MSU-LSU Baseball Preview

15th ranked Mississippi State and LSU tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday: Game temperature should be in the low 70's with the low getting down into the mid-60's. Fair skies. | Saturday: Game temperatures should be in the low 80's to high 70's. Partly cloudy skies with a 10% chance for rain. | Sunday: Game temps should be in the mid-80's to low 80's. Mostly sunny skies.

Gametimes - Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 2 p.m. | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

5-Year Series History - Since 2002, MSU is 8-9 versus LSU. They are 3-3 at Starkville.

Coaches - This is Paul Mainieri's first season as head coach of LSU. Prior to this year, he coached for 24 years at Notre Dame, Air Force and Division II St. Thomas. His teams have an overall record of 864-492-4, .637. During his 12 years at Notre Dame, his teams recorded an overall record of 533-213-3. Nine of his teams appeared in NCAA post-season play, 1 going on to play in the College World Series. Their overall NCAA post-season record was 20-19.

During MSU head coach Ron Polk's last 12 years of coaching, including stints at MSU and Georgia, his teams won 470 and lost 275 with 2 ties. Eight of his 12 teams appeared in NCAA post-season play, with 2 making it to the College World Series. The teams had an overall record of, like Notre Dame, 20-19 in NCAA post-season play.

MSU Home/LSU Road Records - MSU is 15-4 at home, 3-3 in home SEC games (1-2 vs South Carolina, 2-1 vs Kentucky) | LSU is 5-7 in road games, 3-3 in SEC road games (2-1 vs Bama, 1-2 vs South Carolina).

Last 10 Games Record - MSU is 8-2 in their last 10 games, while LSU is 5-5. Of the 10 games MSU has played, 7 were against teams ranked in the top-20 (No. 3 Arkansas, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 19 Ole Miss), and 6 of those were against teams in the top-10 when State played them. State was 5-2 in the seven and 4-2 in the six.

Expected Pitching Rotations - LSU - Friday: Junior LHP Charlie Furbush (3-4, 4.29 ERA, 56.2 IP, 23 BB, 59 SO) | Saturday: Sophomore LHP Ryan Byrd (5-1, 3.65 ERA, 44.1 IP, 8 BB, 28 SO) | Sunday: TBA.

In his last three SEC games (Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama), Furbush has an ERA of 4.68. He has thrown 17.1 innings, allowing 12 runs (9 earned) on 21 hits and 4 walks. And he has struck out 25. During those three games, his longest stint was last week against Ole Miss when he threw 6.1 innings. Going into even more detail, in his last two outings all of the runs scored against him were in the first three innings. The third inning was his toughest; he gave up 6 runs in that inning.

Byrd started the season as a mid-week starter, but has worked his way into the SEC starting rotation. And he's done fairly well in that role. His last three efforts has resulted in a solid 3.87 ERA. His best effort was last weekend against Ole Miss when he threw a complete-game victory, allowing 2 runs (both earned) on 7 hits and no walks. He struck out 3. His prior two outings, he threw a total of 9.2 innings, allowing 7 runs (6 earned) on 11 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 2. During the three games, he normally throws well the first three innings, allowing a total of 2 runs in those innings. Usually, the 4th and 5th is when he ran into trouble other than the Ole Miss game. Against Alabama and Auburn, he allowed 2 runs in the 4th and 4 in the 5th.

As for who will throw the third game for LSU, TBA should come from one of two pitchers, freshman RHP T. J. Forrest or junior RHP Jared Bradford. Both have started at one time or the other in SEC games the past three weekends.

Forrest started last weekend against Ole Miss and he was roughed up for 3 runs (all earned) on 3 hits and 1 walk in 2.1 innings of work. He struck out 1. The weekend before against Auburn, he was used in relief, allowing no runs on 3 hits in 2 innings. The previous two weekends against Alabama and Kentucky he started, allowing 7 runs (5 earned) on 10 hits and 4 walks in 6.0 innings. He's thrown no more than 3.0 innings in each of the three starts. His SEC ERA in his three starts is 8.67.

