No. 9 Arkansas - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and No. 9 ranked Arkansas tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Arkansas.

Weather - Friday, there is a 70% to 80% chance of rain with game temperatures expected to be in the high-40s range.

Saturday will be much the same (70% chance of rain) although there is also a chance of snow. The temperatures will be in the high-30s to low-40s during the game. Northwest winds could reach as high as 14 miles per hour.

Sunday should see clearing skys with 0% chance of precipitation. The highs throughout the game should be in the high-50s with 8 miles per hour southwest winds.

Gametimes (All times are Central Time) - Friday 6:35 p.m. | Saturday 2:05 p.m. | Sunday 1:05 p.m.

6-Year Series History - During David Van Horn's six years at Arkansas, his teams have a 6-12 record against Mississippi State.

Coaches - Arkansas head coach David Van Horn has an overall record of 235-134 coming into this season. His teams have won 96 and lost 84 in SEC action. One of his teams, the 2004 squad, won the SEC while the 2007 team was 1st in the SEC West. Five of his six teams have advanced to NCAA postseason regional play, with one (2004) advancing to a Super Regional. That team also moved on to the College World Series. His teams are 11-11 in NCAA postseason action.

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 1-7 on the road while Arkansas is 14-3 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Arkansas is expected to start junior LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 3.00) Friday, junior RHP T.J. Forrest (1-1, 4.12) Saturday and freshman LHP Drew Smyly (2-0, 1.80) Sunday.

Keuchel, who throws his fastball in the low 90s, has been dominating in SEC action with a 2-0 record and a 1.80 ERA. What is amazing about him is in 15 SEC innings he has only walked 1. SEC teams are hitting .255 against him. Don't expect to score many runs against him in the first few innings because against Florida and Auburn he gave up 0 runs in the first three. But he's really had no bad innings in either game, having given up 1 run in the 4th, 1 in the 6th and 1 in the 7th. A very efficient pitcher, he normally throws 13 to 14 pitches per inning.

Forrest, the least effective of Arkansas' starting pitchers, has pitched in two SEC games, one as a starter and one as a reliever. In those games he has given up 7 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 4 walks to go along with his 11 strikeouts in his 10 innings of work. His SEC ERA is 6.30. In his lone start he gave up 1 and 2 runs in the 1st and 2nd innings, then settled down until the 6th when he gave up 1 run. In his relief outing, which last 4 innings, he gave up all three of his runs in the final inning. He normally throws between 16 and 20 pitches per inning.

Smyly, the SEC freshmen starting pitcher with the lowest ERA, has started two SEC games, throwing 11.1 innings. In the starts he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 12 hits and 3 walks to go along with his 8 Ks. His four runs were given up in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th. His SEC ERA is 2.38. In addition to his SEC start, he also started against California, Valparaiso and Washington State. He's normally going to give Arkansas a solid 5 innings. Although he's been pretty effective throughout the game, in three of his five starts he has given up 1 run in the 4th inning of each game.

Mississippi State is expected to start junior LHP Tyler Whitney (2-1, 2.82) on Friday, freshman LHP Nick Routt (2-1, 2.56) on Saturday and on Sunday State will probably go with either senior RHP Chad Crosswhite (0-2, 6.16, 5 Saves) or sophomore LHP Forrest Moore (2-0, 2.91, 1 S).

Whitney, in two SEC games, has thrown 11.1 innings, giving up 9 runs (6 earned) on 10 hits and 5 walks. He has struck out 9. In the two games, he has given up most of his runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The 1st and 5th are his best innings (0 runs). Tyler is normally going to give the team 5 to 6 innings. Although his ERA overall is 2.82, he's much better at home than on the road with a home ERA of 0.93 and a road ERA of 4.26. Something that may not be in State's favor is the fact that Arkansas is 6-0 against lefties and Tyler, as you know, is a lefthander.

