Vanderbilt - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and Vanderbilt tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend in Nashville.

Weather - Gametime temperatures for Friday should start out in the low 80s and decrease to the mid 70s by the end of the game. Winds should be from the south at about 9 miles per hour. There is 0% chance of rain.

Saturday should see mid 80s temperatures with 14 miles per hour winds from the south/southwest. No rain is expected.

Sunday's weather should be very similar to Saturday's forecast.

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

6-Year Series History - Mississippi State is 4-9 versus Vanderbilt teams coached by Tim Corbin.

Coaches - Tim Corbin has been Vanderbilt's head coach since 2003. During that time, his teams have won 239 games and lost 130. In SEC play, he has a 96-83 record. He has seen his teams win one SEC championship and appear in four postseason NCAA Regionals with one advancing to Super Regional play. His teams overall NCAA postseason record is 9-8.

During his five years as the head coach at Kentucky, Cohen, in his first season at Mississippi State, quickly turned a program around that had won just 126 games in the previous five seasons (47 in SEC play) to a program that had a 175-112 W-L overall record and 63-85 in SEC play. His teams won one SEC Championship during that period, the first in Kentucky history. He also produced a school-best 44-win season twice (2006, 2008) while there. In his last three seasons at Kentucky, his teams were 127-55 overall, with the 127 wins tied for second best among all 12 conference teams, trailing only Vanderbilt's 133 wins. Two of his five teams appeared in NCAA Regional play, although neither team advanced to the Super Regionals. His teams overall record in NCAA postseason play at Kentucky was 4-4.

Mississippi State Road/Vanderbilt Home Records - MSU is 4-12 on the road while Vanderbilt is 17-7 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Junior LHP Mike Minor (3-3, 3.15 ERA) will start Friday's game for Vanderbilt with sophomore RHP Caleb Cotham (5-4, 4.91 ERA) the Saturday starter and junior RHP Drew Hayes (3-2, 4.44 ERA) the Sunday starter.

Minor is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the nation and should go high in the June Major League Draft. And at first glance his 3.15 earned run average backs up that statement. But when you look a little deeper, you find out his SEC starts have been an up and down affair. What is surprising is he's performed much better on the road in the SEC than he has at home. In his three SEC road starts he has an ERA of 1.64 (4 ER, 22 IP) while at home his ERA is a very high 6.23 (12 ER, 17.1 IP). Minor is at his best in the first four innings. If you take out the 4 runs Ole Miss scored in their 4th inning against him, he's given up just 5 runs in those innings in his 6 SEC starts. That would translate to an ERA of 1.95. The 5th inning is usually when teams start hitting him, with him having given up 8 runs in that inning during his SEC starts. Also keep an eye out for the 7th inning because he has given up 4 runs in that inning during his SEC starts. You can expect Minor to go 6 to 7 innings.

Cotham has had his troubles in SEC action whether it be at home or on the road. In home starts he has an ERA of 6.75 (13 ER, 17.1 IP) while on the road he has an ERA of 7.56 (14 ER, 16.2 IP). In his 34 innings of SEC action, he has given up at least 1 run in 17 of them. And in 8 of those innings, he has given up 2 or more runs. His biggest nemesis in SEC games has been the home run. In his 34 innings of work he has given up 11.

Hayes, a 1 to 2 inning reliever for most of the season, got his first SEC start of the season last weekend against Alabama. Although he gave up 3 runs in 4.2 innings of work, he actually did well for the first four innings, giving up just 1 run. Bama knocked him out of the game in the 5th.

Sophomore LHP Forrest Moore (2-0, 4.28 ERA) will throw the Friday game for Mississippi State while freshman LHP Nick Routt (4-2, 3.06 ERA) throws Saturday and junior LHP Tyler Whitney (2-3, 4.29 ERA) will throw Sunday's game.

Moore has struggled in his last two outings against Auburn and Tennessee (6 IP, 8 ER, 12.00 ERA), partly due to a minor injury that has kept him from having his best curveball. After resting for over a week (he hasn't pitched since April 12th), the hope is he'll be back to the Moore who performed so well during the early part of the season when he threw 25.2 innings while allowing just 8 earned runs for an earned run average of 2.80. A good indicator as to whether Moore is back in top form will be the number of walks and strike outs he has early on. In his last four outings, he has walked 16 and struck out 17 in 16 innings. When he was at his best early in the season, he struck out 23 and walked 6 in 15.2 innings.