LSU has used Bradford in a relief role 5 of his last 6 SEC appearances. Three of the 5 were as a closer. His stats, as a reliever, are very distorted due to a bad outing against Ole Miss last weekend when he gave up 12 runs (10 earned) on 9 hits and 2 walks in 3.2 innings of work. When you take that outing out of his relief stats for the past three weekends, he's thrown 7 innings of 2-run, 6-hit ball. His one start was against Auburn when he threw 7 innings, allowing 1 run (earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 9. Although LSU is not afraid to throw him in relief two or more times during a weekend (he threw in all three of LSU's games against Alabama), based on the last three weekends, he normally doesn't have good back-to-back relief appearances.

MSU will counter with sophomore RHP Chad Crosswhite (4-1, 3.31 ERA, 32.2 IP, 15 BB, 27 SO) on Friday, junior LHP Justin Pigott (3-3, 5.50 ERA, 52.1 IP, 10 BB, 34 SO) Saturday and senior RHP Josh Johnson (2-2, 7.02 ERA, 33.1 IP, 12 BB, 40 SO) Sunday.

Crosswhite took over the Friday night starting duties for Aaron Weatherford, who had a slight arm problem going into the Arkansas series. In his two starts since then, Crosswhite has gotten better each start. After allowing 4 runs (all earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks in 6.0 innings against Arkansas, Chad allowed 3 runs (1 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks against Tennessee last weekend. His cumulative stats for the two games is 13.0 innings, 16 hits, 5 earned runs, 5 walks and 11 strikeouts. His ERA for the two starts is 3.46. In his first start (Arkansas) he was touched for 3 runs on 8 hits in the first three innings, then only allowed 1 hit and no runs in the next three innings. In his start against Tennessee, he allowed all his runs in the 6th and 7th innings. He only gave up two hits in the first five innings.

Pigott has been up and down during his last three SEC outings, mostly down. Due to rain last weekend, he didn't get to pitch, but the previous weekend against Arkansas he had his best outing of the year, throwing a complete-game victory. He allowed 1 unearned run on 8 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. But the downside is the two starts prior to that, he allowed 14 runs (all earned) on 23 hits and 2 walks in 13.0 innings of work. He struck out 9.

Johnson, like Pigott didn't pitch last weekend due to the bad weather. In his previous three SEC outings, he has given up 11 runs (all earned) on 16 hits and 6 walks in 13.1 innings. He struck out 15. His ERA is 7.44 for those three starts. He has pitched 5.0 innings in two of the games and 3.1 in the other. In the three starts, the 4th inning has been his nemesis. He's given up 6 of his 11 runs in that inning.

Relief Pitching - LSU: The main pitchers LSU has used in relief the past three SEC weekend have been Nolan Cain, Louis Coleman, Matt Jackson and Jared Bradford. T. J. Forrest might be used in relief if LSU decides to throw Bradford Sunday.

Cain, in the last three weekends, has always been the first guy out of the pen if a pitcher gets in trouble early. And he's responded extremely well in that role. Although he rarely throws more than an inning, he's only allowed 1 unearned run on 4 hits and 2 walks in 4.1 innings of work. He struck out 6.

After Cain has pitched, depending on the score of the game, either Bradford will be brought in or Coleman.

During the past three weekends, Coleman has usually been brought in if the oppponent has a large or moderate lead or Bradford has been used earlier in the game. In 4.1 innings of work, he has given up 4 runs (3 earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5. His ERA is 6.28.

See the relief stats for Forrest and Bradford in the starting section of this article.

Look for MSU to use Aaron Weatherford, Ricky Bowen, John Lalor, Mitch Moreland and Greg Houston in relief.

After being the Friday night starter up until the Arkansas series, Weatherford, who throwns a 92-95 MPH fastball, has been moved to the closer role for the past two weeks. And he's thrived in that role, throwing 6 innings of 1-hit, 1-run ball with no walks and 9 strikeouts in his three relief appearances. His ERA is 1.50 in those six innings.

State has also been using Moreland in a closer role, but over the course of the past two weeks, he usually only pitches a part of an inning or no more than one inning. In SEC play the past two weeks, he's thrown a total of 2.1 innings in three games, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and striking out 4. He's walked no one. His ERA is 7.83, although both of the runs were given up in one game. Those numbers include his appearance this past Tuesday against Ole Miss. Also the starting first baseman, he normally only pitches once during an SEC weekend.

