Georgia - MSU Baseball Series Preview

No. 25 ranked Mississippi State and No. 4 ranked Georgia tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Georgia.

Weather - Friday's highs at gametime are expected to be in the low 60s and dip down to the low 50s by the end of the game. There is no chance of rain in the forecast.

Saturday's highs are expected in the mid 60s with winds around 7 miles per hour. The chance of rain is no more than 10%.

Sunday it will be mostly sunny with very little wind and highs in the upper 60s. Like Saturday, the chance of rain is about 10% or less.

Gametimes (All times are Central Time) - Friday 6:00 p.m. | Saturday 1:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:00 p.m.

7-Year Series History - During the Dave Perno era at Georgia, Mississippi State has an overall record of 8-14 versus Georgia.

Coaches - Georgia's Dave Perno has a 251-184-1 record during his seven years as the head coach at Georgia. His teams have gone 105-103 in SEC play and have won two overall SEC titles during his 7 years. His Georgia teams have appeared in 4 regionals, advancing to 3 Super Regionals. All three of those teams advanced to the College World Series where they ended up 7th, 3rd and 2nd. In NCAA postseason play his teams have an overall record of 25-13.

During his five years as the head coach at Kentucky, current MSU head coach John Cohen's teams were 175-112 overall and 63-85 in SEC play. His teams won one SEC Championship during that period. Two of his five teams have appeared in NCAA Regional play. Neither team advanced to Super Regionals. His teams overall record in NCAA postseason play at Kentucky was 4-4.

Mississippi State Road/Georgia Home Records - Mississippi State is 1-3 on the road while Georgia is 11-0 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Georgia is expected to start senior RHP Trevor Holder (3-1, 2.01) on Friday, junior RHP Alex McRee (2-0, 0.77) on Saturday and sophomore RHP Justin Grimm (1.1, 5.49) on Sunday. McRee is just coming back from mono, so if he can't go then look for senior LHP Jason Leaver (2-0, 5.93) to go in his place. That will move Grimm to the Saturday starting slot and Leaver will start on Sunday.

If you want to know the potential of the Georgia starting unit read on. Holder is rated the 94th best draftable project in college ball this year while McRee is ranked even higher at 25th.

Holder, so far this season, has lived up to his billing for the most part, starting four game and going 22.1 innings while allowing 5 earned runs on 18 hits and 8 walks to go along with 22 Ks. A problem he has run into is not of his making - a shaky Georgia defense. In addition to the 5 earned runs he has also given up 6 unearned runs for a total of 11 runs. Also, in games against quality opponents (Arizona and Alabama) he gave up 9 runs (3 earned) on 14 hits and 5 walks in 10.0 innings. He also struck out 9. He's usually a shutdown pitcher for the first two innings (1 total run in first two innings), then teams start getting to him in the 3rd and 5th innings. He's only gone more than 5.1 innings once in his four starts.

McRee, as I stated earlier, has battled mono this season and had to miss two starts lately. He's started three games, the last being this past Wednesday when he threw 1 inning, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 0 walks to go along with his 1 K. While that outing was a bit shaky, his first two outings of the season were anything but that. In those two games he threw 10.2 innings, giving up 0 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks while striking out 12. And one of those performances was against Arizona. Just to show you have good he was against Arizona, he was the only starter on the Georgia staff who pitched well against them.

Grimm has been the least effective of the three weekend starters. While his season era is 5.49, he's been hit pretty good, giving up 20 hits in 19.2 inning. Give him credit though, he's only walked 4 in those 19.2 innings. But like with Holder, the Georgia defense has been a nemesis of his this season. He's given up 6 unearned runs to go along with the 12 earned runs that he's given up. And against quality opponents (Arizona and Alabama) he has thrown 8 innings, giving up all 12 of his earned runs on 13 hits and 3 walks for an earned run average of 13.50 in the two games. If he's not on you'll know pretty quick because he usually gives up runs in the first two innings when he's off.

Leaver, if he throws in place of McRee, has been even less effective than Grimm. Other than one outing where he gave up no runs in 4.0 innings of work, he has given up at least 2 or more runs in all of his outings, none of which have lasted more than 5 innings. And he's been the least effective his last two outings, giving up 7 earned runs on 6 hits and 5 walks in 4.2 innings. If there is a positive, the Georgia defense hasn't hurt him since all the runs he has given up have been earned runs.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior LHP Tyler Whitney (2-0, 1.12) on Friday, freshman LHP Nick Routt (2-0, 1.90) on Saturday and on Sunday State will probably go with either senior RHP Chad Crosswhite (0-1, 3.86), sophomore LHP Forrest Moore (2-0, 2.55) or freshman RHP Devin Jones (0-0, 1.86).

