MSU-South Alabama Baseball Preview

No. 18 ranked Mississippi State and South Alabama tangle in a two-game non-conference series at Mobile, AL Tuesday night and at Pearl, MS Wednesday night.

Weather - Tuesday night: Temperature should be in the low 60's during the game and there is a 50% chance for showers throughout the game. | Wednesday night: Temps should be in the mid to upper 70's at gametime with partly cloudy skies.

Gametimes - Tuesday, 6:00 p.m. at Mobile, AL | Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. at Pearl, MS.

5-Year Series History - MSU owns a 4-2 lead in the last five years. State didn't play USA in 2003 and 2006.

Coaches - Steve Kittrell has been the head coach at South Alabama since 1984 and has an overall record (excluding this season) of 902-507. His teams have appeared in 18 NCAA Regionals during those 23 years. His overall NCAA Regional record is 29-36.

MSU head coach Ron Polk, during the same period (19 years total, he didn't coach at MSU from 1998-2001), has led his MSU teams to a 784-399 overall record and a 38-33 record in 15 NCAA Regional appearances. His MSU teams have made it to the College World Series three times.

Home/Road Records - MSU is currently 6-4 in road games while USA is 15-5 at home and 2-10 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Game one will see David Doss pitch for South Alabama. Doss, who is the regular third baseman, will be making his first start of the season. Doss has appeared in 6 games, allowing 2 earned runs on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5. The righthander has only pitched once in the past month, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in his 1 inning of work.

With no games this weekend for USA, look for them to throw one of their weekend rotation pitchers Wednesday. Considering MSU is 3-3 when the opposing team starts a lefthander, don't be surprised if State faces lefty Brandon Sage. In his last three outings, he has thrown 17.1 innings, allowing 16 runs (10 earned) on 23 hits and 4 walks. He has struck out 11. His earned run average during those three games is 5.26. If he doesn't go, then look for righthander Joey Doan, their normal Friday night starter, to throw. In his last three outings, he has allowed 8 runs (7 earned) on 22 hits and 6 walks in 19.1 innings. His ERA is 3.29 in those three outings.

State will go with freshman lefthander Tyler Whitney Tuesday and sophomore Jared Koon Wednesday.

Tyler, in his last three appearances, all starts, has allowed 17 runs (all earned) on 22 hits and 3 walks in 11.1 innings of work for an ERA of 13.78. On a positive note, in his last outing he threw 5 innings, allowing 3 earned runs on 5 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 6.

Jared, in his last three appearances, has allowed 10 runs (all earned) on 17 hits and 3 walks in 8 innings. His ERA is 11.25 in the three outings. In his last outing, which was on March 27th against Memphis, he threw 2.2 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 0 walks, while striking out a season-high 5 batters.

Relief Pitching - South Alabama should have everybody available to pitch in relief other than the two pitchers who will start. That will include the likes of conference starters Dan Goldberg (4-3, 3.96) or Joey Doan (3-3, 6.50) or Brandon Sage (2-4, 6.57). The closer role should go to lefty Chris LaGrow (1-1, 5 S, 3.05). Lefty Brett Turner (1-0, 1 S, 4.50) should also see action in at least one game as should another lefthander, Stephen Boyd (4-0, 4.87).

Here is how these pitchers have done in the last 10 games played by South Alabama.

  • LaGrow - 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO.
  • Turner - 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO.
  • Boyd - 2.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO.

    Last three starts for the three weekend rotation pitchers.

  • Goldberg - 19.2 IP, 23 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 1 BB, 15 SO, 5.16 ERA.
  • Doan - (See expected pitching rotation section)
  • Sage - (See expected pitching rotation section).

    Mississippi State should use John Lalor, Greg Houston, Ricky Bowen and Mitch Moreland in relief. Depending on who will start this coming Friday, either Chad Crosswhite or Aaron Weatherford could also pitch in relief.

    Lalor has been much more effective in non-conference games than in SEC games. In his last five non-conference games, he has thrown 11.2 inning, giving up 0 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 15.

    Bowen, who is usually used in the closer role, has also been very effective in non-conference games, giving up 2 runs (both earned and both in the same game) on 8 hits and 2 walks in 10.1 innings. He struck out 8. His ERA in non-conference games is 1.79. In the 9 appearances, he has won 2 and saved 3.

    Houston, in 9.0 innings of non-conference work, has given up 7 runs (4 earned) on 12 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 8. His non-conference ERA is 4.00.