Lalor is normally brought in in middle relief. In SEC play, over the course of the past three weeks, he's thrown 3.1 innings, allowing 4 runs (all earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His ERA in those outings is 10.91.

Houston is used in a setup role as well. And he's done well the past three weeks against SEC teams, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and no walks while striking out 4 in 4.0 innings. His ERA is 2.25 in those 4 innings.

Bowen hasn't been as effective in his SEC appearances of late, allowing 6 runs (5 earned) on 11 hits and 2 walks in 6.0 innings. He struck out 7. His ERA is 7.50 in those appearances.

Hitting - LSU is hitting .256 as a team, which is 12th in the SEC. Blake Dean leads with a .352 batting average. No other hitter is above the .300 mark. Watch out for Sean Ochinko, however, because he's hitting at a .347 clip in SEC games. LSU tries to make up for their lack of hitting by stealing bases. Jared Mitchell leads the team with 17 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

MSU leads the SEC in hitting with a .340 average and was fifth in the nation prior to the Ole Miss game. When Jeff Flagg starts in rightfield, all nine Bulldog starters are hitting .313 or better with redshirt freshman Brandon Turner leading the way with a .431 batting average, which is second in the SEC. Ed Easley is fourth in the league with a .400 batting average while Mitch Moreland is hitting at a .372 mark, which is sixth in the SEC.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Despite a team batting average of .256 for the season, LSU has three hitters stroking the ball at a .400 or better clip the past five games. Blake Dean leads the group with a .476 average (10-for-21 with 5 RBI). Sean Ochinko is next at .421 (8-for-19, 2 RBI), followed by Nicholas Pontiff's .400 (8-for-20, 4 RBI). A couple of other players are over the .300 mark; Michael Hollander .313 (5-for-15, 2 RBI) and Jared Mitchell at .304 (7-for-23, 2 RBI). Not so hot is Robert Lara (.158, 3-for-19, 3 RBI), Ryan Schimpf (.214, 3-for-14, 1 RBI) and Chris Jackson (.235, 4-for-17, 3 RBI). But the nice stats don't include one important stat: runs scored. LSU has scored just 25 in those 5 games.

As for MSU, while they don't have three players batting .400 or better during the past five games, they do have two - Brandon Turner .400 (8-for-20, 4 RBI) and Jeff Flagg .400 (6-for-15, 5 RBI). Mark Goforth, while not hitting .400, is at the .368 mark (7-for-19, 4 RBI). And he's 7-for-12 (.583) with 4 RBI in his last three games. Two players are hitting .333 - Brian LaNinfa (6-for-18, 0 RBI) and Andy Rice in a limited role (2-for-6, 2 RBI). Joseph McCaskill is also above the .300 mark at .313 (5-for16, 1 RBI). Mitch Moreland has tailed off a bit lately, hitting .286 (6-for-21), but he has 5 RBI during the 5 games, 3 against Ole Miss this past Tuesday night. Three Bulldog hitters are in slumps, including Jeffrey Rea .059 (1-for-17, 2 RBI), Ed Easley .150 (3-for-20, 0 RBI) and Connor Powers .183 (3-for-21, 2 RBI). Connor has struck out 10 times during his 21 at-bats.

How LSU and MSU Match Up
LSU Category Mississippi State
21-17-1 Record 24-8
.256 (12th in SEC) Batting Average .340 (1st in SEC)
203 (5.2 pg) Runs 267 (8.3 pg)
29 Home Runs 28
.380 Slugging % .476
55/71 Stolen Bases/Attempts 24/36
126 (3.2 pg) Walks 112 (3.5 pg)
250 (6.4 pg) Strikeouts 222 (8.1 pg)
269 (6.9 pg) LOB 258 (7.8 pg)
4.92 (10th in SEC) Team ERA 5.70 (12th in SEC)
11 Saves 10
114 (2.9 pg) Walks 88 (2.8 pg)
308 (7.9 pg) Strikeouts 283 (8.8 pg)
.287 Batting Average Against .315
.952 (12th in SEC) Fielding % .965 (5th in SEC)
73 Errors 43

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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