MSU-Alabama Baseball Preview

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

Weather - Thursday - Sunny, mid to low 70's during the game | Friday - Sunny, low 70's during the game | Saturday - Sunny, high 70's during the game.

Gametimes - Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

5-Year Series History - MSU and Alabama are 8-8 against each other the past 5 years. MSU has a 4-2 record at Starkville.

Coaches - During his 12+ seasons at Alabama, Jim Wells has an overall record of 552-269 and is 224-157 in the SEC. He has taken 10 of 12 teams to regional play and 3 went on to play in the College World Series. His overall post-season NCAA record is 38-20.

During the same 12+ seasons, MSU's Ron Polk has guided his teams (two years while the head coach at Georgia) to an overall 497-291 record and 196-177 in SEC play. Eight of his 12 teams have appeared in regionals and 2 have gone on to play in the College World Series. His teams overall regional record is 20-19.

MSU Home/Alabama Road Records - MSU is 21-6 at home, while Alabama is 5-10 on the road. In SEC play on the road, Alabama is 4-8. Three of their four wins have been on Sunday and one on Friday.

Expected Pitching Rotations (Last three SEC starts are the criteria I used) - Alabama is expected to start RHP Tommy Hunter (6-4, 3.65) Thursday, LHP Miers Quigley (4-6, 4.46) Friday and LHP Will Stroup (2-0, 4.17) Saturday.

Hunter, in his last three appearances in SEC competition, has thrown 21.2 innings, giving up 11 runs (all earned) on 22 hits and 12 walks. He's struck out 15. His three-start ERA is 4.64. His last outing was his best; he gave up no runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in 8 innings against Arkansas. He's most effective the first three innings of his starts, only giving up a total of 2 runs in the first three innings of the three starts.

Quigley has been the least effective of the three weekend rotation pitchers. In 17.2 innings, he's allowed 16 runs (14 earned) on 23 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 14. His three-game ERA is 7.13. Although he's given up no runs in the first inning in the last three starts, teams have scored 13 runs from the second inning through the fifth inning against him in those starts. He's only lasted past the 5th in one of them.

Stroup has been the most consistent and effective of the three starters. He's lasted 7.2, 7.0 and 9.0 in his last three outings. His most effective innings are the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th. He's given up no runs in those innings in the three starts. In 23.2 innings, he's given up 11 earned runs on 22 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 17. His three-start ERA is 4.18. He threw a 9-inning complete game against Arkansas in his last start, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks.

MSU will pitch RHP Chad Crosswhite (7-2, 4.18) Thursday, LHP Justin Pigott (4-5, 5.04) Friday and RHP Josh Johnson (2-2, 5.67) Saturday.

Since getting roughed up by Ole Miss to the tune of 11 runs (8 earned) on 12 hits in 2.1 innings, Crosswhite has come on strong in his last two starts, allowing just 3 earned runs on 10 hits and 2 walks in 12.0 innings. While his ERA for the three games is 6.91, it's 2.25 for the two most recent starts.

Pigott has been fairly solid in his last three starts, allowing 12 runs (8 earned) on 23 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 17 in 20.2 innings of work. His ERA is 3.48. An interesting stat about Pigott is the fact that he has only given up a total of 2 runs in the first five innings of all three games. If you go back to his last five starts, he's only given up a total of 4 runs in the first five innings of those five starts combined. That's 4 runs in 25 innings. However, his effectiveness tails off dramatically after the fifth. In the 6th inning of his last five starts he's given up a total of 10 runs.

Josh Johnson has seen his effectiveness tail off a bit in his last two starts. After shutting down Ole Miss to the tune of 1 run in 6 innings of work, he has given up 6 earned runs in 8.2 innings of work during his last two outings. Overall, in his last three starts, he has thrown 14.2 innings, giving up 7 earned runs on 17 hits, 4 walks, while striking out 10. His three-start ERA is 4.29.

Relief Pitching (Last 10 games) - Alabama could use up to five different relievers during the series, including closer Josh Copeland, Casey Kebodeaux, Brian Griggs, Patrick Kelly and possibly Austin Hyatt.

Copeland has been very effective in 3 of the 4 games he's thrown in over the course of the last 10 games. He's normally used no more than an inning in any one outing. In 3.2 innings, he's given up 2 earned runs on 3 hits and no walks, while striking out 1. However, all of the runs and hits were allowed in one game against Florida. In his other three outings he threw 2.1 innings, giving up no runs, hits or walks.

Kebodeaux has been used three times in the last 10 games, two against Florida and once against Arkansas. In 3 innings, he's given up 5 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 3. His ERA is 12.00.