Routt, one of the most impressive freshman pitchers in the SEC this season in what appears to be a very strong class (7 of the projected SEC starting pitchers this weekend are freshmen or redshirt freshmen), has pitched in two SEC games, allowing 6 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 14. His SEC ERA is 4.26. In SEC games he has been dominating in the first four innings, giving up 0 runs on a total of 2 hits. Usually the 5th is his toughest inning, having given up 3 of his runs in that frame. His other runs came in the game against Georgia when he gave up a three-run home run in the bottom of the 8th inning. He is a very efficient pitcher who normally throws about 14 to 15 pitches per inning. That may be the reason the Bulldogs haven't committed an error behind him in his two SEC games.

Moore has been a solid pitcher both as a reliever and starter for the Dogs but he has only started once in SEC action. In that game he gave up 2 runs (both earned) on 5 hits and 4 walks while striking out just 1. He also appeared in relief against the other SEC team, throwing 4 innings while giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and 1 walk to go along with 7 Ks. He has been his best in relief duty over the course of the season, giving up just 2 runs (1 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks with 13 strikeouts.

I'll talk about Crosswhite in the relief section of this preview since he has primarily been a reliever this season.

Relief Pitching - Look for Arkansas, which has a solid bullpen, to use 3, maybe 4, relief pitchers including junior LHP Stephen Richards, junior RHP Mike Bolsinger, senior RHP Justin Wells and possibly freshman RHP Zack Cox.

Richards, who throws in the high 80s with an outstanding slider to go along with his fastball, is Arkansas' closer. In his four SEC outings he has closed all four games. In the four games he threw 5.0 innings, giving up 0 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in addition to striking out 7. Although his longest SEC relief outing was 2.2 innings, he normally only throws about an inning.

Bolsinger, in SEC action, has closed one game, pitched an out in another one and started a third SEC game. In 4 SEC innings, he has given up just 1 run.

Justin Well is the middle reliever of the bunch. In his two SEC games he has thrown about 2 innings per game. His efforts have been a mixed bag, allowing 4 runs in one game and 0 in the other.

Cox (who last threw March 18th, a game he was roughed up in) has thrown in one SEC game this year, throwing 2.1 innings while allowing no runs, hits or walks to go along with his 2 Ks.

Mississippi State will primarily count on Crosswhite, freshman RHP Devin Jones (0-1, 3.55), junior RHP Greg Houston (1-0, 3.29, 1 S), senior RHP Lee Swindle (1-1, 7.47, 1 S), possibly junior RHP Drew Hollinghead (1-0, 2.40), junior RHP Justin Bussey (1-2, 11.57) and senior LHP Jared Wesson (1-0, 9.53) this weekend. And if Moore isn't used as a starter he will be used in relief.

Crosswhite, although not an overpowering pitcher (87-88 mph range fastball), has been State's most effective reliever and has an SEC-leading 5 saves to prove it. If you exclude the outing he had against Georgia when he gave up 7 runs (all earned) in 3.2 innings, his relief stats are exceptional. And even in the Georgia game, he only gave up 1 run in his first 3 innings. In his 5 other games as a reliever, he threw 13.1 innings, allowed 1 run (earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks to go along with his 13 Ks. His ERA for those 13.1 innings is 0.68. In SEC action he's normally going to throw just one game a weekend, but he will probably throw about 3 innings.

The hard-throwing Jones, up until his last outing (Southern Miss), had been very effective. Prior to that outing, he had thrown 12.1 innings, allowing 2 runs (both earned) for an ERA of 1.46. But in his last outing vs Southern Miss he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 1/3 of an inning. He's only thrown in SEC games once and that was as a starter against South Carolina. He only gave up 1 run in that game, but he threw just 2 innings and gave up 5 hits.

Houston is usually a set-up man who will throw about an inning a game. And he's usually brought in to replace a lefthanded starting pitcher. In 5 of his 10 games he has come in for a lefty. He's also been used to replace Crosswhite when he's not effective which has been twice. Although his longest outing is 4.1 innings, he normally goes from 1 to 1+ innings. Although he was lights out early in the season (10.1 IP, 0 R), as of late he's given up a run or more in three of his last four outings (4 G, 3.1 IP, 5 ER). He has pitched in 3 of MSU's 6 SEC games. In his 2.1 innings of SEC work he has given up 1 (earned) run.

