MSU-Baylor Baseball Series Preview

No. 11 Baylor (8-1) and Mississippi State (5-4) tangle in the three-game Cadance Bank Classic series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday's temperatures should range from 53 at gametime to 46 by the end of the game. The northwest winds will range from 11 to 12 miles per hour throughout the game. Expect a cloudy sky with a 20% chance of rain during the game.

Saturday's temps will range from the mid to high 30's at gametime to the low 30's by the end of the game. The northwest winds will vary from 10 to 12 miles per hour. The sky will be partly cloudy.

Sunday should see temps in the high 50's throughout the game. There will be a slight south wind during the game.

Gametimes - Friday 4:00 p.m. | Saturday 6:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

Series History - The teams have split the six games that they have played. The two teams have never met in Starkville.

Coaches - Steve Smith, a former assistant coach under MSU head coach Ron Polk, is going into his 14th season with the Baylor Bears program with an overall record of 490-311-1. He is 199-150 in conference games. Five of his thirteen Baylor teams have won more than 40 games in a season. Smith has led Baylor to nine NCAA Regional appearances, three NCAA Super Regional appearances, one College World Series appearance and two Big 12 Conference titles. His teams have an overall record of 23-19 in NCAA postseason play. An accomplished pitching coach, Smith, during the last 18 years (5 at MSU as the pitching coach and 13 at Baylor), has seen 10 of his pupils go on to be first-round draft picks.

During his last thirteen years (2 at Georgia, 11 at MSU), Ron Polk's teams are 503--295-2 overall, and 197-179 in conference play. He has led MSU and Georgia to nine NCAA Regional appearances, two NCAA Super Regionals and three College World Series appearances and one SEC Conference championship. Since

Baylor Road/Mississippi State Home Records - Baylor has played all nine of their games at home. MSU is 4-2 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Mississippi State's starting pitchers will be senior LHP Justin Pigott (2-0, 2.25 ERA) Friday night, junior RHP Chad Crosswhite (0-1, 10.61 ERA) Saturday and sophomore RHP Ricky Bowen (1-1, 12.00 ERA) Sunday.

Baylor will counter with sophomore RHP Kendal Volz (2-0, 193 ERA) on Friday, freshman RHP Shawn Tolleson (0-0, 8.64 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore RHP Willie Kempf (1-0, 1.80 ERA) on Sunday.

Pigott, in his two starts this season, has thrown 5 and 7 innings, allowing 3 runs (all earned) on just 9 hits and 5 walks. He has struck out 18 hitters in the 12 innings.

Crosswhite, who has struggled in the early going this season, has thrown 5 and 4.1 innings in his two starts, allowing 11 runs (all earned) on 14 hits in the two outings. He has walked 4 struck out 8.

Also struggling is Bowen, who was used exclusively in relief last season. In his two outings, he has allowed 12 runs (all earned) on 15 hits and 6 walks in 9 innings. He has struck out 7.

In his two starts this season vs Purdue and Illinois, Volz has allowed 3 runs (all earned and all against his last opponent, Illinois), on 10 hits and 2 walks in 14 innings of work. He has struck out 16. His longest outing was his first when he threw 8 innings. Teams have hit .200 against him so far this season. Volz is considered to be one of the premiere sophomores in the country, being selected by Baseball America, with assistance from Major League Baseball scouting directors, as the 14th best pro draft prospect among all sophomores.

Redshirt freshman Tolleson, rated as the 15th-best pro prospect among freshmen by Baseball America, has been up and down in his two starts. In his first outing, which was against Purdue, he gave up 5 runs (all earned) on 6 hits and 4 walks in 2.1 innings of work. He struck out 3. He fared much better the second time around when he gave up 3 runs (all earned) on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 3 in 6 innings of work against Illinois-Chicago. Teams are hitting at a .355 clip against him.

Kempf has been very consistent in his two outings - giving up 1 run in each (earned) while throwing 5 innings in both. He has given up 6 hits and walked 7 while striking out 8. Teams are batting a paltry .182 against him.

Relief Pitching - State is using the same two in long and short relief as they did last year - John Lalor in long and Aaron Weatherford in short. And both has performed well during the early going.

Lalor, in three relief appearances that span 3.2 innings, has allowed 1 run (earned) on 2 hits and 2 walks while ringing up 5 strikeouts.

Weatherford, who is considered a possible first-round pick in this summer's Major League Baseball draft, has rung up 12 Ks in 5.1 innings of work. He has allowed 1 hit while walking 3 in the three outings. In his last appearance he struck out 5 of the 6 batters that he faced. He has 2 saves. And teams are hitting .059 against him.

State has a number of other arms that they can use in relief this weekend including Greg Houston, Jared Wesson, Michael Busby, Tyler Whitney, Andy Wilson, among others. Houston and Busby are righties while all the others are lefthanders. Two lefties are possibilities - Jesse Carver and Forrest Moore, although it looks like both of them are going to be the weekday starters as of now.

Houston has been the most effective pitcher of that group. In 7 innings of work, he has given up 4 runs (all earned) on 10 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6. Busby, however, has come on strong of late. He has appeared in a total of 4 games and allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks while recording 6 Ks. In his last three outings, he has thrown 5 innings, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks with 5 Ks.

