Auburn - MSU Baseball Series Preview

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

Weather - Friday, it should be partly cloudy with a 10% to 20% chance of rain. The temperatures should start out in the high 70's and work their way down to the low 70's near the end of the game.

Thunderstorms are expected for most of the afternoon but should clear out by gametime Saturday. The temps should range in the low 70's at gametime and in the high 60's by the end of the game.

Sunday should see a partly cloudy sky with temperatures in the mid 70's for most of the game.

Gametimes - Friday 6:00 p.m. | Saturday 6:00 p.m. | Sunday 2:00 p.m.

3-Year Series History - During the three years Tom Slater has coached at Auburn, MSU has a 6-3 advantage over Auburn.

Coaches - Auburn coach Tom Slater has a 87-85 overall record at Auburn and 31-59 in SEC action. One of this three teams have advanced to NCAA Regional play, going 2-2.

During that same three-year period MSU head man Ron Polk has led his team to an overall record of 117-67, 40-46 in SEC play and to three regionals, 1 Super Regional and 1 College World Series. His teams have a NCAA postseason record of 9-6 in that timeframe.

Auburn Home/Mississippi State Road Records - Auburn's home record is 18-11 while MSU's road record is 4-12.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Mississippi State will start junior RHP Chad Crosswhite (2-3, 8.85 ERA) Friday night, sophomore RHP Ricky Bowen (2-5, 7.38 ERA) Saturday night and senior LHP Justin Pigott (2-1, 4.13 ERA) Sunday afternoon.

Auburn will start freshman LHP Grant Dayton (6-1, 3.94 ERA) Friday, sophomore RHP Taylor Thompson (2-4, 6.65 ERA) and either junior RHP Luke Greinke (3-3, 4.50) or freshman RHP Bradley Hendrix (1-2, 5.73) Sunday.

Crosswhite, who has dealt with an injury most of the season, finally seems to not only be healthy but back to his old self. In his last outing, he threw 7 innings, allowing 3 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1. It was easily his best outing of the season as well as his longest.

Bowen, after almost no-hitting Ole Miss in his first SEC outing (he had a no-hitter with two outs in the 9th inning), has struggled since. Since then, he has given up 8, 3, 6, 8, 4, and 9 runs (including earned and unearned) in his SEC starts. Walks have been a problem the last three outings (16 in 15.2 innings).

Pigott, who was out for about a month due to an injury, has pitched well since coming back, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and 4 walks with 4 Ks in 11 innings for a two-game ERA of 3.27. He was on a pitch-count for both outings, but should be able to go about 7 innings this outing.

Drayton has been pretty consistent for Auburn, throwing at least 5 innings in every SEC start. In fact, of his 7 SEC starts, he has gone at least 6.0 innings 5 times. His last two outings, while not great, have been two of his better games. He gave up 6 runs (all earned) on 16 hits and 1 walk to go along with 9 Ks in 11 innings. Speaking of walks, in 41.1 innings pitched during his SEC appearances he has only walked 5.

Thompson is new to the starting role, although he has relieved quite a bit in SEC play. In 7 SEC relief appearances he has given up 9 runs (all earned) on 12 hits and 4 walks in 14.2 innings for an ERA of 6.65. His longest outing has been 4.0 innings, which just happens to have been his last SEC appearance when he gave up no runs on 2 hits and 1 walk.

Hendrix has been very ineffective of late. In his last two SEC outings, he has given up 8 runs (all earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks in 3.1 innings. But both of those appearances were on the road. He has pitched much more effectively at home. In fact, in his two SEC home outings he has given up just 5 runs in 11 innings for an ERA of 4.09. That may not sound that great, but when you consider his road ERA is 21.00 you see my reasoning.

Greinke, who has battled an injury this season, has only appeared in two SEC games, giving up 6 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks in 4.0 innings for an SEC ERA of 9.0. In his only SEC start he gave up 5 runs (3 earned) in 3.0 innings.

Relief Pitching - MSU primarily uses two relievers - senior long reliever John Lalor and junior closer Aaron Weatherford, both of whom are RHP. But several others could see action including freshmen RHP Michael Busby and LHP Forrest Moore as well as senior LHP Jesse Carver.

Lalor, who was moved to closer while Weatherford was out with an injury for a month, has gone back to his role as the setup man and has done an outstanding job. In his last 4 outings, he has thrown 7.1 innings, giving up 0 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks with 7 strikeouts.

The hard-throwing Weatherford, one of, if not the most dominating relief pitcher in the SEC this season, has appeared in 5 SEC games, giving up just 1 run (unearned) on 3 hits and 2 walks in 9.1 innings. He has struck out 18 in those 9.1 innings. Overall this season, he has given up just the 1 unearned run on 5 hits and 6 walks with 43 Ks in 21.0 innings. Teams are hitting a miniscule .075 against him.

