Texas A&M-MSU Baseball Series Preview

No. 20th ranked Mississippi State and Texas A&M tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Thursday - Temperatures should be in the mid 70s during the game. There is a 10%-30% chance for isolated thunderstorms, mostly late in the game. | Friday - Temperatures should be in the mid 70s during the game. There is a 10% chance of rain. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the low 80s. There is a 0% chance of rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Thursday 6:30 p.m. | Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 2:00 p.m.

Coaches - Rob Childress, who is entering his 9th season as the head coach of Texas A&M, has accumulated a 323-172-2 overall record and a 13-16 record in the one year Texas A&M has been in the SEC. Prior to joining the SEC, Childress won two Big 12 conference championships, one outright (2008) and the other as co-champions (2011). His teams have advanced to NCAA regionals in 7 of the 8 previous 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 19-18.

John Cohen, who is entering his sixth season as the head coach at Mississippi State, has an overall record of 177-131 and a 61-88 record in SEC play. His 2011, 2012 and 2013 teams appeared in regionals with his 2011 team advancing to a Super Regional and his 2013 team advancing to the College World Series where they were national runner-up. His teams overall NCAA postseason record is 13-7.

Texas A&M Away/Mississippi State Home Records - Texas A&M is 6-8 on the road while Mississippi State is 19-8 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Texas A&M is expected to start senior RHP Jason Jester Thursday (0-2, 8.10 ERA), junior RHP Dave Mengden Friday (0-4, 5.08 ERA) and sophomore RHP Grayson Long Saturday (4-3, 3.93 ERA).

Jester has started the last two Fridays for Texas A&M after being a reliever in SEC action but hasn't fared well in that role, allowing 6 runs (5 earned) on 10 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 in 4.1 innings of work for an ERA of 10.39.

Mengden has an ERA of 5.08 in his 6 SEC starts this season. While that ERA is high, he's been even less effective than that in his last two starts, giving up 10 runs (9 earned) in 9 innings for an ERA of 9.00.

Long has a 3.93 SEC ERA in his 6 starts. And unlike Mengden, he's been more effective of late. In his last two SEC starts he has given up 4 runs (all earned) in 15.2 innings of work, which is an ERA of 2.30.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior RHP Trevor Fitts Thursday (2-2, 3.30 ERA), junior LHP Ross Mitchell Friday (6-3, 2.13 ERA) and either sophomore RHP Preston Brown (3-1, 1.95 ERA) or senior RHP Ben Bracewell Saturday (3-3, 2.61 ERA).

Fitts has a very respectable 2.74 ERA in SEC action but normally is pulled when he first shows sign of trouble. And lately that has been happening very quickly in games. After throwing 11.0 innings in his first two starts (allowed 2 earned runs), he has thrown just 12 innings (allowed 5 earned runs) in his last four SEC starts.

Mitchell has been very, very good in all but one of his SEC starts. He has a 2.39 ERA in his 6 SEC starts. And he's only had 1 bad outing in SEC action, giving up 6 of his 13 earned runs in one game. He's completed 3 of his 6 starts and gone into the 8th or 9th inning in two of the other three.

Brown has missed several starts due to shoulder soreness. He has been pitching bullpens lately and could start this weekend, probably Saturday if he does start. Initially, he was MSU's midweek starter and did really well in that role. He took over Friday starting duties in the SEC against Vanderbilt and performed well, giving up 2 runs in 8 innings. He followed that with a decent outing against Arkansas, giving up 4 runs in 5 innings. Since then, he has missed three SEC weekends while recovering from his soreness.

Bracewell, who has started 2 SEC games this season, has a 3.24 SEC ERA in 6 games. In his 2 SEC starts he has given up 4 earned runs in 4.2 innings for an ERA of 7.71. He and Brandon Woodruff have been alternating as an SEC starter, but it appears Bracewell good relief outing last weekend against Missouri when he gave up just 1 run in 6 innings has given him the Saturday start this time.

Relief Pitching - It's likely Texas A&M will use four relievers - sophomore RHP Andrew Vinson (1-1, 2 S, 1.37 ERA), junior RHP Jason Freeman (1-0, 0 S, 3.86 ERA), sophomore LHP Ty Schlottmann (0-1, 0 S, 1.37 ERA) and senior RHP Parker Ray (4-3, 0 S, 5.48 ERA).

Vinson has been used as a closer of late. In his 7 SEC outings he has a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings.

Freeman is more of a middle/late reliever. In 4 SEC appearances he has given up 1 earned run in 3 innings for a 3.00 SEC ERA.