Wesson, who the MSU coaching staff was hoping would be State's lefthanded closer, has struggled in the early going. In 1.2 innings, over a span of three games, he has given up 3 runs (2 earned) on 1 hit and 5 walks while striking out 2.

Andy Wilson has been up and down with his most recent outing being his least effective appearance. After allowing no runs on 1 hit in 2 innings in his first two outings, he gave up 2 runs (both earned) on 2 hits and 1 walk in a three-inning appearance.

Whitney, a lefty who had a good freshman season last year, has started off slow - giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 4 hits and 3 walks in a two-inning effort, his only appearance to date.

Nick Cassavechia is the closer for Baylor. And he's gotten 4 saves in his six appearances, something you would expect from a closer. But when you look at his stats more closely, he hasn't been as effective as you would expect. After performing extremely well in his first two outings (no runs, no walks, 1 hit, 2 Ks in 3 innings), his control has been unreliable in his last four outings. He has thrown 89 pitches, 42 of which were balls, during those appearances. In those 4 outings, he has thrown 4.2 innings, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 5 walks and 5 hits while striking out only 1. Give him credit though, he has somehow dodge bullets and found a way to save 3 of the 4. He absorbed the loss in the other game.

Other pitchers they should use in relief include Aaron Miller, Erik Forestiere, Mace Thurman and Craig Fritsch.

Miller, a 6-3. 220-pound sophomore LHP, has been used mainly in short stints and as a setup man for closer Cassavechia. His specialty seems to be to come in to face lefthanders and strike them out. In fact. all four of his outs in his three outings have been strikeouts. He has given up 1 run on 1 hit and 2 walks.

Forestiere, a senior RHP, has been used four times this season, mostly in middle relief. In 5.1 innings, he has given up 3 runs (all earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4. He has 1 save and 1 win in his four appearances.

Thurman, a 6-1, 185-pound junior LHP, also appears to be a setup man. In his four outings he has thrown 8.1 innings, giving up 7 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and 5 walks with 9 Ks.

Fritsch, a 6-4, 185-pound freshman RHP, has performed extremely well in his three outings. In 7 innings, he has allowed 0 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 8. Teams are hitting .136 against him, the best on the team.

Hitting - MSU is hitting .319 as a team (.333 vs RHP, .286 vs LHP), scoring 7.3 runs per game. They have hit 8 home runs. Three of MSU's five top hitters are freshmen. Cody Freeman is leading with a .538 batting average. Jason Nappi, a redshirt freshman, is hitting at a .438 clip, while Ryan Collins is hitting .333. Both Freeman and Collins are part-time starters.

Baylor, as a team, is hitting .289 and is also averaging about 7.3 runs per game. They have hit 9 out of the yard.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For Mississippi State six players are hitting .429 or better, three freshmen, two sophomores and one junior. True freshman Ryan Collins, in limited action, is leading the team in hitting with a .556 (5-for-9, 3 RBI) batting average. Junior Grant Hogue is hitting .550 (5-for-10, 1 RBI). Following them are four players who are hitting at the .429 mark - redshirt freshman Jason Nappi (9-for-21, 3 RBI), sophomore Connor Powers (9-for-21, 6 RBI), true freshman Cody Freeman (3-for-7, 0 RBI) and sophomore Ryan Duffy (3-for-7, 3 RBI). Sophomore Russ Sneed is right behind them with a .389 average (7-for-18, 4 RBI). Tyler Moore is also above .300 with a .333 batting average (5-for-15, 2 RBI). Nick Hardy, in limited action, is hitting .333 (2-for-6, 1 RBI).

Bulldog players under the .300 average are Jet Butler ..272 (3-for-11, 1 RBI), Mark Goforth .267 (4-for-15, 2 RBI, 6 walks, .476 OB%), Andy Rice .250 (2-for-8, 0 RBI) and Johnny Allen at .200 (2-for-10, 2 RBI).

Baylor has no one over .400, but has two hitting exactly .400 and three others hitting better than .300. Leading the Bears is Aaron Miller with a .400 average (8-for-20, 7 RBI) and Dustin Dickerson with the same .400 average (6-for-15, 3 RBI). Up next is Shaver Hansen who is hitting .353 (6-for-17, 5 RBI). Others hitting over .300 are Landis Ware at .316 (6-for-19, 1 RBI) and Adam Hornung at .313 (5-for-16, 2 RBI).

Bears under .300 are Ben Booker with a very productive .278 batting average (5-for-18, 7 RBI), Greg Glime .231 (3-for-13, 1 RBI), Beamer Weems .211 (4-for-19, 2 RBI) and Paul Miles coming in at .200 (3-for-15, 3 RBI).

How Baylor and MSU Match Up
Baylor Category Mississippi State
8-1 Record 5-4
.289 Batting Average .319
67 (7.3 pg) Runs 66 (7.3 pg)
9 Home Runs 8
.459 Slugging % .449
14/18 Stolen Bases/Attempts 9/11
41 (4.5 pg) Walks 49 (5.4 pg)
53 (5.9 pg) Strikeouts 72 (8.0 pg)
75 (8.3 pg) LOB 86 (9.6 pg)
3.39 Team ERA 6.38
5 Saves 3
40 (4.4 pg) Walks 38 (4.2 pg)
74 (8.2 pg) Strikeouts 87 (9.7 pg)
.233 Batting Average Against .290
.966 Fielding % .976
13 Errors 8


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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