, who took over weekend starting duties from Evan Mitchell a couple of weekends ago, has performed well in SEC action, giving up 6 runs (all earned) on 11 hits and 11 walks while striking out 12 in 16.2 innings. In SEC action, teams are only hitting .190 against him. Although he has walked 11, eight of those were in one game. In his other two games (1 in relief, 1 start) he only walked 3 in 10.1 innings. After giving up 4 runs in 6.1 innings in his first SEC start of the season the previous weekend, last weekend, against Florida, he allowed 2 runs in 6 innings. Based on his first two starts, he should give MSU 6 quality innings.

In his four SEC starts, Graveman has been phenomenal in three of the four. Other than an outing when he gave up 3 runs in 5 innings, he hasn't given up more than 1 run in any of his other SEC starts. If you take away the three-run start, he has given up just 2 runs (both earned) in 24 innings, which translates to a 0.75 ERA. Although not a strikeout type pitcher, averaging about 5 per start, he is a ground ball out machine. He has recorded 53 ground outs to 12 fly ball outs in his four SEC starts. His highest number of ground outs was last weekend when he recorded 19 against Florida. In his last two SEC starts he has thrown complete games, giving up 1 run on 10 hits, 2 walks while striking out 7 in 18 innings.

Lindgren's SEC stats are not as good as the other two starters (10 earned runs in 14 innings) but he has had his moments, especially during the first three innings of all of his SEC starts. In his three SEC starts (he had to miss 1 outing due to soreness in his pitching arm) he has not given up a run in the first three innings. His problem has been the 4th, 5th and 6th innings. He's given up 3, 5 and 2 runs in those innings. Although Graveman is considered a ground ball out machine, Lindgren is not far behind him in that category, recording 22 ground ball outs to 5 fly ball outs in his 3 SEC starts. In his last outing, which was against Florida, he recorded 10 ground ball outs to 0 fly ball outs. The biggest difference in the two is that Lindgren is more of a strikeout pitcher, recording 15 in 14 innings.

BTW, you may have noticed that MSU is starting two lefties against Texas A&M. Against lefthanded starters, Texas A&M has a 5-6 won-loss record.

Relief Pitching - It's likely Texas A&M will primarily use 5 relief pitchers, including junior RHP Jason Jester (2-1, 9 Saves, 1.73 ERA), freshman LHP Matt Kent (2-1, 0 S, 3.26), junior RHP Parker Ray (0-0, 0 S, 1.42), sophomore RHP Zach Brashear (0-1, 0 S, 1.23) and possibly sophomore RHP Corey Ray (3-0, 0 S, 4.36).

Jester is Texas A&M's closer. He started the SEC season throwing really well in that role, allowing 0 runs in 5.1 innings in his first 3 SEC outings. Since then, he hasn't been as effective, allowing 5 runs (all earned) in 6.1 innings of work. He did pitch well in his last appearance against Auburn last weekend, throwing 1.1 innings of run-less and hit-less ball. Unlike a lot of closers, who throw just 1 inning at the close of the game, Jester has thrown 2 innings four of the seven SEC games that he's appeared in.

Kent is a middle relief guy who can throw between 1+ to 5 innings. In fact, his best SEC outing was when he threw 5 innings, allowing 0 runs on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 3. In his last outing he was hit fairly hard (6 hits in 3.2 innings) but he only gave up 1 run.

Parker Ray is a guy who is usually brought in as a middle reliever. He'll usually throw between a couple of outs to 1+ inning. He's been decent in that role, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in 2.2 innings.

Brasher is a matchup guy who is brought in to get an out or two. He has been decent in that role, giving up 1 run in 1.1 innings.

Corey Ray has been Texas A&M's best middle reliever. In two SEC outings he has thrown 8.1 innings, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 7. Because he started their Tuesday night game, it's likely he won't be used until either Saturday or Sunday. And I don't see him throwing more than an inning or two.

Look for Mississippi State to use five or six pitchers in relief - junior RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 9 Saves, 2.41 ERA), senior LHP Chad Girodo (4-1, 0 S, 1.50), junior RHP Ben Bracewell (0-1, 1 S, 2.03), sophomore LHP Ross Mitchell (6-0, 1 S, 0.98), freshman RHP Myles Gentry (2-0, 0 S, 3.10) and sophomore RHP Trevor Fitts (0-0, 0 S, 1.00).

Holder, one of the premier closers in college baseball, is pitching like one at the moment. After starting the season with a bang (6 G, 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 16 SO), Holder went into a slump, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 7 in 5.1 innings. Since then, he has been lights out, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 0 walks while striking out 11 in 6 innings. All of those innings have been against SEC teams if you include Tuesday night's game against Ole Miss in the Governor's Cup game.

Girodo is a left-on-left matchup pitcher. Although he can pitch more than an inning if needed, he's more likely to come in for one or two batters, do his job, then be taken out. Other than his last outing when he gave up 3 runs (1 earned) on 1 hit and 1 walk while recording no outs, he's been very good in that role. In his other 7 outings, he has thrown 5.1 innings, allowing 1 run (earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3.

Bracewell has pitched well in SEC relief. In his SEC relief role he has thrown 7.2 innings in four games, giving up 1 unearned run on 4 hits and 6 walks while striking out 6. He'll normally pitch late in the game and will give MSU between 1+ to 2+ innings.