    Crosswhite, in 7 non-conference appearances, has given up 8 runs (3 earned) on 18 hits and 5 walks in 11.2 innings. His ERA is 2.41. He has struck out 11. His non-conference record is 1-1 with 2 saves.

    If Weatherford throws, look for him to only go 1 to 2 innings. Since he hasn't thrown in relief this year, I'm going to look at how he has done the first couple of innings in each of his starts this year. In his 6 starts he has given up 10 runs (7 earned) and struck out 20 in 12 innings. That works out to an ERA of 5.25.

    Mitch Moreland, also used in a closer role, has thrown in 5 non-conference games, allowing 5 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings of work. All five of the runs were in one game against Memphis. He struck out 10 in the 5 innings.

    Hitting - South Alabama is batting .286 as a team. Three of their regulars are hitting over .300 - David Doss .370 with 4 home runs and 28 RBI; Joel Collins .324-4-27 and Clint Toomey .315-2-20. Jeff Cunningham leads the team in home runs with 12. He is hitting at a .289 clip. He has struck out 36 times in 114 at bats.

    MSU is currently hitting .343 as a team. Brandon Turner, who leads the SEC in hitting, comes in at .432 (1 HR, 29 RBI). Edward Easley is also hitting over .400 with a .424 batting average (8 HR, 37 RBI), which is 4th in the SEC. Seven other players are hitting over .328 - Mitch Moreland (.371-5-35), Joseph McCaskill (.364-0-11), Connor Powers (.339-6-22), Mark Goforth (.330-0-10), hot-hitting Jeff Flagg (.328-4-20), Jeffrey Rea (.328-0-12) and Brian LaNinfa (.328-2-29).

    Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Clint Toomey is leading the way for USA with a .333 (6-for-18 with 7 RBI) batting average. Two other regulars are hitting over .300 in the last five games - Joel Collins is at .313 (5-for-16 with 1 RBI) and Bill Kleinschrodt is hitting .308 (4-for-13 with 2 RBI). Sean Laird, in limited at bats, is hitting .400 (4-for-10). David Doss is hitting a respectable .286 (6-for-21). On the opposite end is Eric Shortell at .083 (1-for-12) and former Diamond Dog Bunky Kateon at .143 (2-for-14). Although he's only hitting .200 in the last five games (4-for-20), Jeff Cunningham has made his 4 hits count, knocking in 6 runs.

    MSU has two hitters at or above the .500 mark - Jeff Flagg is hitting at a .545 clip (6-for-11, 7 RBI). At Arkansas this past weekend he was 5-for-9 with 7 RBI. Against juniors Duke Welker and Nick Schmidt, both expected to be high draft choices in the upcoming MLB Draft, he was 4-for-6 with 5 RBI. He had the gamewinning RBI in both of MSU's victories over the then 3rd ranked Razorbacks. In fact, he has had 7 gamewinning hits so far this season. Brandon Turner continues with the hot bat, hitting .500 (11-for-22, 5 RBI). If you can believe it, he has cooled off since last week. Prior to the Arkansas series, he was hitting at a .700 clip his previous 5 games. Edward Easley is hitting .429 (9-for-21, 6 RBI), while Mitch Moreland comes in at .333 (7-for-21) with an amazing 10 RBI. On the other side of the ledger, State has three hitters under the .250 mark, including a slumping Jeffrey Rea who is hitting .158 (3-for-19). Joseph McCaskill and Mark Goforth are both hitting .235 (4-for-17). McCaskill, to his credit, did start coming out of his slump during the last two games of the Arkansas series, going 2-for-6 in them. Although he hit a decent .278 (5-for-18) in the five games, Connor Powers had a bad Arkansas series, striking out 8 times in 11 official at-bats.

    How USA and MSU Match Up
    South Alabama Category Mississippi State
    17-15 Record 21-8
    .286 Batting Average .343
    224 (7.0 pg) Runs 244 (8.4 pg)
    36 Home Runs 28
    .445 Slugging % .493
    43/57 Stolen Bases/Attempts 23/33
    126 (3.9 pg) Walks 99 (3.4 pg)
    215 (6.7 pg) Strikeouts 202 (7.0 pg)
    268 (8.4 pg) LOB 229 (7.9 pg)
    5.26 Team ERA 6.01
    6 Saves 9
    117 (3.4 pg) Walks 83 (2.5 pg)
    234 (7.3 pg) Strikeouts 253 (8.5 pg)
    .303 Batting Average Against .319
    .962 Fielding % .965
    47 Errors 29

    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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