Griggs has thrown in 3 games, allowing 3 earned runs on 4 hits and 7 walks in 5.2 innings. He struck out 6. His ERA is 4.76.

Kelly has also been used in 3 games, although one was a start against Mississippi Valley State University. In his two relief appearances he gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 0 walks in 2.2 innings of work. However, in his last outing he pitched well against Arkansas, striking out 2 in 1 scoreless inning of work.

After losing his starting job to Will Stroup, Hyatt has been moved to the bullpen. In his one relief appearance over the course of the past 10 games, he threw 1.2 innings, giving up no runs on 1 hit and no walks, while striking out 1.

With relief closer Aaron Weatherford out for the weekend series, MSU will have to take up the slack with the likes of Mitch Moreland, Ricky Bowen, John Lalor and Greg Houston. And based on past results over the course of the last 10 games, the foursome should be able to handle the job.

Although he's only throw two times during the past 10 games, Moreland has been very effective in his two outings, allowing no runs on 5 hits and 1 walk in 5 innings of work. He struck out 5. Look for Moreland to be called on to be MSU's closer this series.

Lalor, who is normally used in middle relief, has been very effective during the three outings he's thrown. He's given up 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 9 innings. He's struck out 7. His ERA is 2.00.

Ricky Bowen, although not throwing as many innings as Lalor, has also been very effective, giving up just 1 run on 5 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings of work. He's struck out 4. His ERA in the four appearances is 1.80. If Moreland is used early in the series, look for Bowen to take over the closer role.

Houston has performed well, but has run into a little hard luck on the defensive side of the ball while also showing a little wildness at times. In 3.2 innings, he's given up 4 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 4. His ERA in his two outings is 2.45

Hitting - During the past five games, Alabama is hitting .295 and averaging 6.8 runs per game. MSU, on the other hand, is hitting .261 and averaging 3.0 runs per game.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Two of Bama's players are hitting over .400 during the past five games. Leading the way is Matt Bentley with a .444 batting average (8-for-18, 6 RBI). Next is Emeel Salem who is hitting .417 (10-for-24, 4 RBI). In limited action, Elvin Vargo is hitting .429 (3-for-7, 1 RBI). Two players are hitting .353 each, Kyle Moore and Greg Paiml (6-for-17). Del Howard is hitting a respectable .286 (4-for-14, 2 RBI). Slumping are Brandon May .111 (2-for-18, 1 RBI), Tyler Odle .200 (2-for-10, 3 RBI) and Brandon Belcher .238 (5-for-21, 0 RBI). Although he's only hitting .250 (5-for-20), Alex Avila has 8 RBI, which leads the team in the five games.

Like Alabama, MSU has two of its hitters batting over .400 - Jeffrey Rea comes in with a .421 average (8-for-19, 0 RBI) and Brian LaNinfa is hitting .412 (7-for-17, 4 RBI). Two players are hitting over .300. Mitch Moreland is hitting .353 (6-for-17, 2 RBI) and Ed Easley is hitting .333 (7-for-21, 2 RBI). Brandon Turner, who may have to DH this series if he plays at all, is hitting .300 in limited action (3-for-10, 1 RBI). In slumps are Mark Goforth .083 (1-for-12, 1 RBI), Connor Powers .105 (2-for-19, 2 RBI), Joseph McCaskill .176 (3-for-17, 0 RBI) and, in limited action, Andy Rice .143 (1-for-7, 0 RBI). Jet Butler is hitting a decent .250 (4-for-16, 0 RBI). Doubtful for MSU this weekend are Jeff Flagg, Nick Hardy and Cade Hoggard.

How Alabama and MSU Match Up
Alabama Category Mississippi State
29-23 Record 32-16
.292 (9th in SEC) Batting Average .323 (2nd in SEC)
320 (6.2 pg) Runs 354 (7.4 pg)
55 Home Runs 41
.444 Slugging % .456
64/86 Stolen Bases/Attempts 33/50
201 (3.9 pg) Walks 175 (3.6 pg)
329 (6.3 pg) Strikeouts 312 (6.5 pg)
426 (8.2 pg) LOB 400 (8.3 pg)
4.11 (5th in SEC) Team ERA 5.01 (11th in SEC)
13 Saves 14
165 (3.2 pg) Walks 128 (2.7 pg)
403 (7.8 pg) Strikeouts 404 (8.4 pg)
.254 Batting Average Against .301
.968 (4th in SEC) Fielding % .964 (6th in SEC)
64 Errors 66

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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