MSU-Arkansas Baseball Series Preview

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 3 Arkansas tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Arkansas.

Weather - Friday's temperatures should range from 44 at gametime to 32 by the end of the game. The winds will range from 13 to 17 miles per hour throughout the game. Expect partly cloudy skies.

Saturday's temps will range from 44 at gametime to 46 by the end of the game. The winds will vary from 14 to 15 miles per hour. Once again the sky will be partly cloudy.

Sunday should see temps in the high 40's at gametime and in the low 50's by the end of the game. It will be mostly sunny. The winds will be in the 13 to 15 miles per hour range.

Gametimes - Friday 7:05 p.m. | Saturday 2:05 p.m. | Sunday 1:35 p.m.

4-Year Series History - MSU has a four-year record of 8-4 versus Arkansas. State has won 5 of the last 6 games at Fayetteville, AR.

Coaches - Dave Van Horn is going into his 5th season as the head man at Arkansas and has a four-year record of 158-89, including an SEC record of 64-56. His 2004 team won the overall SEC championship. All four teams have appeared in NCAA Regional play with the 2004 team participating in the College World Series. His overall NCAA Regional record during those four years is 10-9.

During that same four-year period, MSU head coach Ron Polk's teams are 156-89 overall and 55-62 in SEC play. All four teams have appeared in an NCAA regional, going 7-8 overall. None made it to the College World Series.

Arkansas Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Arkansas has a 13-2 home record while MSU has a 4-3 road record.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Mississippi State's starting pitchers will be sophomore RHP Chad Crosswhite (2-1, 3.20 ERA) Friday night, junior LHP Justin Pigott (2-3, 6.80 ERA) Saturday and senior RHP Josh Johnson (2-1, 6.60 ERA) Sunday.

Arkansas will counter with 6-5, 230-pound junior LHP Nick Schmidt (6-0, 1.83 ERA) on Friday, junior RHP Duke Welker (4-1, 3.32 ERA) on Saturday and either freshman LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-1, 5.08 ERA) or junior RHP Jess Todd (4-2, 4.68 ERA) on Sunday.

Chad Crosswhite will be making his third career start for MSU, although this will be his first start this season. In his longest stint of the year, Chad threw 4 innings against Florida, allowing 4 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and 1 walk. Chad started the season as MSU's closer and did well the first three games, allowing 0 runs in 4.1 innings. However, over the course of his next four outings, he allowed 12 runs (only 5 earned) on 16 hits in 10.2 innings. Since then, he has seen his performance improve, allowing 2 runs in 4.2 innings. His one appearance against Arkansas was last year when he gave up 2 runs (1 earned) on 2 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 3 in his three innings.

Justin Pigott continues to struggle this season. In his three SEC outings, he has given up 22 runs (all earned) on 38 hits in 20 innings. His record is 0-2. In his last outing, he gave up 9 runs in 6 innings. He's pitched once against Arkansas, last year when he went 2.1 innings, allowing 1 run on three hits.

Like Pigott, Johnson has struggled this season. In his three SEC appearances, he has given up 16 runs (all earned) on 20 hits and 6 walks in 14 innings. He has struck out 19 batters in those 14 innings. He has thrown against Arkansas once in his career. Last season, he allowed 5 runs (all earned) on 6 hits and 4 walks in 6 innings. He struck out 3.

In his last three starts - all SEC games - Arkansas' Schmidt, who is expected to be a high draft choice in this year's Major League Baseball Draft, is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. In 21 innings of work during those three games, he has given up 14 hits and walked 10, while striking out 23. His last outing - last week against Tennessee - he threw a complete-game victory. In games he has pitched at home this year, he has a 2-0 record and an ERA of 1.67. His career record against MSU is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. In the two starts, he has thrown 14 innings, allowing 2 earned runs.

Welker, in his last three outings (all SEC starts), is doing almost as well as Schmidt. Although his record is not as good, 1-1, his ERA is better at 2.18. Errors have hurt him, though, as he has given up 10 runs (5 earned) on 14 hits and 7 walks, while striking out 16 in 20.2 innings of work. He has never faced MSU.

If Arkansas goes with Keuchel on Sunday, here's what he's done the past three games, including two starts. He's thrown 8.1 innings, allowing 9 runs (all earned) on 14 hits and 4 walks. He struck out 7. However, in his last outing - against Tennessee - he earned a victory after allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and a walk. He struck out 5.

Todd, their other choice, is doing about the same against SEC competition. His last five outings - all against SEC teams and mostly in relief - he allowed 12 runs (10 earned) on 22 hits and 5 walks in 15.2 innings. Last week, against Tennessee, he threw 3.2 innings (all in relief), allowing 3 runs on 7 hits.