Swindle has been used more as a middle reliever and has thrown just once in SEC action. State will normally throw him 1+ to 2+ innings. He started the season off a little slow, picked his game up in two outings, but has been hit pretty hard in his last two outings (4.2 IP, 5 ER).

Hollinghead could be used an inning or two this weekend but he seems to be moving more in the role as a midweek starter. He's been used once in SEC action, giving up a run in his 1 inning of work.

Bussey, after starting out with a bang (2 G, 3.2 IP, 0 R), tailed off badly in his next two relief efforts (1.2 IP, 9 ER). However, in his last two outings (Georgia, South Alabama) he seems to be regaining his form, throwing 1.2 innings of 0-runs, 1-hit ball.

Wesson, who has a high-80s fastball, has been ineffective in all but one of his outings. After striking out 3 in one inning in his first outing, he has thrown in three games, giving up 6 runs (all earned) in 4.2 innings. In Wesson's defense, in his last outing he pitched well for 2.2 inning, allowing no runs on 1 hit while striking out 5. He ran into trouble going into his 4th inning of work.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games (Hitters have to have 5 or more at-bats in the 5 games to be added to this list) - Arkansas has seven players hitting .308 or better. Leading the group is Chase Leavitt who is hitting .500 (9-for-18, 6 RBI), Not far behind is Scott Lyons who is batting at a .474 clip (9-for-19, 6 RBI). Andy Wilkins is hitting in the high-300s at .381 (8-for-21, 5 RBI). Collin Kuhn comes in at .357 (5-for-14, 1 RBI) and Ben Tschepikow is hitting .333 (7-for-21, 6 RBI). Andrew Darr is hitting .308 (4-for-13, 3 RBI) as is Ryan Cisterna (4-for-13, 2 RBI).

Just below the .300 mark are Jacob House at .294 (5-for-17, 3 RBI) and Zack Cox also at .294 (5-for-17, 2 RBI).

In limited action, Travis Sample has hit .286 (2-for-7, 0 RBI), James McCann .250 (2-for-8, 0 RBI), Tim Carver at .222 (2-for-9, 1 RBI) and Brett Eibner at .000 (0-for-5, 0 RBI).

For Mississippi State there are six players hitting .333 or better, including Connor Powers who is hitting .412 (7-for-17, 5 RBI). Connor has hit .636 and knocked in 5 runs in his last three games. Also hitting .400 in the five-game span is Ryan Duffy, who hit exactly .400 (6-for-15, 2 RBI). Grant Hogue has finally come around with his hitting after being out the first few games of the season with an injury. Grant is hitting .353 (6-for-17, 4 RBI). Russ Sneed is hitting .350 (7-for-20, 3 RBI), while Scott DeLoach is hitting .333 (4-for-12, 1 RBI). In limited action Frankie Rawdow, who has replaced the injured Ryan Powers in the batting order during the two midweek games, is hitting .429 (3-for-7, 3 RBI). Ryan Powers is not making the weekend trip due to the thumb injury.

Other Mississippi State hitters - Jet Butler is hitting .273 (6-for-22, 5 RBI), Luke Adkins .188 (3-for-16, 1 RBI) and Ryan Collins at .133 (2-for-15, 1 RBI). Cody Freeman, in limited action, has hit .000 (0-for-5, 0 RBI).

How Arkansas and MSU Match Up
Arkansas Category Mississippi State
17-4 Record 14-10
.299 (10th in SEC) Batting Average .289 (11th in SEC)
147 (7.0 pg) Runs 159 (6.6 pg)
23 Home Runs 16
.408 OB % .417
22-34 Stolen Bases-Attempts 39-51
115 (5.5 pg) Walks 127 (5.3 pg)
169 (8.0 pg) Strikeouts 199 (8.3 pg)
188 (9.0 pg) LOB 206 (8.6 pg)
3.66 (5th in SEC) Team ERA 5.01 (10th in SEC)
5 Saves 8
64 (2.9 pg) Walks 106 (4.4 pg)
200 (9.2 pg) Strikeouts 182 (7.8 pg)
.267 Batting Average Against .258
.967 (T-4th in SEC) Fielding % .967 (T-4th in SEC)

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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