MSU-Kentucky Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and No. 10 Kentucky tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Kentucky.

Weather - Friday, the temps will be in the mid-50's during the game with west winds of 12 to 14 miles per hours. There is a 30% chance of rain.

Saturday, the temps will be in the mid-50's during the game with north to northeast winds of 5 to 8 miles per hours. There is a 0% chance of rain.

Sunday, the temps will be in the mid-60's during the game with east to southeast winds of 7 miles per hours. There is a 10% chance of rain.

Gametimes (All are listed as Central Time) - Friday 5:30 CT | Saturday 5:30 CT | Sunday 12:00 Noon.

4-Year Series History - Mississippi State and Kentucky are 6-6 against each other during the John Cohen era at Kentucky.

Coaches - In his four years at Kentucky, John Cohen's overall record is 131-93-1, including a record of 47-71-1 in SEC play. His 2006 team, which won the SEC, appeared in NCAA post-season play and had a record of 2-2 in the post-season.

MSU's Ron Polk, during the same four-year period, saw his teams have an overall record of 152-89 and a 53-63 SEC record. All four of his teams appeared in NCAA post-season play, including an appearance in the College World Series in 2007. His teams had a record of 10-8 in NCAA post-season.

Kentucky Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Kentucky is 18-0 at home while MSU is 2-5 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - For Kentucky, junior left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin (4-1, 2.52 ERA) will throw Friday, junior right-handed pitcher Scott Green (2-1, 4.85 ERA) will pitch Saturday, and senior right-hander Greg Dombrowski (4-0, 2.01) will go Sunday.

Mississippi State will counter with junior right-hander Chad Crosswhite (2-2, 11.78 ERA) Friday, junior right-hander Lee Swindle (2-2, 4.91 ERA) Saturday and sophomore right-hander Ricky Bowen (2-3, 6.62) Sunday.

(I will analyse SEC starts only-Gene)

Rusin, in his three SEC starts, has thrown 21.2 innings, allowing 9 runs (all earned) on 28 hits, 2 walks and 19 strikeouts. His ERA in SEC games is 3.74. In his last outing (against South Carolina), he threw 8.2 innings, giving up 3 runs on 10 hits and 0 walks. Watch the first inning when he pitches because he's given up runs (2,1) in that inning in two of his three outings.

Green has also started three games in the SEC. In SEC play, he has thrown 11.2 innings, giving up 13 runs (all earned) on 15 hits, 8 walks and 10 strikeouts. His SEC ERA is 10.03. In his last appearance, he gave up 8 runs in 3.0 innings against South Carolina.

Dombrowski has fared a little better than Green in his three SEC starts as far as earned runs are concerned, but not innings, giving up 5 runs (all earned) on 18 hits and 4 walks while striking out 18 in 15.1 innings of work. His ERA is 2.94 in SEC play. In his last outing, which was also against South Carolina, he gave up 2 runs in 5.2 innings. He normally throws no more than 5+ innings.

Mississippi State's Chad Crosswhite has been battling a leg injury throughout the season and has only appeared in two SEC games and those were as a reliever. In those appearances against Georgia and South Carolina, he threw 3 innings, allowing 2 runs, 3 hits and no walks while striking out 2. Chad, who was MSU's Friday night starter for most of last season, did start four non-SEC games earlier in the season but was ineffective to the tune of 22 earned runs in 12.2 innings for a 15.63 ERA. The good news for MSU fans is he now appears to be completely healthy as evidenced by his performances in his last four outings (all in relief) in which he has thrown 4.2 innings, allowing no runs on 2 hits and no walks while striking out 7.

Lee Swindle has taken over the Saturday starting job while normal starter Justin Pigott rehabs from an inflamed shoulder which caused him to leave the Ole Miss game three weekends ago and has kept him out of the rotation the last two SEC weekends against South Carolina and Georgia. In his two SEC outings he has given up 9 runs (all earned) on 12 hits and 5 walks while striking out 2 in 11 innings of work for an SEC ERA of 7.36. He is normally the most effective the first three innings, allowing only 1 run in those innings in the two outings.

Ricky Bowen was dynamite in his first SEC start, no-hitting Ole Miss through 8.2 innings. But since then, he's given up 11 runs (9 earned) on 13 hits and 7 walks while striking out 6 in 11.1 innings. His SEC ERA is 3.98. Based on the three games, you'll know in the first couple of innings if Ricky has his stuff. If he does, then he'll be lights out for at least 7 innings. If not, then don't look for him to last longer than four innings.

Relief Pitching (in SEC play only) - Kentucky, basically, uses three relievers in SEC play - seniors Brock Baber (RHP) and Andrew Albers (LHP) and sophomore LHP James Paxton.

Baber seems to have taken over the closer's job of late. Cohen is not afraid to bring him in as early as the 6th inning and let him close out the game. In his five SEC outings, he has given up 6 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and 4 walks while striking out 4. His SEC ERA is 4.50.