Schlottmann is more of a long middle reliever. In his 4 SEC outings he has thrown 11 innings, giving up 2 earned runs for a 1.64 ERA.

Ray has appeared in 8 SEC games. He's more of a long relief guy, throwing 24.2 innings while allowing 13 earned runs for a 4.74 SEC ERA.

Look for Mississippi State to use junior LHP Jacob Lindgren (3-0, 3 Saves, 1.50 ERA), junior RHP Jonathan Holder (4-1, 4 S, 3.00 ERA), sophomore RHP Myles Gentry (0-0, 2 S, 4.67 ERA), junior RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-2, 0 S, 6.46 ERA) and either Ben Bracewell or Preston Brown in relief.

Lindgren has very effective in SEC action, allowing 2 earned runs (4 total runs) in 17.1 innings, which is an ERA of 1.04. He has struck out 30 in the 17.1 innings, and teams are only hitting .131 against him in SEC activity. He's normally brought in as a middle reliever but can also close if needed.

Holder, who is MSU's closer, hasn't been as effective in SEC play this season as he was in his first two years at MSU. So far this season he has a 3.55 ERA in SEC action, but he looked like his old self against Missouri last Sunday, throwing 5.1 innings while allowing 0 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6.

Gentry has struggled in his SEC outings this season, giving up 5 earned runs (6 total) in 6.2 innings for a 6.75 ERA. When he is brought in, he's used more as a middle reliever.

Woodruff was a starter prior to the beginning of SEC action, but was moved to relief due to being ineffective in a starting role. He had been very effective as a reliever prior to his relief outing against Ole Miss two weekends ago (2.1 IP, 6 ER). MSU started him against Missouri last weekend but he gave up 5 earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Texas A&M freshman Ryne Birk leads the way with a .500 batting average (7-of-14, 8 RBI). Next is sophomore Jonathan Moroney who comes in hitting .437 (7-of-16, 4 RBI), followed by Junior Cole Lankford at .428 (9-of-21, 3 RBI), then sophomore Logan Taylor who is hitting .347 (8-of-23, 7 RBI). Freshman Nick Banks is batting .333 (7-of-21, 3 RBI), then junior Logan Nottebrok also at .333 (4-of-12, 5 RBI). Junior Blake Allenwand is hitting at a .318 clip (7-of-22, 3 RBI), followed by senior Troy Stein at .300 (6-of-20, 2 RBI). Senior Krey Bratsen comes in hitting .200 (3-of-15, 3 RBI). In limited roles senior Jace Statum is hitting .555 (5-of-9, 4 RBI) and freshman Ronnie Gideon is hitting .333 (2-of-6, 1 RBI).

Mississippi State is led at the plate by freshman Gavin Collins who comes in hitting at a .412 clip (7-of-17, 5 RBI) in the last five games. Not too far behind is junior Wes Rea who is hitting .364 (4-of-11, 3 RBI), freshman Cody Brown at .353 (6-of-17, 4 RBI), and senior Brett Pirtle at .348 (8-of-23, 4 RBI). Also hitting over .300 is senior C.T. Bradford at .318 (7-of-22, 6 RBI) and junior Matthew Britton at .316 (6-of-19, 0 RBI). Junior Seth Heck comes in hitting ..278 (5-of-18, 4 RBI) while senior Alex Detz is hitting .222 (4-of-18, 8 RBI). Senior Derrick Armstrong is hitting .143 (2-of-14, 1 RBI). In limited activity freshman Reid Humphreys is batting .500 (3-of-6, 3 RBI), senior Demarcus Henderson is hitting .375 (3-of-8, 1 RBI) and junior Jake Vickerson is hitting .000 (0-of-5, 0 RBI).

How Texas A&M and MSU Match Up
Texas A&M Category Mississippi State
25-17 Record 27-15
.289 Batting Average .272
246 (5.9 pg) Runs 219 (5.2 pg)
18 Home Runs 7
.366 OB % .373
46-60 Stolen Bases-Attempts 58-75
150 (3.6 pg) Walks 194 (4.6 pg)
197 (4.7 pg) Strikeouts 251 (6.0 pg)
334 (8.0 pg) LOB 356 (8.5 pg)
3.54 Team ERA 3.30
5 Saves 11
124 (3.0 pg) Walks 136 (3.2 pg)
341 (8.1 pg) Strikeouts 345 (8.2 pg)
.259 Batting Average Against .253
.972 Fielding % .981

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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