MSU-Alabama Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State (15-21, 3-12 SEC) and Alabama (20-18, 6-9) tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Weather - Friday's temperatures should range from the low-70's at gametime to the mid-60's by the end of the game. The winds should range from 13 to 15 miles per hour from the south throughout the game. There will be a 40% chance of thunderstorms at the start of the game, with it increasing to 60 to 70% as the game progresses.

Saturday temperatures should be in the mid-70's for the entire game with sunny skies. The wind should be in the 10 to 12 mph range and be from the west-southwest.

Sunday should be mostly sunny with temperatures in the low-80's for much of the game.

Gametimes - Friday 6:35 p.m. | Saturday 4:05 p.m. | Sunday 2:06 p.m.

13-Year Series History - Alabama leads 27-19 during the Jim Wells' 13-year era. At Tuscaloosa, MSU is 7-11 when facing Jim Wells-coached teams.

Coaches - Jim Wells is going into his 14th season as the head man at Alabama and has a thirteen-year record of 554-272, including an SEC record of 227-160. Two of his teams have been Co-SEC Champions. Ten of them have appeared in NCAA Regional play with two going on to Super Regionals. Three of his teams have appeared in the College World Series with two winding up runner-ups to the national champion. His overall NCAA Regional record during those thirteen years is 38-20.

During his last thirteen years as a head coach, Ron Polk's teams are 503-295 overall and 197-179 in SEC play (he coached two years at Georgia during the 13 years). His teams have won one SEC Championship during that period. Nine of the thirteen teams have appeared in NCAA Regional play with two going on to play in Super Regionals. Three of his teams have appeared in the College World Series. His teams overall record in NCAA postseason play is 25-21.

Alabama Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Alabama is 14-6 at home while MSU is 3-8 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Mississippi State's starting pitchers will be junior RHP Chad Crosswhite (2-2, 10.05 ERA) Friday night, sophomore RHP Ricky Bowen (2-4, 7.20 ERA) Saturday and senior LHP Justin Pigott (2-1, 4.57 ERA) Sunday.

Alabama will counter with junior RHP Austin Hyatt (2-3, 4.74 ERA) Friday, junior LHP Miers Quigley (4-2, 3.49 ERA) Saturday and junior RHP Robert Phares (1-3, 6.81 ERA) Sunday.

This will be Crosswhite's second SEC start due to ineffectiveness caused by a nagging hamstring injury. In his two outings he's given up 11 runs (8 earned) on 16 hits and 5 walks while striking out 5 in his 10.1 innings of work. His SEC ERA is 6.97.

Bowen started out his SEC action in exceptional fashion, throwing a two-hitter against Ole Miss. But since then he's given up 25 runs (19 earned) on 28 hits and 13 walks with 12 strikeouts in 21.0 innings for a 7.24 SEC ERA. Those four outings have been 4.0, 7.1, 5.1 and 4.1 innings in length. His ERA in SEC road games is a high 11.58.

Pigott, who started the season out in solid fashion with a 2.25 ERA in his first two starts, has also been out with an injury for much of the SEC action. In fact, he's only started one SEC game and that was the opening SEC weekend against Ole Miss. He gave up 3 earned runs on 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4 in 2.2 innings before being taken out of that game due to his injury. Look for him to be on a pitch count, so don't expect more than 5 innings out of him.

Hyatt has thrown in 5 SEC games so far this season, giving up 23 runs (21 earned) on 32 hits and 12 walks while striking out 25 in 29.0 innings of work. He's been an up and down type pitcher. One week he gives up 5 or 6 runs in 3 to 5 innings, then the next week he only gives up 2 runs in 5 or 9 innings. This outing, if past performance is an indicator, should be a good game. In his home SEC games his ERA is 4.11 ERA (15.1 IP, 7 ER).

This will be Quigley's second SEC start this season after being one of the two mid-week starters for most of the season. In his first outing he gave up 6 earned runs on 11 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6 in 7.1 innings. He only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings before running out of gas and giving up 4 more runs in the 8th inning.

Phares started SEC action in good fashion, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) on 13 hits and 5 walks with 8 Ks in 15.2 innings of work for an ERA of 1.72. Since then, he's been very ineffective, giving up 16 runs (all earned) on 18 hits and 3 walks in 10.1 innings. His two-outing ERA is 13.94. Phares normally loses his effectiveness in the 6th innings. The positive news for Alabama fans is those first two outings where he had the 1.72 ERA, were at home and the last two were on the road. This weekend series is at Tuscaloosa.

Relief Pitching - Mississippi State has five primary relievers.

First up is closer Aaron Weatherford, a hard-throwing junior, who missed a month earlier in the season, but is completely healthy now. Throwing a fastball in the 92-94 range with late life, Aaron has thrown in three games, allowing 1 run (unearned) on 2 hits and 1 walk with 11 strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work. Teams are hitting .105 against him in SEC play. If the games are close look for him to be able to throw a couple of innings Friday and Sunday.

State's long relief man is senior John Lalor. In 6.2 innings of SEC work, John has given up 7 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits and 1 walk with 8 Ks. John has given up at least 1 run in all of his SEC outings other than one.

Two freshman, due to a large number of pitching injuries this year, have been pressed into duty and have been, as you would expect, up and down in SEC activity.

