Alabama-MSU Baseball Series Preview

Alabama and Mississippi State play each other in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday - Temperatures should be in the mid to low 60s during the game. There is 65 to 85% chance of rain. | Saturday - Temperatures should be in the high 60s during the game with a 20% chance of rain. | Sunday - Temperatures should be in the low 70s with a 10% chance of rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 2:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

Coaches - Mitch Gaspard is entering his 6th season as Alabama's head coach, Gaspard, in his first five seasons, has an overall record of 170-139 and an SEC record of 67-71. He has guided four of his teams to post-season play (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014). One of his teams (2010) advanced to Super Regional play. In NCAA post-season play, his teams have a record of 11-9.

John Cohen, who is entering his seventh season as the head coach at Mississippi State, has an overall record of 216-155 and a 79-100 record in SEC play. His 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 teams appeared in regionals with two (2011, 2013) advancing to Super Regionals. The 2013 team advanced to the College World Series where it was the national runner-up. His teams overall NCAA postseason record is 15-9.

Alabama Road/Mississippi State Home Records -Alabama is 1-3 on the road while Mississippi State is 15-4 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Alabama is expected to start senior LHP Taylor Guilbeau (2-1, 2.67 ERA) Friday, junior RHP Will Carter (1-1, 4.35) Saturday and sophomore RHP Geoffrey Bramblett (3-1, 3.22) Sunday.

Guilbeau has been up and down this season. During his first and last starts he allowed just 1 run on 8 hits in 14 innings (0.64 ERA). But in his two middle starts vs Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette he gave up 7 runs on 10 hits in 13 innings (4.85 ERA). But even in those two starts he pitched well until late in the game, giving up 3 runs in the 6th and the other 4 in the 7th.

Carter, except for his first start when he threw 7 innings of shutout ball, has struggled this year. In his three starts since his season-opening outing he has given up 11 runs on 17 hits in 13.2 innings (7.23 ERA).

Bramblett, like Guilbeau, has been up and down. And just like Guilbeau it was his first and last starts he performed the best, giving up 0 runs in 12 innings. But in his 2nd and 3rd starts he gave up a combined 9 runs (8 earned) on 14 hits in 10.1 innings (6.97 ERA).

Mississippi State will start junior RHP Preston Brown (3-1, 1.93 ERA) Friday, sophomore RHP Austin Sexton (2-0, 2.61) Saturday and sophomore LHP Vance Tatum (2-0, 1.99) Sunday.

Brown has been very consistent in his four outings, giving up either 1 or 2 runs in each. He has been at his best in his last two (Arizona, San Diego), giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits and 6 walks in 12.1 innings (1.46 ERA). He has given MSU at least 5 innings in every outing, throwing 5 innings once, 6 innings twice and 6.1 innings in the other outing.

After struggling in his first outing of the year (2 IP, 1 ER), Sexton has been very good since then, giving up 5 earned runs on 9 hits and 5 walks while striking out 23 in 18.2 innings (2.41 ERA). The only thing that has really hurt Sexton in those three outings is the home run ball. Four of the five runs he gave up in them were on home runs balls. In fact, of the 6 runs that he has given up this season, 5 have come on home runs.

After pitching in relief his first outing of the season, Tatum was moved to the starting rotation and has performed very well in that role. In 18 innings, he has given up 5 runs on 11 hits and 6 walks while striking out 22 (2.50 ERA). A little concerning is the fact that he didn't seem to have his best stuff in his last outing, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits while only striking out 1 in 4 innings. I think you will know fairly quickly if he is on based on the number of Ks that he has in his first couple of innings. When he is at his best he usually strikes out 1 to 2 batters an inning.

Relief Pitching - It's likely Alabama will primarily use four relievers - junior RHP Mitch Greer (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 Saves), junior RHP Ray Castillo (1-0, 0.66, 2 S), sophomore LHP Thomas Burrows (0-2, 2.70, 2 S) and senior RHP J.C. Wilhite (0-0, 3.86, 1 S).

Greer is a matchup guy who will be brought in to pitch an inning. In 5 games he has thrown 4.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3. Teams are only hitting .154 against him.

Castillo is Bama's closer. He has been very, very good in that role this season. In his 6 appearances he has thrown 13.2 innings, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 15. Teams are only hitting .156 against him.

