MSU-Auburn Baseball Preview

Mississippi State and Auburn tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday: There's a 40% chance for showers during the game. The temperatures should be in the high to mid 70's. | Saturday: Like Friday, there will be a 40% chance for showers. The temps should be in the low 80's to high 70's during the game. | Sunday: The chance for showers should be 40%. The temperatures should be in the high to mid 80's.

Gametimes - Friday - 6:30 p.m. | Saturday - 6:00 p.m. (TV-Comcast Sports Southeast) | Sunday - 1:30 p.m.

5-Year Series History - During the previous five years MSU has won 7 and lost 8 against Auburn. State is 3-3 in games played at MSU.

Coaches - Auburn's Tom Slater, in his first two years at Auburn, has a 56-60 overall record and a 22-38 SEC record. One of his teams has competed in an NCAA Regional, going 2-2.

During the past two years, MSU's Ron Polk's teams have a 79-45 overall record and a 25-33 SEC record. Both teams have appeared in NCAA Regionals, going 4-4.

MSU Home/Auburn Road Records - MSU is 18-6 at home, while Auburn is 7-8 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Auburn will throw sophomore LHP Evan Crawford (4-4, 6.11 ERA) on Friday, freshman RHP Taylor Thompson (4-1, 4.99 ERA) on Saturday. Sunday's starter is unknown at this time, but he might be Bryan Woodall.

Crawford started the season as one of Auburn's SEC starters, but was ineffective in that role and was moved to the bullpen. Auburn recently moved him back to starting status, replacing Paul Burnside. In his last three SEC outings, one a start, he has allowed 15 runs (12 earned) on 19 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 11 in 14.0 innings. His ERA is 7.71.

Thompson performed very well against Ole Miss and LSU, giving up just 1 run in 10.2 innings, but he's hit a wall since then. In his last three SEC starts he has thrown 9.0 innings, giving up 16 runs (14 earned) on 19 hits and 6 walks. He has struck out 11. His ERA during the three outings is 14.00.

Woodall started against Arkansas last weekend, giving up 7 runs (all earned) on 13 hits and 2 walks in 5.2 innings. The previous weekend he was used in relief, giving up 4 runs (1 earned) in 3.1 innings. When you combine the two outings, he gave up 8 earned runs on 18 hits and 2 walks in 9.0 innings.

Mississippi State will stay with their usual rotation os sophomore RHP Chad Crosswhite (5-2, 4.70 ERA) on Friday, junior LHP Justin Pigott (3-4, 5.43 ERA) on Saturday and senior RHP Josh Johnson (2-2, 5.56 ERA) Sunday.

After throwing well against Tennessee and LSU, Crosswhite was hit hard by Ole Miss last weekend, giving up 11 runs (8 earned) on 12 hits. The previous two outings against Tennessee and LSU, he gave up 6 runs (4 earned) on 17 hits and 2 walks in 16.0 innings. His overall ERA in his last three SEC outings is 5.89.

Pigott, in his last three SEC starts (Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss), has allowed 11 runs (8 earned) on 23 hits and 6 walks, while striking out 15 in 23.0 innings. His overall ERA in those three outings is 3.13.

Johnson, after giving up 4 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in 3.1 innings of work against Arkansas, has come on strong in his last two SEC outings. He has given up up just 2 earned runs on 7 hits and 1 walk in 12.0 innings of work. He struck out 5. His ERA is 1.50 in those two outings.

Relief Pitching (Last two weeks) - Over the course of the past two weeks, Auburn has used Austin Hubbard, Johnny Thompson, Chris Dennis, Brett Butts and Bryan Woodall in relief.

In the last two weeks, Auburn has called on Hubbard twice. In his two appearances he has thrown 8.1 innings, giving up 3 runs (all earned) on 9 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 4. His ERA is 3.34.

Butts has been called upon 4 times. In his outings, he has thrown 6.0 innings, giving up just 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 9. His ERA is 1.50.

Chris Dennis has seen duty in 3 games. In 7.2 innings of work he has given up 1 run on 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5. His ERA is 1.17.

Thompson has been used twice. In 2.0 innings, he has given up 1 run on 1 hit and 3 walks. His ERA is 4.50.

See Woodall's stats in the starting pitchers section.

Look for Mississippi State to use three, possibly four, pitchers in relief if the games are fairly close - Aaron Weatherford, Mitch Moreland and Ricky Bowen.

During the last two weeks, Weatherford has thrown 12 innings in three outings. He has allowed 2 unearned runs on 7 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 6. His ERA is 0.00.

Moreland, MSU's starting first baseman, has been used once during the past two weeks. He won Sunday's game against Ole Miss after throwing 4.0 innings of 0-run, 4-hit ball. He allowed 1 walk and struck out 3.

Bowen has thrown 6.0 inning in three games. He has allowed 2 runs (both earned) on 7 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 6. His ERA is 3.00 during the three games.

Hitting - Auburn's team batting average is .293, which is 7th in the SEC. Their leading hitter is Luke Greinke who is batting at a .341 clip, 18th in the league. Bruce Edwards, who leads the league in stolen bases with 26, is second with a .335 average.

MSU leads the league in hitting with a .331 batting average. And, as you would expect, there are numerous hitters among the top 20 in the league, five in fact. Brandon Turner (who may not play this weekend due to an injury) is the second leading hitter in the league with a .421 average. Edward Easley comes in 7th with a .379 batting average. 15th, 16th and 17th are Connor Powers (.344), Joseph McCaskill (.342) and Mitch Moreland (.342).

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Auburn, two players are hot - Robert Brooks who is hitting .450 (9-for-20, 3 RBI) and Ross Smith .333 (6-for-18, 4 RBI). In limited at-bats Andy Bennett is hitting .500 (4-for-8, 0 RBI) and Justin Bristow .444 (4-for-9, 1 RBI). Hitting a decent average is Luke Greinke at .278 (5-for-18, 2 RBI) and Bruce Edwards at .261 (6-for-23, 3 RBI). Not so hot are Mike Bianucci .143 (3-for-21), Joseph Sanders .154 and Dustin Spruill at .154 (both are 2-for-13). Josh Donaldson has been somewhat cold, hitting .211 (4-for-19).

As for MSU, true freshman Connor Powers leads the hit parade in the last five games, batting .476 (10-for-21, 5 RBI). Next is another true freshman - Jet Butler .369 (7-for-19, 4 RBI). Ed Easley comes in third with a .333 batting average (7-for-21, 6 RBI). Jeffrey Rea hit .318 (7-for-22, 2 RBI). Slumping are Andy Rice .091 (1-for-11), Brian LaNinfa .154 (2-for-13), Brandon Turner .200 (3-for-15), Mark Goforth .211 (4-for-19) and Joseph McCaskill .222 (4-for-18).

How Auburn and MSU Match Up
Auburn Category Mississippi State
28-19 Record 28-12
.293 (7th in SEC) Batting Average .331 (1st in SEC)
330 (7.0 pg) Runs 315 (7.9 pg)
32 Home Runs 35
.408 Slugging % .468
31/47 Stolen Bases/Attempts 96/116
209 (4.4 pg) Walks 146 (3.7 pg)
324 (6.9 pg) Strikeouts 269 (6.7 pg)
401 (8.5 pg) LOB 333 (8.3 pg)
4.31 (7th in SEC) Team ERA 5.30 (11th in SEC)
13 Saves 12
170 (3.6 pg) Walks 107 (2.9 pg)
339 (7.2 pg) Strikeouts 339 (8.5 pg)
.269 Batting Average Against .308
.957 (11th in SEC) Fielding % .966 (5th in SEC)
80 Errors 53

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

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