The most effective has been lefty Forrest Moore who has allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and a high 11 walks while striking out 11 in 12.1 innings. His SEC ERA is 2.92. Most of his runs have come against one team in the SEC. In fact, in his five outings, he's given up earned runs in just one of them.

The other freshman, Michael Busby, hasn't been as effective. In his five outings, he's given up 11 runs (8 earned) on 15 hits and 10 walks with 11 Ks in 14.0 innings. His SEC ERA is 5.14.

A sophomore RHP to watch is Greg Houston. After struggling most of the season, in his last SEC outing he gave up no runs on 4 hits and no walks in three innings of work.

Doing mostly mop-up duty will be senior left-handed pitchers Jesse Carver and Andy Wilson.

Look for Alabama to use three relievers unless a game gets out of control by either team. The three are senior RHP Josh Copeland, senior LHP Will Stroup and sophomore RHP Austin Graham.

Bama's closer is Copeland. He's appeared in 9 of 15 SEC games, all as a closer. Although he's thrown 4.1 innings in one outing, he's normally going to throw in the 1 to 2 inning range. In 15.2 innings, he's given up 0 runs on 12 hits and 11 walks with 16 strikeouts. While he hasn't given up any runs he sure makes it exciting considering he's had 23 baserunners on in his 15.2 innings.

Stroup is a combination closer and set-up man. He'll thrown up to 5 innings or as low as an out. In 14.2 innings (1 start, 5 relief), he's given up 13 runs (10 earned) on 13 hits and 13 walks with, you guessed it, 13 strikeouts. His SEC ERA is 6.13. But if you take away the one start stats, his relief ERA is 2.13.

Graham, who was originally an SEC starter until he showed that he was ineffective in that role, looks to be a long reliever for Alabama since he's been moved to the bullpen. In his one SEC relief appearance he threw 3 innings, allowing 2 runs (earned) on 4 hits and 2 strikeouts.

Anybody else Alabama uses should be done in a mop-up role.

Hitting - In their last five games Mississippi State's team batting average is .265 and they have scored an average of 5 runs per game. As for Alabama, they are averaging .333 and 6 runs per game.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Mississippi State has three players who are batting over .300 in the last five games. Leading the pack is sophomore Ryan Duffy at .385 (5-for-13, 2 RBI). Behind him is freshman Ryan Collins who is hitting .316 (6-for-19, 2 RBI). In part-time duty junior Mark Goforth has hit .571 (4-for-7).

Three players are hitting decent the past five games - junior Tyler Moore comes in at .263 (5-for-19, 5 RBI) as does junior Grant Hogue (5-for-19, 2 RBI). Sophomore Jet Butler is hitting .250 (5-for-20, 2 RBI).

Slumping are freshman Jason Nappi at .118 (2-for-17, 1 RBI), freshman Ryan Powers, who moved into the lineup after Connor Powers went down with an injury, is hitting at .143 (1-for-7). Sophomore Russ Sneed is batting .211 (4-for-19, 1 RBI).

A player to watch is freshman Cody Freeman who has been out with a knee injury for several weeks. In his first game back, which was Tuesday night against Ole Miss, he went 1-for-3 with 2 runs scored.

A bat MSU is going to miss is sophomore Connor Powers who has hit .333 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI in his last four games. He went down with a hamstring pull in the Sunday Vanderbilt game and is expected to be out 3 to 6 weeks.

Alabama, on the other hand, has six hitters doing well during the last five games. In fact, two players are hitting .500 or better, including junior Kent Matthes who is hitting at a .583 clip (7-for-12, 1 RBI), and sophomore Brandon May who comes in at .500 (9-for-18, 4 RBI).

Hitting in the .400 range are freshman Josh Rutledge at .455 (10-for-22, 3 RBI) and junior Alex Avila at .444 (8-for-18, 3 RBI). Hitting over .300 are sophomore Jake Smith at .353 (6-for-17, 6 RBI) and senior Matt Bentley at .313 (5-for-16, 4 RBI). Not far behind those two is junior Alex Kubal who is hitting .294 (5-for-17, 1 RBI).

Not hitting so well are freshman Ross Wilson at .095 (2-for-21, 2 RBI), junior Tyler Odie at .125 (2-for-16, 1 RBI) and junior Mike Sharp who is hitting .235 (4-for-17, 2 RBI).

How Alabama and MSU Match Up
Alabama Category Mississippi State
20-18 Record 15-21
.300 (6th in SEC) Batting Average .296 (9th in SEC)
253 (6.7 pg) Runs 240 (6.7 pg)
41 Home Runs 38
.447 Slugging % .436
35-46 Stolen Bases-Attempts 36-47
130 (3.4 pg) Walks 175 (4.9 pg)
284 (7.5 pg) Strikeouts 286 (7.9 pg)
309 (8.1 pg) LOB 306 (8.5 pg)
4.71 (9th in SEC) Team ERA 6.27 (12th in SEC)
7 Saves 4
169 (4.4 pg) Walks 169 (4.7 pg)
290 (7.6 pg) Strikeouts 292 (8.1 pg)
.268 Batting Average Against .295
.954 (12th in SEC) Fielding % .970 (4th in SEC)
67 Errors 42

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the 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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