MSU-Auburn Baseball Series Preview

No. 10 ranked Mississippi State and Auburn tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at MSU.

Weather - Thursday - Temperatures should be in the high to mid 70s during the game. Winds of 15-17 mph from the south/southeast are expected. There is a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms during the game. | Friday - Temperatures should be in the mid to low 50s during the game. Winds of 7-8 mph from the north are expected. There is a 10% chance of isolated thunderstorms during the game. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the high to mid 60s during the game. Winds of 5 mph from the north/northeast are expected. There is a 0% chance of rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Thursday 6:30 pm. | Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 4:00 p.m.

Coaches - John Pawlowski is in his fifth season as Auburn's head coach. In his four completed seasons at Auburn his team are 134-103 overall and 58-62 in SEC play. His 2010 team, which was 20-10 in SEC action, won the SEC West and hosted an NCAA Regional. They were 3-2 in the regional but failed to advance to a Super Regional.

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.

SEC Games Schedule Comparison - Auburn has played Vanderbilt (SEC record is 14-1), LSU (13-2), Alabama (8-7), Texas A&M (6-9) and Georgia (3-12). Their combined SEC records are 44-31. Mississippi State has played LSU (13-2), Kentucky (7-8), Arkansas (9-6), Florida (8-7) and Texas A&M (6-9). Their combined records are 43-32.

Auburn Road/Mississippi State Home Records - Auburn is 6-5 on the road while Mississippi State is 22-5 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - As of Wednesday night, Auburn had not announced their three starters. The Auburn coaches have really struggled finding three pitchers who can give them quality starts on a consistent basis. Due to that, I'm going to have to guess who the three starters will be. Based on past SEC series, I expect them to start junior LHP Michael O'Neal (7-2, 2.40 ERA), junior LHP Conner Kendrick (2-1, 1.93) and possibly junior LHP Will Kendall (0-4, 6.75).

O'Neal has started in all five of Auburn's SEC series. He's pitched ok, allowing 18 runs (11 earned) in 30.2 innings. He's allowed 29 hits, walked 6 and struck out 9 in his five appearances. He's normally going to give Auburn a solid 6 to 7+ innings. While his SEC ERA is 3.22, his SEC road ERA is 5.40 (10 IP, 6 ER). But he did pitch well in his last road SEC start, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in 6 innings. He's not a strikeout pitcher, striking out just 9 in 30.2 SEC innings. Auburn's defense has hurt him in his last three starts, causing him to give up 6 unearned runs.

Kendrick has taken over starting duties the past three SEC weekends. He's pitched decently, allowing 5 earned runs in 17.1 innings. But like O'Neal, the Auburn defense has hurt him, causing him to give up 7 unearned runs in his three starts. In those starts teams have jumped on him early as evidenced by the fact that he has given up 10 of his 12 SEC runs in the first three innings. Once he gets past the third inning, he's usually solid, giving up a total of 2 runs in the 4th-7th innings.

Kendall took over SEC starting duties in Auburn's second SEC series. He started out poorly, giving up 4 runs in 0.2 of an inning against LSU, then did well his next two starts, giving up just 3 earned runs in 8 innings. But like the other two starters, he gave up a lot of unearned runs in those two starts, giving up 3. His last start, which was against Georgia last weekend, was a poor outing for him because he gave up 6 runs (5 earned) in 3.1 innings. Like Kendrick, he gives up a lot of his runs early in the game, having given up 11 of his 13 runs in the first three innings.

Mississippi State will throw senior LHP Luis Pollorena (6-1, 3.02 ERA) Thursday night, senior RHP Kendall Graveman (5-2, 2.15) Friday night and sophomore LHP Jacob Lindgren (3-1, 3.08).

Pollorena, since taking over for Evan Mitchell in the SEC rotation, has pitched well, giving up just 8 runs (7 earned) in 18.2 innings of work for a 3.37 ERA. He's started three SEC games and has gotten better each game, allowing 4, 2 and 1 earned runs in the three contests. He's pitched 6.1, 6 and 6.1 innings in the games.