Relief Pitching - With Crosswhite starting for Aaron Weatherford, the MSU coaching staff will move the hard-throwing Weatherford to bullpen duties if his arm allows it. So far this season, he hasn't thrown out of the pen.

John Lalor, who will be in long relief again this weekend, has been up and down in that role this season. He's been somewhat down in SEC play, allowing 4 runs (all earned) on 7 hits in 7 innings (5.14 ERA). Freshman RHP Greg Houston might also see some long relief work Saturday or Sunday if Lalor is used for 3 or 4 innings Friday night.

Look for Ricky Bowen and Mitch Moreland to do closing duties this weekend. Both have been effective of late in that role other than one outing by Moreland against Memphis when he gave up 5 runs in 1 inning. He hasn't given up a run in his other 7 appearances, including three SEC games (4.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO). Bowen, a redshirt freshman RHP, has pitched in 13 games, including 4 SEC appearances. While he's been very effective in most games, in the SEC he has a 1-0 record with 1 save and has given up 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings of work for an ERA of 6.67. He has struck out 6. In the for what it's worth category, in his last five appearances, Ricky has won two games and saved two others.

As for Arkansas, they will use either Keuchel or Todd out of the pen. Keuchel, in SEC relief duty, has thrown once, allowing 0 runs on 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 5 in his 4 innings. Todd, on the other hand, has thrown in 4 SEC games as a reliever, giving up 6 runs (all earned) on 14 hits. He has only walked 2 and struck out 15 in the 12.2 innings of work.

After either Todd or Keuchel, Arkansas hasn't been that effective in the bullpen in SEC games, giving up 8 runs (all earned) on 15 hits and 6 walks in 11.2 innings. That's an ERA of 6.17.

Hitting - MSU once again leads the SEC in hitting with a .355 overall batting average. Arkansas comes in at 8th with a .297 average.

State has 4 of the top 8 and 5 of the top 15 hitters in the league - Brandon Turner (2nd, .438), Easley Easley (5th, .429), Mitch Moreland (6th, .398), Mitch Moreland (8th, .388) and Connor Powers (15th, .365). On a side note, the top two hitting freshmen are, you guessed it, Bulldogs - Turner and Powers.

Arkansas only has one of their hitters among the top 15 - Logan Forsythe, who comes in at .369, which is good enough for 13th overall.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For MSU, one player is absolutely scorching hot in the last five games, redshirt freshman Brandon Turner. He has hit an almost unbelievable .700 (14-for-20) with 7 RBI. A couple of hundred points behind him but still hot is Mitch Moreland. Mitch is hitting .476 (10-for-21), but what is more impressive is the 13 RBI that he has in those 5 games. Also hitting over .400 is Edward Easley and Connor Powers, both of whom are hitting .450 (9-for-20). In limited action, Mark Goforth is also at the .400 mark (4-for-10). Not so hot is Jeffrey Rea, who is hitting .150 (3-for-20). Andy Rice, in limited action, is hitting .125 (1-for-8). Nick Hardy, also in limited action, is hitting at a .222 clip (2-for-9).

As for Arkansas, one player is above .400, but it's in limited activity. Sean Jones is hitting .556 (5-for-9) with no RBI. Three regulars are hitting in the high .300's. Logan Forsythe is hitting .381 (8-for-21) with 8 RBI, while Jake Dugger is at the .375 mark (6-for-16) and Jeff Nutt is hitting .368 (7-for-19). Although a few of their day-to-day hitters are below the .300 mark, none are batting below .250.

How Arkansas and MSU Match Up
Arkansas Category Mississippi State
24-8 Record 19-7
.297 (T-7th in SEC) Batting Average .355 (1st in SEC)
276 (8.6 pg) Runs 228 (8.8 pg)
39 Home Runs 25
.476 Slugging % .502
29/41 Stolen Bases/Attempts 20/29
160 (5.0 pg) Walks 92 (3.5 pg)
237 (7.4 pg) Strikeouts 166 (6.4 pg)
261 (8.2 pg) LOB 210 (8.1 pg)
4.25 (8th in SEC) Team ERA 5.99 (12th in SEC)
8 Saves 9
131 (4.1 pg) Walks 75 (2.9 pg)
276 (10.6 pg) Strikeouts 232 (8.9 pg)
.256 Batting Average Against .316
.961 (8th in SEC) Fielding % .965 (5th in SEC)
47 Errors 35

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

Gene's Page Top Stories