Tyler Whitney has been fairly effective although at times the MSU defense has let him down. In his three outings, he's only given up 2 earned runs, but teams have also scored an additional 8 unearned runs against him. In 16.0 innings, he has given up just 11 hits and 5 walks while striking out 13. In his two outings against what would be considered quality opponents (Hawaii, South Carolina), he gave up 5 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks in 11.1 innings. He also struck out 8. Tyler is usually his most effective in the first three innings, having given up just 1 run in those three innings in his 3 outings. He's given up 4 runs in both the 4th and 5th. He's also usually good for five innings in a start.

Routt has also been fairly effective and like with Whitney the Dog defense has let him down a couple of times. In his 23.2 innings of work he has given up 10 runs only 5 that have been earned. He also also given up 10 hits and 6 walks to go along with his 23 Ks. In his last two outings, both coming against quality opponents (Hawaii, South Carolina) he has thrown 9.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (4 earned) on 5 his and 5 walks to go along with his 13 strikeouts. He's really only had one outing where he was a little wild and that was against Hawaii and that was partly due to the umpire having a very tight zone. Take that outing away and he has only walked 2 in 19.2 innings of work. A trend to watch is the fact that he has thrown less innings in each of his outings, starting with 8 innings in his first, then 6.0 in his second, 5.0 in his third and 4.2 in his last outing. Because Routt doesn't get easily rattled, the State coaching staff is prone to go with him into the 5th and 6th innings even if he gives up a run or two in an earlier inning. As an example, he has given up 5 of his 10 runs in the 2nd inning, but both times he's given up runs in that inning, he's gone on to last through the 8th and 5th innings in both games.

I expect if Whitney and Routt are effective against South Carolina the MSU coaching staff would go with another lefty, Forrest Moore, in the third game. That is as long as he's not used in relief Friday or Saturday. Forrest has started two games (Hawaii, South Alabama), throwing 10.0 innings while allowing 4 runs (all earned) on 12 hits and 3 walks to go along with his 10 Ks. Although not a start, but long relief, against South Carolina last weekend he threw 4.0 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and 1 walk as well as striking out 7.

I'll talk about Jones and Crosswhite in the relief section of this preview since they have primarily been relievers this season.

Relief Pitching - Georgia will probably use up to seven pitchers if needed this weekend, including junior RHP Dean Weaver, freshman RHP Michael Palazzone, senior RHP Will Harvil, junior RHP Jeff Walters, junior RHP Justin Earls, and junior RHP Steve Esmonde.

Weaver, who Baseball American projects to be the 83rd best draftable prospects in college this season, has been used exclusively at closer in his 7 outings. He has yet to give up a run in 11.0 innings. Teams have 9 hits against him while he's walked just 1. He's struck out 9. He's usually only used in one game each weekend. Due to that, a couple of other pitchers have also been used in the closing role on weekends.

Tanner is one of those guys. In his two closing outings against Alabama and Arizona he threw a total of 2.2 innings, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 2 walks to go along with his 5 Ks. He's also started a couple of games so he could also be used in long or middle relief.

Esmonde also closed against Bama last weekend and had fairly good numbers - 2.0 innings, 3 hits, 0 walks, 1 K and 1 run (unearned). Normally, he's a middle reliever and had done ok in that role, giving up 1 run in 4.0 innings.

It's possible Palazzone could be used as a closer because he's closed four games in his six outings, but against quality opponents (Arizona and Alabama) he was used in long relief. He had mixed results against the two, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) against Bama in 2.2 innings while giving up 0 runs in 3.0 innings against Arizona.

Walters, Earls and Harvil have been used exclusively in middle relief. Each one has had so-so results against quality opponents. Harvil, in 5.2 total innings against Arizona and Alabama, gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks while striking out 4. Earls gave up 2 runs in 1.2 innings against Arizona and Alabama while Walters allowed 6 runs (5 earned) on 5 hits and 5 walks in 4.2 innings against the same two teams.

Mississippi State will primarily count on Jones, Crosswhite, junior RHP Greg Houston, senior RHP Lee Swindle, and possibly junior RHP Drew Hollinghead and redshirt freshman RHP Paxton Pace as relievers this weekend. And if Moore isn't used as a starter he will also be used in relief.

