Alabama-MSU Baseball Series Preview

No. 15 Mississippi State and Alabama face off in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at MSU.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the mid to low 50s during the game ... if there is a game. There is a 50% chance of rain throughout the game. Winds will be from the west at 11 mph. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the mid 60s during the game. There is a very slight chance for rain. The winds should be from the southwest at 8 mph. | Sunday - The temperatures should be in the low 60s during the game. The winds should be from the west at 10 mph. There is a 30% chance of showers.

Gametimes (CT) - Friday 6:00 pm. (TV-ESPNU| Saturday 2:00 Noon | Sunday 1:30 p.m. (TV-CBS Sports Network)

Coaches - Mitch Gaspard is entering his fourth year as the Alabama head coach. During his first three seasons he had an overall record of 98-87 and an SEC record of 38-52. Two of his three teams have advanced to NCAA Regional berths with the 2010 squad advancing to a Super Regional. His teams are 7-5 in Regional 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.

SEC Games Schedule Comparison - Alabama has played Tennessee (6-15 in the SEC), Georgia (4-16), Auburn (7-14), Arkansas (13-7), Ole Miss (11-10), LSU (16-5), and Texas A&M (7-13). Their combined SEC records are 64-80. Mississippi State has played LSU (16-5), Kentucky (9-12), Arkansas (13-7), Florida (12-9), Texas A&M (7-13), Auburn (7-14) and Vanderbilt (19-2). Their combined records are 83-62.

Alabama Road/Mississippi State Home Records - Alabama is 9-10 on the road while Mississippi State is 24-6 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Alabama is expected to start senior RHP Charley Sullivan (4-4, 3.27 ERA) Friday night, sophomore LHP Justin Kamplain (1-0, 4.82) Saturday and sophomore RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-1, 2.26) Sunday.

Sullivan has pitched well in SEC action, giving up 14 earned runs in 44 innings (2.63 ERA). Teams are hitting .236 against him. Although he's pitched well both at home and on the road, his road ERA is slightly higher than his home ERA, 3.18 on the road to 2.67 at home. He pitched better in the early going of SEC action than he has of late. In his first three SEC games he gave up 3 runs (all earned) in 23 innings (1.17 ERA) while in his last three SEC games he's given up 10 runs (all earned) in 16 innings (5.63 ERA). He's normally going to throw 6 to 8 innings.

Kamplain took over for Joe Keller three weekends ago and has performed well in two of his three outings. In the two games he pitched well in he gave up 4 runs (all earned) in 13 innings (2.77 ERA). In his one poor outing he gave up 7 runs (all earned) in 5.2 innings. When he's on, teams don't normally get a run off of him until the 6th through 8th innings. When he's not, teams will get to him in the 3rd and 4th innings. As for his home and road performances, oddly enough he's better on the road than at home. His home ERA is 6.23 while his road ERA is 3.16.

Turnbull has been one of the best pitchers in the SEC during SEC games. In 45 innings he has only given up 6 runs (5 earned) for a 1.00 ERA. While he has been very good in every SEC outing, he was dominating in the early going, allowing just 1 run in 23 innings in his first three outings (0.39 ERA). In his last three SEC appearances he has given up 5 runs (4 earned) in 22 innings for a 1.64 ERA. As for home and away games, he's been very, very good at both, with a 1.17 home ERA and a 0.82 home ERA. He's normally going to throw between 7 and 9 innings.

Mississippi State will throw senior LHP Luis Pollorena (6-2, 3.42 ERA) Friday night, senior RHP Kendall Graveman (5-4, 2.17) Saturday and sophomore LHP Jacob Lindgren (4-2, 3.47) Sunday.

Pollorena, since taking over for Evan Mitchell in the SEC rotation, has been an decent starter in SEC action, giving up 14 runs (13 earned) in 29.1 innings for a 3.99 ERA. He's pitched better on the road than at home in SEC action, giving up 5 earned runs in 9.1 innings in home games (4.82 ERA) and 8 earned runs in 20 innings on the road (3.60 ERA). He'll normally throw between 6+ to 7+ innings.