Busby, Moore, Houston and Carver normally will be used if a game has gotten out of hand. All have SEC ERAs in the 6+ to 11+ range.

Since Thompson will be starting, look for Auburn to use as their main relievers junior RHP Bryan Woodall, junior LHP Evan Crawford and sophomore RHP Michael Hurst.

Woodall is Auburn's closer. In 19.1 SEC innings he has given up 12 runs on 22 hits and 4 walks with 13 Ks for an ERA of 5.59. His worst outing this year was his last when he gave up 5 runs (all earned) on 5 hits in 0.1 inning. Normally, he's pretty effective. In his 14 SEC relief appearances he has given up 0 runs in 10 of them.

Crawford also closes on occasion, but usually if the game is not tight. He also is a setup man for Woodall. In 11 SEC appearances he has given up 6 runs (4 earned) in 15.1 innings. While Woodall has had a couple of really bad outings, Crawford hasn't. He has only given up more than 1 run twice and in both instances he only gave up 2 runs. And both were earlier in the season.

Hurst's role is more of a setup man. He has appeared in 12 games, giving up 9 runs (8 earned) on 15 hits and 4 walks with 14 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. After pitching well early on, he has been up and down lately, giving up 2 or more runs in two of his last three outings.

Hitting (Last 5 Games) - In the last five games, MSU is hitting .275 while scoring an average of 6.8 runs per game. Auburn, on the other hand, is hitting at a higher average (.309), but is averaging less runs per game (6.4).

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For the Bulldogs one player is on fire right now - junior Tyler Moore. Moore is currently hitting .476 (10-for-21, 3 HR, 9 RBI) during the last five games. Three other players are hitting in the .300+ range, including junior Grant Hogue who is hitting .364 (8-for-22, 1 RBI), sophomore Ryan Duffy who is at .357 (5-for-14, 2 RBI) and junior Mark Goforth who in a part-time role is hitting .333 (3-for-9, 3 RBI).

Sophomore Russ Sneed is hitting .263 (5-for-19, 4 RBI), while freshman Ryan Collins, who is expected back after missing the last two games due to a shoulder injury, is hitting .250 (3-for-12, 1 RBI).

Other Bulldogs are redshirt freshman Jason Nappi at .222 (4-for-18, 2 RBI), true freshman Cody Freeman (who is working his way back from an injury) is hitting .200 (4-for-20, 6 RBI), redshirt freshman Ryan Powers at .154 (2-for-13, 1 RBI), and sophomore Jet Butler at .111 (2-for-18, 0 RBI).

Two of MSU's top hitters, sophomores Brandon Turner (batted .399 last season) and Connor Powers (11 HR, 38 RBI, .348 BA), are both out this week due to injuries. It's possible Turner, who has been out most of the season, may be back next weekend. Powers, who has been out for a couple of weeks, is more iffy and could possibly miss the rest of the season.

For the Auburn Tigers, several players are hitting the ball well. At the top of the list is junior Mike Bianucci at .474 (9-for-19, 5 RBI). Not far behind is sophomore Joseph Sanders who is hitting a robust .444 (8-for-18, 7 RBI).

Three Tigers are hitting in the .300+ range, including two freshmen - Brian Fletcher who is at .333 (7-for-21, 6 RBI) and Hunter Morris also at .333 (4-for-12, 1 RBI) in part-time duty. Not far off their pace is redshirt freshman David Cunningham at .316 (6-for-19, 3 RBI).

Junior Matt Hall is hitting just below .300 at .294 (5-for-17, 1 RBI).

In the low .200 range are freshman Trent Mummey at .238 (5-for-21, 2 RBI), freshman Justin Hargett at .211 (4-for-19, 1 RBI), and yet another freshman Kevin Patterson who in part-time duty is hitting .200 (2-for-10, 1 RBI).

Pulling up the rear, in part-time duty, are freshman Tony Caldwell at .111 (1-for-9, 1 RBI) and junior Ryan Jenkins at .167 (1-for-6, 1 RBI).

How Auburn and MSU Match Up
Auburn Category Mississippi State
24-22 Record 18-26
.303 (5th) Batting Average .296 (9th)
307 (6.7 pg) Runs 290 (6.6 pg)
40 Home Runs 42
.387 OB % .390
65-92 Stolen Bases-Attempts 40-54
190 (4.1 pg) Walks 220 (5.0 pg)
302 (6.6 pg) Strikeouts 346 (7.9 pg)
372 (8.1 pg) LOB 392 (8.9 pg)
4.90 (10th) Team ERA 6.50 (12th)
12 Saves 5
136 (3.0 pg) Walks 216 (4.9 pg)
315 (6.8 pg) Strikeouts 347 (7.9 pg)
.281 Batting Average Against .296
.971 (4th) Fielding % .967 (6th)
51 Errors 57

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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