MSU-Florida Baseball Preview

Mississippi State and Florida tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at the University of Florida. What advantages and disadvantages do each team have? Find out in this baseball series preview.

Weather - Thunderstorms are likely Friday afternoon and night with gametime temperatures expected to be in the low 70's to high 60's. Saturday and Sunday should have fair skies. Saturday's game temps are expected to be in the high-60's at gametime and down in the high 50's by the end of the game. Sunday's temps should be in the high to mid-60's.

Gametimes - Friday 6:30 p.m. ET | Saturday 4:00 ET | Sunday 1:00 ET.

5-Year Series History - Since Pat McMahon has been the head coach of Florida, Florida has won 11 of 16 games played against Ron Polk-led MSU teams. Florida leads at home 4 games to 2. The average score of games played in Gainesville have been MSU's 4.3 to Florida's 7.8.

Coaches - Florida head coach Pat McMahon, during his five seasons at Florida, has won 202 games while losing 113. In SEC play, he has won 80 and lost 69. He has seen his teams appear in 5 NCAA Regionals, hosting two as well as hosting one Super Regional. The 2005 team was the only one to appear in the College World Series, finishing 2nd to Texas.

Mississippi State's Ron Polk, since returning to MSU in 2002 to replace Pat McMahon as head coach, has a record of 190-113. His teams have won 69 while losing 77 in SEC play. Four of the five teams have appeared in NCAA Regionals with the 2003 team hosting a regional.

Florida Home/MSU Road Records - Florida is currently 9-7 at home, but has won 4 of their last 5 home games. Mississippi State, on the other hand, has a 2-2 road record.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Florida is expected to start junior right-hander Bryan Augenstein (2-3, 2.97) Friday, sophomore left-hander Stephen Locke (2-2, 5.40) Saturday and freshman right-hander Billy Bullock (2-3, 3.24) Sunday.

Augenstein has faced No. 5 Miami (FL) and No. 9 Texas A&M, going 1-1 in those games. Augenstein normally goes 7 innings per outing with a best of 9 against George Washington and a worst of 6 against VMI, although that was his first outing of the season. He pitched against, at that time, No. 5 Miami and only allowed 2 runs (both unearned) on 3 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings. Last season, against MSU, he allowed 6 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks in 7 innings of work. That's his only appearance against MSU.

Locke has had an up and down season. After allowing 6 runs (5 earned) in 4.1 innings against VMI to start the season, he only allowed 3 earned runs in 16 innings of work during his next three starts. Then, this past weekend, he was roughed up by No. 9 ranked Texas A&M to the tune of 5 runs (all earned) on 5 hits in 1.1 inning of work. He has never faced MSU.

Bullock, after a successful first outing against VMI in which he gave up no runs on 4 hits and no walks in 5.2 innings, was roughed up by Miami, allowing 7 runs in 3.1 innings of work. Since then, he's settled down and has only allowed 4 runs (2 earned) in 16 innings of work.

MSU is expected to start sophomore right-hander Aaron Weatherford (2-0, 2.70) on Friday, junior left-hander Justin Pigott (2-1, 4.03) Saturday and senior right-hander Josh Johnson (2-0, 3.38) Sunday.

Weatherford has been fairly consistent in his three outings, giving up 2, 1 and 3 runs in 6, 7 and 7 innings. He has only walked 4 in 20 innings of work, while striking out 25.

Pigott hasn't been as effective, allowing 1, 4 (3 earned) and 6 runs in 7, 8 and 7.1 innings in his three outings.

Johnson has progressively gotten better in his three appearances after missing most of the pre-spring practices due to elbow tenderness. He has thrown 3, 5 and 8 innings, allowing 4, 1 and 1 runs.

Relief Pitching - Florida will probably go with four players in relief, junior right-hander Josh Edmondson (1-1, 1.96, 0 Saves), senior right-hander David Hurst (0-0, 2.86, 1), sophomore right-hander Patrick Keating (1-0, 4.41, 1) and senior left-hander Steven Porter (0-0, 2.63, 0).

Look for Keating or Edmondson to come in as a middle reliever, while the other two share middle and closing duties.

Porter has been, for the most part, very effective in his 9 outings, allowing an earned run in only two of them. And look for him to make MSU earn their runs since he's only walked 1 batter in 13+ innings of work.

So far this season, Florida has used Keating often against the ranked schools that they have faced, but the downside is in 6 combined innings against Miami, FSU and Texas A&M he has allowed 6 runs (all earned) on 11 hits. But the positive, like with Porter, is he rarely walks anyone, giving up 2 free passes in 16.1 innings this season.

Hurst is a guy that Florida likes to use, but he hasn't been very effective in his last three outings, giving up a run in each, including his last one when he gave up 1 run on 2 hits and a walk, while not getting an out.

Edmondson has been used the most out of the bullpen, appearing in 10 of Florida's 20 games this season. If one of the starters is ineffective early, look for him to be the guy Florida goes to. In 4 of his appearances, he's gone 3 or more innings. While his 1.96 ERA looks impressive, it's actually very deceptive. In his last 7 outings, he's given up 13 runs (5 earned) in 17 innings of work.

As for MSU's relief pitching, it's by committee and includes sophomore right-hander Chad Crosswhite (1-1, 2.45, 2 saves), junior right-hander John Lalor (1-0, 6.30, 0), junior left-hander Mitch Moreland (0-0, 0.00, 0), redshirt freshman right-hander Ricky Bowen (1-0, 2.35, 2) and true freshman right-hander Greg Houston (0-0, 1.35, 1).