Albers appears to be a long-relief type guy who, if effective, will be allowed to close out the game. In his three outings, he has gone 0.2, 3.1 and 5.0 innings. In the 9 innings, he has given up 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits, 5 walks and 12 strikeouts. His SEC ERA is 3.0.

Paxton, the hardest thrower of the three main relievers, is used as a long reliever as well. In his three SEC outings, he has allowed 5 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. His SEC ERA is 5.07.

Several other pitchers - Tyler Henry, Adam Lovett and Logan Darnell - are used in mop-up duty when a game has gotten out of hand.

Mississippi State, now that closer Aaron Weatherford is healthy, finally has its full contingent in the bullpen, including John Lalor, Michael Busby, Forrest Moore, Jesse Carver and Andy Wilson.

Weatherford, who has been out a month due to tendinitis in his shoulder, has come back strong, throwing 92 to 94 miles per hour this past Wednesday night with 20+ Major League Baseball scouts looking on. And he didn't disappoint, striking out the side in his performance. For the season, he has thrown in four games, allowing 0 runs on 1 hit and 3 walks while striking out 15 in 6.1 innings.

Another hard-thrower is true freshman right-hander Busby. In two SEC outings, he has given up 3 runs (all earned) on 7 hits and 6 walks while striking out 8. Busby had his best outing of the year last weekend against Georgia when he went 6.2 innings, allowing 1 earned run on 3 hits and 3 walks with 8 Ks. Look for him to be used in long relief if any of the starters falter early.

Another true freshman, lefty Forrest Moore, one of the most highly recruited players in last year's class, has preformed very well in two SEC relief appearances. Normally a set-up man for whomever is closing, he has given up 0 runs on 2 hits and 6 walks while striking out 6 in 6.1 innings of work. The most effective reliever on the staff throughout the season, when you total his 8 relief outings, he has given up just 2 runs (both earned) in 17 innings. His out pitch is a MLB plus curveball. He complements it with a mid-80's baseball that can reach 88 to 90 on occasion and a developing changeup.

Last year's long reliever, senior RHP John Lalor will be back in that role this weekend after taking over the closer role while Weatherford was out with his injury. In two SEC outings, Lalor has thrown 4.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (5 earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk with 5 Ks.

Lefties Jesse Carver and Andy Wilson, both seniors, should be used in situations where the game is out of reach one way or the other.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Kentucky has six hitters hitting .316 or better.

Leading the Wildcats is junior Collin Cowgill at .474 (9-of-19, 7 RBI). Following him is junior Chris McClendon at .368 (7-of-19, 3 RBI). Not far behind him is Redshirt freshman Chris Wade who comes in at .357 (5-of-14, 5 RBI). Closely pursuing Chris are senior Tyler Howe at .333 (4-of-12, 1 RBI) and sophomore Keenan Wiley also hitting .333 (5-of-15, 0 RBI). Next up is senior Sawyer Carroll at .316 (6-of-19, 8 RBI).

Not doing so well are senior Ryan Wilkes and sophomore Troy Frazier, both of whom are hitting .250. Ryan is 4-of-16 with 2 RBI and Troy, in limited action, is 2-of-8 with 2 RBI. At the bottom are senior Brian Spear and sophomore Marcus Nidifier both hitting .200.

Mississippi State has four players hitting the ball well - true freshman Ryan Collins at .588 (10-of-17, 4 RBI), sophomore Russ Sneed at .421 (8-of-19, 4 RBI), sophomore Connor Powers at .381 8-of-21, 4 RBI) and junior Grant Houge who is hitting .333 (7-of-21, 3 RBI).

Hitting decently are sophomore Jet Butler .294 (5-of-17, 4 RBI) and redshirt freshman Jason Nappi at .267 (4-of-15, 1 RBI).

Not hitting so well are junior Tyler Moore at .176 (3-of-17, 2 RBI) and sophomore Ryan Duffy at .111 (1-of-9, 4 RBI).

How Kentucky and MSU Match Up
Kentucky Category Mississippi State
23-4 Record 13-15
.346 (1st in the SEC) Batting Average .300 (8th in the SEC)
264 (9.8 pg) Runs 150 (7.0 pg)
40 Home Runs 25
.573 Slugging % .433
43/56 Stolen Bases/Attempts 31/40
138 (5.1 pg) Walks 142 (5.1 pg)
180 (6.7 pg) Strikeouts 212 (7.6 pg)
212 (7.9 pg) LOB 238 (8.5 pg)
2.96 (1st in the SEC) Team ERA 5.92 (12th in the SEC)
4 Saves 3
71 (2.6 pg) Walks 132 (4.7 pg)
232 (8.6 pg) Strikeouts 239 (8.5 pg)
.247 Batting Average Against .281
.978 (T-1st in the SEC) Fielding % .973 (3rd in the SEC)
22 Errors 29

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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