Graveman has pitched well in SEC play. After allowing 4 earned runs in 11 innings in his first two SEC starts, he has allowed just 7 earned runs in 39 innings (1.62 ERA). Something that is a bit concerning is how he has pitched in his last two outings, giving up 7 runs (3 earned) on 20 hits in 12 innings. Prior to those two games he had thrown three complete game victories (27 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 19 H).

Lindgren, up until last weekend when he gave up 5 earned runs in 0.2 inning against Vanderbilt, had continued to improve in SEC action. After giving up 10 earned runs in 14 innings in his first three SEC starts (6.43 ERA), he then allowed 3 runs (1 earned) in 13.1 innings in his next two starts (0.68 ERA). Then he had the poor outing against Vanderbilt. The key for him will be to keep his pitches down in the zone, something he didn't do against Vanderbilt.

Relief Pitching - Alabama will likely use five relievers - freshman RHP Ray Castillo (2-1, 8 Saves, 1.80 ERA), freshman RHP Keaton Haack (1-1, 1 S, 2.30), redshirt junior RHP Tucker Hawley (4-2, 1 S, 1.80), sophomore LHP Taylor Guilbeau (3-1, 0 S, 3.22) and sophomore LHP Joe Keller (3-5, 0 S, 4.12).

Castillo is Alabama's closer, and he has been very, very good in that role this season. In SEC play he has only given up 2 runs in 16 innings of work. And both of those runs were scored against him in a game in which he threw 4+ innings. Otherwise, he's been perfect in SEC action. Although he can throw upwards of 4 innings if needed, he's most effective when throwing 1 to 1+ innings.

Haack has been a mixture of a late to middle reliever and a closer in blow out games. During the early portion of the SEC the Alabama coaching staff were prone to throw him between 1+ to 3 innings and he didn't pitch as well in those games, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) in 7 innings (3.86 ERA). In his last five outings he has pitched much better, allowing 1 run in 3.2 innings (2.43 ERA).

Hawley has been used exclusively as a middle reliever. He's allowed 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3 in 3.1 innings in that role.

Guilbeau has been mainly used as a closer in blowout games in SEC play. He's normally going to throw between 3 and 4+ innings. In his 10.2 SEC innings he has allowed 2 runs for a 1.69 SEC ERA.

Keller was the Saturday starter for the first four SEC series and he was decent in that role (22.1 IP, 11 R, 11 ER, 4.43 ERA). But he was replaced by Kamplain and has been moved to the bullpen since then. And he's struggled in his role, allowing 3 runs (none earned) on 3 hits and 5 walks in 3 innings of work.

Mississippi State will likely use six pitchers in relief, sophomore RHP Jonathan Holder (1-0, 12 Saves, 1.50 ERA), sophomore LHP Ross Mitchell (8-0, 1 S, 0.93), junior RHP Ben Bracewell (0-1, 1 S, 2.25), sophomore RHP Trevor Fitts (0-0, 0, 1.46), senior LHP Chad Girodo (3-1, 0 S, 1.33) and freshman RHP Myles Gentry (3-0, 0 S, 2.95).

Holder, MSU's closer, has performed well in SEC play, allowing just 1 run in 17.0 innings of work (0.53 ERA) while striking out 26. He allowed the 1 run against LSU in MSU's first SEC series of the season. Since then, he has thrown 15 innings, allowing no runs on 7 hits and 4 walks while striking out 26. Initially, he would come in and pitch the final inning of the game. However, in four of his last five SEC games he has thrown 2 or more innings in each.

Ross Mitchell is MSU's primary middle reliever. In SEC action he has allowed 5 runs (2 earned) in 22.2 innings, which is a 0.79 ERA. He will throw anywhere from 1 inning to 6 innings if needed. He is the first reliever out of the bullpen if an MSU starter runs into early trouble.