Crosswhite and Moreland were expected to be MSU's closers this year, but Crosswhite seem to take over that role early, but has become less effective of late. In his last three outings, he's allowed 8 runs (3 earned) on 12 hits and 4 walks in 6.2 innings. Moreland has pitched in three games, allowing no runs on no hits and 1 walk while striking out 6 in three innings of work. It's possible he could be used as a closer this weekend.

But the two freshmen have also made a case for that job. Bowen has appeared in 6 games (3 of his last 4 have been as a closer) and has been effective in all but one, his last one when he gave up 2 runs on 2 hits in 1 inning against Dallas Baptist. In fact, those are the only two runs he's given up this season. Houston has also been very effective this season, although he did have one game against UAB when he gave up 3 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits in 2 innings. In his other four appearances he's given up no runs on 2 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 6 in 4.2 innings.

Lalor has been used exclusively in middle relief, so expect the same this weekend. While he started the season off slow, giving up 8 runs (7 earned) on 11 hits in 5.1 innings, his last two outings have been very effective ones. In 4.2 innings, he's given up no runs on 1 hit while walking 2 and striking out 4.

Hitting - Florida is 9th in the SEC in hitting with a .289 average. Senior Austin Pride, who plays either left field or third base, is hitting at a .386 clip with 4 home runs and 15 RBI. Senior first baseman Matt LaPorta is right behind him, hitting .379 average with 5 home runs and 14 RBI. Junior third baseman Jon Townsend is next with a .342 batting average and 3 home runs and 12 RBI. Florida's other two .300+ hitters are sophomore second baseman Avery Barnes (.309, 0-6) and freshman shortstop Cole Figueroa (.305, 6-18).

MSU, which leads the SEC in hitting, is led at the plate by junior catcher Edward Easley who is hitting a sizzling .500 (2nd in the SEC). He has 4 home runs and 18 RBI. First baseman Mitch Moreland's not far behind, hitting .471 (3rd in the SEC) with a home run and 14 RBI. Redshirt freshman shortstop Brandon Turner has also been on fire, hitting .420 (5th in the SEC) with 13 RBI. Senior DH Brian LaNinfa continues where he left off last year and is hitting .352 (16th in the SEC) with 14 RBI. A surprise this season has been sophomore left fielder Jeff Flagg who is hitting at a .350 clip (19th in the SEC) with 3 home runs and 12 RBI. His one nemesis, however, has been the strikeouts, 10 in 40 official at-bats. Senior second baseman Jeffrey Rea is the sixth starter hitting over .300. Rea's hitting .340 with 6 RBI and 4 stolen bases. Sophomore center fielder Mark Goforth has not only hit the ball well (.326, 0-4), but he's been MSU's best base stealer in years, stealing 8 in 11 attempts. True freshman third baseman Connor Powers is MSU's 8th .300+ hitter, hitting at a .314 clip with 3 home runs and 7 RBI. Like Flagg, he's battling the strikeout issue, having struck out 14 times in 51 official at-bats.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Florida has three hitters who are hitting the ball well, led by Austin Pride who has hit .400 (6-of-15) with 6 RBI. Cole Figueroa is hitting .318 with 4 RBI. True freshman catcher Hampton Tignor, in limited action, has hit .333 (3-of-9) with no RBI. Jon Townsend is hitting a somewhat respectable .278 (5-of-18) with 2 RBI. Not so hot is Matt LaPorta, their second leading hitter, who has hit just .250 (4-of-16) with 1 RBI in the last five games. Avery Barnes is also slumping, hitting just .200 (3-of-15). In an 0-fer slump is junior DH Bryson Barber, who is 0-of-9. Three of the five games were played on the road against 9th ranked Texas A&M.

Five MSU players are hitting the ball at a .300+ clip, led by Mitch Moreland's .526 average (10-of-19) and 6 RBI. Hot on his trail is Edward Easley who has hit .458 (11-of-24) and also knocked in 6 RBI. Others over the .300 mark are Brian LaNinfa and Connor Powers, both of whom are hitting .318 (7-of-22). LaNinfa has 4 RBI, while Powers has knocked in 2. Brandon Turner has hit .316 (6-of-19) with no RBI. Jeff Flagg comes in at a .278 clip (5-of-18) with 4 RBI. Jeffrey Rea, who is battling a minor injury, hit .261 (6-of-23) with 2 RBI. Cooling off at the plate are Mark Goforth who comes in at .250 (5-of-20) followed by Andy Rice at .222 (4-of-18) with 3 RBI. Four of MSU's five games have been played on the road.

How UF and MSU Match Up
Florida Category Mississippi State
10-10 Record 10-3
.289 (9th in SEC) Batting Average .374 (1st in SEC)
145 (7.2 pg) Runs 117 (9.0 pg)
27 Home Runs 12
.476 Slugging % .530
12/19 Stolen Bases/Attempts 17/24
79 (3.9 pg) Walks 46 (3.5 pg)
119 (5.9 pg) Strikeouts 65 (5.0 pg)
161 (8.0 pg) LOB 102 (7.8 pg)
3.66 (8th in SEC) Team ERA 4.54 (12th in SEC)
2 Saves 5
50 (2.5 pg) Walks 32 (2.5 pg)
131 (6.5 pg) Strikeouts 111 (8.5 pg)
.272 Batting Average Against .277
.950 (12th in SEC) Fielding % .974 (2nd in SEC)
40 Errors 13

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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