South Carolina-MSU Baseball Series Preview

No. 13 ranked South Carolina and Mississippi State face off in a three-game SEC series this weekend at Dudy Noble Field.

Weather - Thursday - The temperature should be in the high 60s during the game with a 40% chance of rain | Friday - The temperature should be in the low 60 and high 50s during the game with a 95% chance of rain | Saturday - The temperature should be in the high 50s during the game with a 0% chance of rain.

Gametimes (CT) - Thursday: 7 pm | Friday: 6:30 pm | Saturday: 2 pm

Coaches - Chad Holbrook begins his third season as the head coach of South Carolina. In his first two years at the helm he has an overall record of 87-38 and is 35-24 in SEC play. Both of his previous teams have appeared in regionals with the 2013 team advancing to a Super Regional. His NCAA post-season record is 6-4.

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 his 2011 and 2013 teams advancing to Super Regionals. The 2013 team also advanced to the College World Series where they were national runner-up. His teams overall NCAA postseason record is 15-9.

South Carolina Road/Mississippi State Home Records - South Carolina is 3-4 on the road while Mississippi State is 18-8 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - South Carolina will throw sophomore RHP Wil Crowe (3-2, 2.84 ERA) Thursday night and junior LHP Jack Wynkoop (4-2, 2.30) Friday night. They have not named a starter for Saturday. I expect South Carolina to throw either sophomore RHP Reed Scott (0-1, 2.70) or freshman Clarke Schmidt (2-0, 3.14) in the Saturday game.

Crowe has started 3 SEC games and pitched extremely well, allowing just 7 runs (5 earned) in 21 innings pitched for an ERA of 2.14. He has thrown 6, 7 and 8 innings in the three outings.

Wynkoop started the first two SEC weekends but was moved to the closer role in last weekend's SEC series. He is back to starting this weekend. In his two SEC starts he was very effective, giving up 4 runs in 14.2 innings which is an ERA of 2.45.

Scott has started 1 SEC game (last weekend against Georgia), allowing 4 runs (2 earned) in 7 innings (2.57 ERA).

Schmidt has started 3 SEC games. In those outings, he has given up 9 runs (6 earned) in 13.1 innings which is an ERA of 4.05. He struggled in his one away SEC outing, giving up 3 runs (all unearned) on 1 hit (a double) and 4 walks in 1.2 innings of work.

Mississippi State has announced senior LHP Lucas Laster (3-1, 2.65 ERA) as the Thursday night starter. No starters have been named for Friday and Saturday. My guess is redshirt junior RHP Preston Brown (3-3, 3.83) will start Friday night and either sophomore LHP Vance Tatum (3-0, 3.12) or sophomore RHP Austin Sexton (3-2, 3.20) will start Saturday.

This will be Laster's first SEC start. It will also be his first time to pitch in an SEC game this season. He has appeared in 6 games this season, all starts. He has allowed no more than 3 runs in any of his outings. After throwing 3+ and 5 innings in his first two starts, he has thrown 6+ or more innings in his last four, even throwing one complete game.

Brown has started three SEC games, allowing 13 runs (12 earned) in 16.2 innings. However, he has pitched much better at home than on the road in the SEC, as evidenced by his home SEC ERA of 3.60 (15 IP, 6 ER) compared to his road SEC ERA of 31.76 (1.2 IP, 6 ER). His last outing against Auburn was a complete-game performance in which he allowed 5 runs (4 earned).

Sexton has also started three SEC games. Like Brown, he has performed much better at home than on the road. In 2 SEC starts at home, he has allowed 4 runs (3 earned) in 13.1 innings for an ERA of 2.03. On the road he allowed 5 runs in 5.1 innings for an ERA of 8.44. In home games, he has been untouchable during the first four innings, giving up 0 runs. However, he has given up 3 runs in the 5th and 1 in the sixth in his 2 home starts.

Tatum has started 3 SEC games. He has been solid in all three of them but has pitched a bit better at home, showing a home ERA of 3.85 (11.2 IP, 5 ER) and 5.00 (9 IP, 5 ER) on the road. He pitched really well in his last SEC start, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks in 4.2 innings. He was pulled with an 0-2 count on a righty for matchup purposes.

Relief Pitching - Look for South Carolina to use upwards of five pitchers in relief - junior LHP Vince Fiori (2-0, 1.83, 2 S), freshman RHP Brandon Murray (3-0, 1.20, 1 S), junior RHP Preston Johnson (2-0, 2.16, 0 S) and possibly senior RHP Cody Mincey (1-1, 4.50, 1 S) and sophomore RHP Taylor Widener (1-2, 3.45, 7 S).