Jones, a hard thrower, is more of a middle reliever who will give the coaches 2 to 3 innings of work. In his four outings, 2 of which were starts, he has thrown anywhere from 2.1 innings to 4.0 innings. In a total of 11.2 innings, he has only given up 2 runs (both earned) on 10 hits and 4 walks while striking out 7.

Crosswhite has been another effective reliever. While his earned run average is almost 4 runs per game, in his 5 relief outings he has allowed 1 run (earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 11 in 12.0 innings.

Houston, up until his last outing in which he gave up 3 runs (all earned), had been almost unhittable, throwing 10.1 innings while giving up just 4 hits and walking 5 while striking out 4.

Swindle, after a slow start that saw him give up 9 runs (7 earned) in 4.2 innings, has come on strong of late. In his last three outings he has given up just 1 run (it was earned) on 7 hits and 6 walks while striking out 10 in 7.2 innings. Although the walk count is high, he seems to have a knack of finding a way to get out of an inning without any damage.

Hollinghead has mostly been used in midweek games but was used against South Carolina last weekend, going 1.1 innings while allowing 1 (earned) run. State may be about to use him as their Wednesday starter so there's a chance he may not pitch due to that.

Pace, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, threw in his first game of the season this past weekend, throwing 1 inning while allowing no runs on 1 hit, now walks while striking out 1.

Hitting - Georgia is tied for 1st in the league with a .346 batting average while Mississippi State is 10th with a .288 batting average. Georgia also leads the league in runs scored with 195. Mississippi State is 8th in runs scored with 132.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - For the Georgia Bulldogs, seven players are hitting .313. They are Rich Poythress (projected by Baseball America as the 21st best draftable prospect in the collegiate ranks) who is hitting .429 (9-for-21, 6 RBI), Kyle Allen at .417 (5-for-12, 2 RBI), Colby May is hitting .391 (9-for-23, 7 RBI), Chase Davidson at .385 (5-for-13, 7 RBI), Levi Hyams at .313 (5-for-16, 8 RBI), and Joey Lewis also at .313 (5-for-16, 3 RBI). In limited action, Peter Verdin is hitting at a .500 clip (2-for-4, 0 RBI).

Other Georgia Bulldog hitters: Matt Cerione .278 (5-for-18, 2 RBI), Bryce Massanari at .267 (4-for-15, 3 RBI), Michael Demperio also at .267 (4-for-15, 2 RBI), Jonathan Taylor at .235 (4-for-17, 0 RBI), and in limited action Zach Cone who is hitting .143 (1-for-7, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State has numerous players hitting well during the past five games including Ryan Powers who is batting a robust .467 (7-for-15, 5 RBI), Luke Adkins at .385 (4-for-13, 4 RBI), Jet Butler .375 (6-for-16, 7 RBI), Russ Sneed at .357 (5-for-14, 3 RBI), Cody Freeman .333 (4-for-12, 2 RBI), Grant Hogue .313 (5-for-16, 5 RBI). Several other players are also hitting well in limited activity - Frankie Rawdow .750 (3-for-4, 3 RBI), Ryan Duffy .500 (4-for-8, 1 RBI), and Scott DeLoach 3-for-7, 3 RBI).

Other MSU Bulldog Hitters - Brent Brownlee is hitting a respectable .286 also in limited activity (2-for-7, 3 RBI) while Ryan Collins is hitting .182 (2-for-11, 1 RBI), Connor Powers is hitting .077 (1-for-13, 0 RBI) and Mark Goforth is hitting .000 (0-for-5, 0 RBI).

How Georgia and MSU Match Up
Georgia Category Mississippi State
16-2 Record 13-6
.346 (T-1st in SEC) Batting Average .288 (10th in SEC)
195 (10.8 pg) Runs 132 (6.9 pg)
29 Home Runs 13
.444 OB % .412
31-36 Stolen Bases-Attempts 26-33
102 (5.7 pg) Walks 96 (5.1 pg)
127 (7.1 pg) Strikeouts 141 (7.4 pg)
144 (8.0 pg) LOB 153 (8.1 pg)
3.32 (1st in SEC) Team ERA 4.18 (9th in SEC)
2 Saves 7
53 (2.9 pg) Walks 84 (4.4 pg)
165 (9.2 pg) Strikeouts 149 (7.8 pg)
.241 Batting Average Against .256
.958 (11th in SEC) Fielding % .967 (T-4th in SEC)

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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