Bracewell had pitched several times during the first four SEC series of the year, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) in 7.2 innings. Walks were a concern, though, with him allowing 8 walks in the 7.2 innings. After not pitching in the next two series, he pitched last weekend against Vanderbilt and did ok, allowing 1 run in 2.1 innings. A positive was the fact that he didn't allow a walk while striking out 3 and allowing just 1 hit.

Fitts, after not throwing in the first two SEC series of the year, has thrown in four of the last five. And he's pitched well, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 6 in 5 innings. He's a guy the MSU coaching staff will throw between 1 to 2 innings.

Girodo, like Bracewell, hadn't pitched in the two SEC series prior to last weekend's series against Vanderbilt. A left-on-left matchup pitcher, he threw 5.1 innings in 8 outings, allowing 4 runs (2 earned) in the first four SEC series. Last weekend against Vanderbilt he got into 2 games and allowed 0 runs in 1 inning while striking out 2 and allowing 2 hits and 1 walk. He's normally going to come in and get an out or two against lefthanded hitters, then be taken out.

Gentry is more of a matchup right-on-right type pitcher. He hadn't really performed well in that role in SEC action, giving up 5 runs (all earned) in 2 innings prior to last weekend's series against Vanderbilt. But he had a good outing against Vanderbilt, giving up no runs, hits or walks in 1 inning of work.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Alabama sophomore Ben Moore leads the way with a .381 batting average (8-for-21, 4 RBI), followed by freshman Mikey White who comes in at .353 (6-for-17, 2 RBI). Next up is junior Austen Smith who is hitting .278 (5-for-18, 5 RBI), senior Brett Booth who is batting at a .263 clip (5-for-19, 1 RBI), freshman Georgia Salem who is hitting .240 (6-for-25, 0 RBI), senior Andrew Miller who is at .222 (4-for-18, 4 RBI), freshman Kyle Overstreet who is batting .208 (5-for-24, 2 RBI), senior Kenny Roberts at .182 (4-for-22, 4 RBI) and freshman Chance Vincent who comes in at .053 (1-for-19, 2 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by junior Brett Pirtle who is batting .579 (11-for-19, 5 RBI), followed by junior Hunter Renfroe who is hitting .333 (6-for-18, 6 RBI) and junior Demarcus Henderson who comes in at an even .300 (3-for-10, 3 RBI). Junior Alex Detz is hitting .263 (5-for-19, 1 RBI), junior C.T. Bradford is batting .235 (4-for-17, 1 RBI), junior Adam Frazier comes in at .208 (5-for-24, 0 RBI), sophomore Wes Rea is hitting .200 (3-for-15, 1 RBI) and senior Nick Ammirati is hitting .167 (3-for-18, 3 RBI).

In part-time duty, freshman Jacob Robson is batting .286 (2-for-7, 0 RBI), junior Derrick Armstrong is hitting .250 (2-for-8, 0 RBI), senior Trey Porter is hitting .200 (1-for-5, 3 RBI) and senior Sam Frost is also hitting .200 (1-for-5, 0 RBI).

How Alabama and MSU Match Up
Alabama Category Mississippi State
27-18 Record 33-13
.245 Batting Average .294
222 (4.9 pg) Runs 287 (6.2 pg)
12 Home Runs 25
.336 OB % .394
43-67 Stolen Bases-Attempts 48-63
163 (3.6 pg) Walks 208 (4.5 pg)
275 (6.1 pg) Strikeouts 292 (6.3 pg)
317 (7.0 pg) LOB 390 (8.5 pg)
3.12 Team ERA 2.46
16 Saves 14
187 (4.2 pg) Walks 155 (3.4 pg)
319 (7.1 pg) Strikeouts 380 (8.3 pg)
.249 Batting Average Against .217
.974 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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