Graveman has been spectacular in SEC play, especially of late. After throwing 11 innings (allowing 4 earned runs) in his first two SEC starts, he has reeled off three consecutive complete-game victories over Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M. In those three games he gave up 4 runs on 19 hits and 2 walks while striking out 13 in 27 innings. Although not a big strikeout pitcher in those three games, he had a phenomenal 50 ground ball outs. His home SEC ERA is 0.60 (15 IP, 1 ER).

Lindgren, who has battled a couple of injuries in SEC action, has been ok in his SEC starts. He has been at his best in the first three innings, not allowing a run in any of the games in those innings. Last weekend, against Texas A&M, he did even better than that, giving up no runs in the first five innings. He's normally going to throw between 4 to 5+ innings in his starts.

Relief Pitching - Auburn has used a lot of pitchers in relief in SEC action. Due to that, it's a guess as to who they might use this weekend. There are a few that are obvious, but you get past those two or three pitchers and it's a guess as to who else they may use. My guess is they will use junior RHP Terrance Dedrick (3-2, 3 Saves, 4.44 ERA), junior RHP Reid Carter (0-0, 1 S, 3.29), sophomore RHP Chase Williamson (2-0, 0 S, 4.11), junior RHP Dillon Ortman (2-1, 0 S, 4.18), sophomore RHP Trey Cochran-Gill (0-1, 2 S, 2.55) and redshirt freshman RHP Justin Camp (4-0, 2 S, 1.84).

Dedrick has been Auburn's closer in SEC action. He started out a little slow, allowing 3 runs in 7 innings in his first two SEC relief appearances. Since then, in 4 games, he has pitched well, allowing 1 run in 8 innings. He'll normally average a strikeout an inning. He's a guy who can either throw 1 inning or upwards of 3+ innings. However, he's most effective when he throws less than 2 innings.

Carter has mainly been used in middle relief in blow out games. Although he gave up 2 runs in 4 innings in his first relief appearance, since then he has thrown in 3 more games and given up no runs on 2 hits in 4.2 innings of work. He's not a strikeout pitcher, striking out just 4 in 8.2 innings of SEC work.

Williams, like Carter, has mainly been used in blow out games. And he's usually the closer in those games. He gave up all 3 of his runs in his first SEC game. Since then, in three games, he has thrown 3 innings, allowing no runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5.

Ortman has been used in middle and late relief in SEC action. And he's been hit pretty hard in his 3 appearances, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits in 2.2 innings.

Cochran-Gill, who usually starts midweek games for Auburn, has been used in middle and late relief in SEC action. In 2 SEC outings, he has given up 2 runs on 7 hits and 0 walks while striking out 6 in 6 innings.

Camp has been used exclusively in middle relief. He's normally going to throw 1 to 2 innings. He gave up all 3 of his runs in his first SEC outing. He's struggled with control in all three of his appearances, walking 5 in 4.1 innings of work.

Mississippi State is expected to use upwards of five pitchers in relief, sophomore RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 11 Saves, 1.85 ERA), sophomore LHP Ross Mitchell (6-0, 1 S, 0.96), junior RHP Ben Bracewell (0-1, 1 S, 2.03), senior LHP Chad Girodo (3-1, 0 S, 1.50) and sophomore Trevor Fitts (0-0, 0, 1.00).

Holder is MSU's closer. In SEC play he has pitched extremely well, allowing just 1 run in 12.1 innings of work. He allowed that 1 run against LSU in MSU's first SEC series of the season. Since then, he has thrown 9.1 innings, allowing no runs on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 14. Initially, he would come in and pitch the final inning of the game. However, in his last three SEC games he has thrown 2 or more innings in each. That strategy could continue this weekend.

Ross Mitchell is MSU's middle reliever. And he's been very good in that role in the SEC, allowing just 2 earned runs (3 runs total) in 17.1 innings, which is a 1.04 SEC ERA. He will throw anywhere from 1 inning and up to 6 innings if needed. If any of MSU's starters get into early inning trouble expect to see him come out of the bullpen.