Fiori has been the workhorse in SEC action, appearing in five of the nine SEC games. He has mainly been used as a middle reliever. In his outings he has thrown 4.1 innings and allowed 3 runs (all earned) for an ERA of 6.24.

Murray has appeared in 3 SEC games and has allowed 3 runs (all earned) in 7.2 innings (3.51 ERA). He has pitched as a long middle reliever and as a setup man for the closer.

Johnson has only appeared in one SEC game, which was last weekend. He was used as a secondary closer. Wynkoop was the primary closer in the series. Johnson was dominating in the game, allowing no hits while walking 1 and striking out 6 in his 2 innings of work.

Mincey has appeared in 2 SEC games, both during the first weekend series of the year. He threw 3 innings, allowing 1 run for an ERA of 3.00. He has not appeared in the last 2 SEC series.

Widener was the Gamecock closer during the first two SEC weekends but struggled in that role, allowing 4 runs on 11 hits and 4 walks in 5.1 innings for an ERA of 6.75.

Due to the ineffectiveness of the bullpen in SEC games, it is tough to figure out who Mississippi State will use in relief this weekend. My guess is they will primarily use four relievers, senior RHP Trevor Fitts (2-2, 1.10 ERA, 4 Saves), senior LHP Ross Mitchell (3-2, 3.35, 1 S), redshirt freshman RHP Levi Mintz (0-0, 0.73, 0 S) and possibly the pitcher who normally starts during the weekend but won't this weekend.

Fitts is MSU's closer. In 2 SEC games this season he has thrown 4.1 innings, allowing 1 run for an SEC ERA of 2.08.

Mitchell is used as a middle reliever in SEC action. In four SEC games he has thrown 8.1 innings while allowing 6 runs for an ERA of 6.48.

Mintz has appeared in 2 SEC games this season (both against Kentucky at Kentucky), allowing 1 run in 3 innings for an ERA of 3.00. The main reason I put him on this list is due to how effective he has been not only in SEC games but also non-conference games. In his last outings, which was Tuesday night against South Alabama, he threw 3.2 innings while allowing 0 runs.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in SEC Games - For South Carolina senior Kyle Martin leads the way with a .429 SEC batting average to go along with his 10 RBI. Sophomore Gene Cone comes in hitting .371 with 3 RBI, followed closely by sophomore Jordan Gore at .344 with 2 RBI and senior Elliott Caldwell at .342 with 6 RBI.

Freshman Hunter Taylor is hitting at a .286 clip with 2 RBI, followed by junior Max Schrock at .211 with 10 RBI and junior DC Arendas at .208 and 2 RBI.

Senior Connor Bright is hitting .188 with 0 RBI, freshman Alex Destino is hitting at a .087 clip with 3 RBI, while sophomore Logan Koch is batting .077 with 0 RBI and junior Marcus Mooney is hitting .000 with 1 RBI.

Mississippi State is led at the plate in SEC games by redshirt sophomore Jacob Robson who is hitting .375 with 1 home run and 2 RBI. Following closely is junior John Holland who comes in hitting at a .346 clip with 1 home run and 3 RBI. Sophomore Gavin Collins is hitting .333 with 0 home runs and 3 RBI, while sophomore Reid Humphreys is hitting .321 with 2 homers and 5 RBI.

Senior Jake Vickerson is hitting .273 with 0 home runs and 1 RBI, while redshirt sophomore Cody Brown is hitting at a .219 clip with 0 home runs and 5 RBI.

Freshman Ryan Gridley is hitting .190 with 0 home runs and 3 RBI. Junior Matt Spruill is hitting .176 with 0 home runs and 1 RBI. Senior Wes Rea comes in hitting .160 with 1 home run and 4 RBI and senior Seth Heck comes in at .152 with 0 home runs and 1 RBI while junior Josh Lovelady is hitting .071 with 0 homers and 3 RBI.

How South Carolina and MSU Compare
South Carolina Category Mississippi State
20-9 Record 19-12
.257 Batting Average .275
167 (5.8 pg) Runs 184 (5.9 pg)
21 Home Runs 15
.359 OB % .400
35-42 Stolen Bases-Attempts 34-44
138 (4.8 pg) Walks 175 (5.6 pg)
177 (6.1 pg) Strikeouts 177 (5.7 pg)
217 (7.4 pg) LOB 273 (8.8 pg)
2.71 Team ERA 3.62
12 Saves 6
102 (3.5 pg) Walks 107 (3.5 pg)
261 (9.0 pg) Strikeouts 241 (7.8 pg)
.223 Batting Average Against .246
.971 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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