Burrows has been used both as a setup guy and a closer and has pitched well in both roles. A strikeout pitcher, Burrows, in his 7 outings, has thrown 10 innings, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits and 6 walks to go along with his 16 Ks.

Wilhite is normally used as a late inning pitcher in a game that has gotten a little out of hand.

Look for Mississippi State to primarily use 5 pitchers - senior RHP Trevor Fitts (1-1, 0.75 ERA, 4 Saves), senior LHP Ross Mitchell (3-2, 2.36, 1 S), sophomore LHP Daniel Brown (1-0, 2.08, 1 S), sophomore RHP Zac Houston (0-0, 2.08, 0 S) and redshirt freshman Levi Mintz (0-0, 0.00. 0 S).

Fitts has been MSU's closer this season and has performed well in that role. He has thrown in 9 games, allowing just 1 run on 7 hits and 5 walks while striking out 12 in 12 innings. Teams are only hitting .163 against him.

Mitchell is back in the middle relief role that earned him All-American honors as a sophomore. Up until his last two outings he had been pitching extremely well, throwing in 7 games while allowing 2 earned runs in 18.2 innings for an ERA of 0.96. But in his last two appearances he has given up 5 runs in 8 innings (5.63 ERA). It is likely MSU will hold off pitching him again until Sunday due to the number of innings that he threw Wednesday night (5.2 IP).

With Mitchell resting, Brown can step into his role if needed either Friday or Saturday. Brown has pitched very, very well this season, allowing just 3 runs in 13 innings. His only bad outing this season was his last when he gave up 2 runs in 1 inning, both on solo home runs. Other than that, he has been very, very good. Averaging around 1.5 strikeouts per inning, teams are only hitting .186 against him.

Houston has been used primarily as a setup man, throwing either in the middle or late, depending on how long the starter goes. He has been very, very good in that role, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits in 8.2 innings. He has struck out 10. The only knock on him so far this season is the number of walks he has, 8 in the 8.2 innings. Teams are only hitting .148 against him.

Mintz is a guy who will be used in relief in a game that is out of hand and one of MSU's starters goes around 6 innings. He is primarily a setup man who will throw around an inning. So far this season he has been very good in that role, allowing 0 runs in 5.2 innings in the 5 games that he has appeared in.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in Last 5 Games - For Alabama Riley Colburn leads the way with a .444 batting average (4-of-9, 3 RBI), followed by Mikey White who comes in hitting .438 (7-of-16, 4 RBI). Casey Hughston is next with a .368 batting average (7-of-19, 4 RBI). Chance Vincent is next with a .364 average (4-of-11, 0 RBI).

Others are Kirk Overstreet who comes in hitting .167, J.C. Wilhite is batting .125, Chandler Avant comes in at .118 while Georgie Salem is batting .077 and Will Haynie is hitting .000.

Mississippi State is led at the plate in the last five games by Cody Brown who comes in hitting .429 (6-of-14, 1 RBI). Next up is Matt Spruill who is hitting at a .385 clip (5-of-13, 3 RBI), followed by Wes Rea at .375 (6-of-16, 1 RBI) and Seth Heck at .364 (8-of-22, 2 RBI).

Others with over 10 at-bats during those 5 games are Ryan Gridley who is hitting .200, Brent Rooker also at .200, Reid Humphreys is hitting .133 and Gavin Collins is batting .091.

In limited action, John Holland is hitting .286, Josh Lovelady .222, Jacob Robson .143 and Luke Reynolds .126.

How Alabama and MSU Compare
Alabama Category Mississippi State
9-6 Record 15-4
.281 Batting Average .297
92 (6.1 pg) Runs 135 (7.1 pg)
5 Home Runs 7
.351 OB % .428
21-26 Stolen Bases-Attempts 23-31
45 (3.0 pg) Walks 113 (5.9 pg)
109 (7.3 pg) Strikeouts 114 (6.0 pg)
110 (7.3 pg) LOB 170 (8.9 pg)
3.79 Team ERA 2.83
5 Saves 6
61 (4.1 pg) Walks 67 (3.5 pg)
124 (8.3 pg) Strikeouts 170 (8.9 pg)
.287 Batting Average Against .222
.978 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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