Mitchell has been the workhorse among MSU relievers. Possibly the premier middle reliever in the SEC, in 6 conference games he has thrown 16.2 innings, giving up 2 runs (both earned) on 16 hits and 3 walks to go along with his 6 Ks. He's a guy who can give MSU 1+ innings or, if needed, throw upwards of 6+ innings. Because he pitched 6 innings against Ole Miss this past Tuesday, it's likely he won't pitch until either Saturday or Sunday. And I don't expect him to pitch more than an inning or two if he does pitch. While his SEC stats show him having an ERA of 1.08, if you add in his innings versus SEC rival Ole Miss from Tuesday's Governor's Cup game, his unofficial SEC ERA is 0.81 (2 ER, 22.2 IP).

Gentry is a freshman who has been outstanding in non-conference games (2 ER, 18.1 IP) but hasn't been near that effective in SEC games, giving up 5 runs (all earned) in 2 innings. When used, he'll be a middle reliever.

Fitts wasn't used in the first two conference series but has pitched twice in the last two series. And he's pitched well, throwing 2 innings, while allowing 0 runs on 0 hits and 0 walks to go along with his 2 strikeouts. Look for him to be used in middle relief and give MSU 1 to 2 innings of work.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Texas A&M sophomore Cole Lankford leads the way with a .500 batting average (9-for-18, 3 RBI), followed by another sophomore Blake Allemand who comes in hitting at a .450 clip (9-for-20, 3 RBI). Not far behind them is junior Troy Stein who is hitting .389 (7-for-18, 5 RBI) and senior Brandon Wood who is batting at a .333 clip (6-for-18, 1 RBI). Senior Mikey Reynolds comes in batting .316 (6-for-19, 2 RBI) as does junior Krey Bratsen (6-for-19, 1 RBI). Behind them is freshman Jonathan Moroney who is hitting .222 (4-for-18, 5 RBI) and junior Charles Curl who is batting .200 (2-for-10, 1 RBI).

In part-time duty, freshman Logan Taylor is hitting .200 (1-for-5, 2 RBI), sophomore Daniel Mengden comes in at .111 (1-for-9, 0 RBI) and both junior Jace Statum and sophomore Mitchell Nau are hitting .000 (0-for-5).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Brett Pirtle who comes in hitting .316 (6-for-19, 4 RBI). Even more impressive is his on-base %, which is .435. Right behind him is junior Alex Detz who comes in batting at a .294 clip (5-for-17, 1 RBI). He has an even more impressive on-base percentage than Pirtle, .478. Junior Hunter Renfroe is behind those two with a .278 batting average (5-for-18, 2 RBI). He also has a .400+ on-base %, .409. Senior Sam Frost comes in hitting .273 (3-for-11, 1 RBI). Next up is sophomore Wes Rea who is hitting .250 (4-for-16, 5 RBI). He also has a great on-base percent, an even .400. Junior Adam Frazier is hitting at a .227 clip (5-for-22, 2 RBI). Following him is senior Mitch Slauter at .200 (2-for-10, 0 RBI), then comes junior C.T. Bradford at .158 (3-for-19, 2 RBI).

In limited action, freshman Jacob Robson is hitting .286 (2-for-7, 1 RBI), senior Nick Ammirati is batting .250 (1-for-4) and junior Demarcus Henderson comes in at .143 (1-for-7, 0 RBI). Although he only has 4 official at-bats in the last five games, Ammirati has also gotten on base 3 other times, which gives him an on-base percentage of .571.

Other info of note :

MSU, hitting .249 in SEC games only, has actually hit the ball well against the SEC teams that they have faced when you compare them to other teams that have faced the same teams. SEC teams are hitting .239 against Florida, LSU, Arkansas and Kentucky pitching. Take out MSU's .249 batting average against those four teams and other teams are only hitting .236 against them. In other words, MSU is hitting .013 better against them than the other teams. MSU is also scoring 4.3 runs per game against those teams while other teams are scoring 4.0 runs per game against them.

In SEC games, MSU is hitting .284 against righthanders (5th highest in the SEC). Texas A&M's staff is made up mostly of righthanders. All three of their starting pitchers will likely be righthanders.

MSU newcomer Brett Pirtle is hitting ,341 in SEC games, which is tied for 16th in the SEC. Among all SEC newcomers (juco transfers and freshmen), his batting average places him 5th. The top hitting newcomer is LSU freshman Alex Bregman who is hitting .462.

How Texas A&M and MSU Match Up
Texas A&M Category Mississippi State
21-13 Record 27-9
.286 Batting Average .293
162 (4.8 pg) Runs 229 (6.4 pg)
9 Home Runs 17
.362 OB % .395
53-67 Stolen Bases-Attempts 47-59
104 (3.1 pg) Walks 163 (4.5 pg)
214 (6.3 pg) Strikeouts 236 (6.6 pg)
263 (7.7 pg) LOB 305 (8.5 pg)
3.17 Team ERA 2.51
9 Saves 11
93 (2.7 pg) Walks 126 (3.5 pg)
231 (6.8 pg) Strikeouts 300 (8.3 pg)
.245 Batting Average Against .207
.975 Fielding % .977

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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