Although Bracewell wasn't used in MSU's last SEC series, he's still a guy that the MSU coaches like to use in late relief. In SEC action he has thrown 7.2 innings, allowing 1 unearned run. Walks have been a bit of a concern since he has given 6 free passes in his 7.2 innings.

Girodo has thrown in 8 of MSU's 15 SEC games. He's thrown 5.1 innings in SEC play, allowing 4 runs (2 earned). He's more of a left-on-left matchup pitcher and is more likely to come in for one or two lefties, then be taken out.

Fitts has only thrown in 2 SEC games, allowing no runs, hits or walks while striking out 2 in 2 innings. He's another guy who is a matchup pitcher, although he'll be brought in to face righties.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Auburn junior Blake Austin leads the way with a .467 batting average (7-for-15, 2 RBI), followed by junior Ryan Tella who comes in at .400 (8-for-20, 4 RBI), senior Cullen Wacker at .381 (8-for-21, 6 RBI), and junior Hunter Kelley at .364 (4-for-11, 1 RBI). Senior Garrett Cooper is hitting .263 (5-for-19, 3 RBI), freshman Jordan Ebert is hitting .235 (4-for-17, 1 RBI) and junior Damek Tomscha is batting .188 (3-for-16, 2 RBI).

In part-time duty, senior Michael Self is batting .333 (3-for-9, 0 RBI), senior Kody Ortman comes in hitting .200 (1-for-5, 0 RBI), junior Dan Glevenyak is at .167 (1-for-6, 0 RBI), freshman Jackson Burgreen is hitting .111 (1-for-9, 0 RBI) and junior Bobby Andrews is hitting .000 (0-for-6, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Hunter Renfroe who comes in hitting .429 (9-for-21, 5 RBI). Following close behind is sophomore Wes Rea who is hitting .421 (8-for-19, 5 RBI) and senior Nick Ammirati at .400 (4-for-10, 6 RBI). Two juniors are hitting an even .300, Adam Frazier (6-for-20, 5 RBI) and Brett Pirtle (6-for-20, 3 RBI). Not far behind them is junior C.T. Bradford who is hitting at a .263 clip (5-for-19, 2 RBI). Junior Alex Detz comes in hitting .211 (4-for-19, 3 RBI).

In part-time action, junior Derrick Armstrong is hitting .600 (3-for-5, 1 RBI), followed by freshman Jacob Robson at .429 (3-for-7, 1 RBI), seniors Sam Frost and Trey Porter at .250 (both are 2-for-8, 0 RBI) and junior Demarcus Henderson at .143 (1-for-7, 1 RBI).

Other info of note:

Both Auburn and Mississippi State come into this series as two of the hottest teams in the SEC. MSU has won 8 of their last 10 games, while Auburn has won 7 of their last 10.

It's very possible five of the starting pitchers for this three-game series will be lefthanders. And both teams have struggled to hit lefties in SEC games, with MSU batting .245 against them and Auburn .235.

While MSU has struggled to hit SEC lefties according to the stats above, Auburn's pitching has been the worst in SEC games in getting lefthanded hitters out, allowing a league-leading high batting average of .321 to lefties.

Overall, Auburn's pitching has a .283 batting average against in SEC games only while MSU's pitching is allowing a .243 batting average against.

As you all know, MSU's defense is a double play machine, having recorded 22 in 15 SEC games. Did you know Auburn leads the league in hitting into double plays in SEC games with 16?

How Auburn and MSU Match Up
Auburn Category Mississippi State
23-14 Record 30-9
.270 Batting Average .298
193 (5.2 pg) Runs 256 (6.6 pg)
13 Home Runs 23
.364 OB % .398
24-40 Stolen Bases-Attempts 48-62
160 (4.3 pg) Walks 133 (3.4 pg)
224 (6.1 pg) Strikeouts 253 (6.5 pg)
307 (8.3 pg) LOB 329 (8.4 pg)
3.26 Team ERA 2.45
11 Saves 13
124 (3.4 pg) Walks 133 (3.4 pg)
218 (5.9 pg) Strikeouts 321 (8.2 pg)
.251 Batting Average Against .210
.967 Fielding % .976

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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