Last weekend, for only the second time in SEC play (he has started 6 SEC games), Routt did not throw a complete game, but he still performed well, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) in 6 innings of work. Routt always gives the Bulldog a great chance to stay in a ballgame, having allowed no more than 4 runs in any of his SEC starts. You can expect him to go 6 to 9 innings in his start. As for how he does on the road in the SEC, Nick has been somewhat solid, giving up 12 runs (11 earned) in 23.0 inning for an ERA of 4.30.

Whitney, who has thrown the Friday game up until this weekend, had his best SEC start of the year last weekend against Kentucky, allowing just 2 runs in 7 innings of work. But that was in the friendly confines of Dudy Noble Field. This weekend's series is on the road, a place that Whitney doesn't perform as well as he does back in Starkville. In fact, in three SEC road starts, he has an earned run average of 6.75 (20.0 IP, 15 ER) while at home his SEC ERA is 2.95 (18.1 IP, 6 ER).

Relief Pitching - Look for Vanderbilt to primarily use five pitchers in the bullpen - Sonny Gray (3-1, 4 Saves, 3.91 ERA) a freshman RHP, sophomore RHP Taylor Hill (1-1, 1 S, 4.50), sophomore LHP Sean Bierman (2-1, 4.62), sophomore RHP Russell Brewer (1-2, 2 S, 2.84) and sophomore RHP Chase Reid (3-0, 3.52).

Gray has the most saves on the Vanderbilt staff with four. In his six SEC relief efforts, he has closed four games. He throws anywhere from 1 inning to 3 innings. He's been up and down in SEC action. In his last outing he gave up 6 runs in 2 innings after throwing well in his previous two performances.

Hill has also closed four games for Vanderbilt. As of late, he's normally been used to get an out or two after starting SEC play with two four-inning relief efforts. More often than not he's going to give up 2 or more runs in his outings. In fact, of his six SEC pitching efforts he has given up 2 or more runs 4 times.

One of the most effective Vanderbilt relievers is Brewer. He has pitched in four SEC games and has only given up 2 run in his 6.2 innings of work. He normally throws a couple of outs or an inning, although last weekend he closed out a game by throwing 3.1 innings, giving up no runs in the outing.

Bierman has been more of a long relief type reliever who can finish a game if it requires a pitcher who can throw 2 to 4 innings. In fact, in his one performance last weekend he finished a game by throwing 4.2 innings of scoreless ball.

Reid is a guy who can give you an out or two or go up to two innings. In his three SEC outings he has thrown 3.1 innings without giving up a run.

Mississippi State will probably use five primary pitchers for bullpen action this weekend - senior RHP Lee Swindle (1-3, 6.43, 3 Saves), senior LHP Jared Wesson (2-0, 6.43), junior RHP Greg Houston (1-1, 6.75, 1 S), redshirt freshman RHP Paxton Pace (2-0, 2.08) and freshman RHP Caleb Reed (2-1, 10.50).

Swindle has been up and down of late. After allowing 0 runs in 6.1 innings in three outings, he has allowed 8 runs (7 earned) in 5.0 innings in his last two outings. He's normally going to be a middle inning guy who can give you 2 to 3 innings.

Wesson has a solid fastball that is normally in the high 80s range. When he's on, he's really good, but like Swindle he's been up and down this year. Lucky for Mississippi State he's looked good in his last three appearances, giving up no runs on 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 4 in 5.1 innings of work. When pitching well, the State coaching staff will usually pitch him for a couple of innings.

Houston started out the season as State's middle reliever and did well in that role early on, but, as of late, he's really struggled, giving up 14 runs (13 earned) in 10.1 innings of work.

State's coaches will normally use Pace, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, for an inning during an SEC weekend. And he's usually going to throw strikes, having walked just 1 in his 8.2 innings of work this season. Although he's given up 6 runs in the 8.2 innings, only 2 were earned.

Reed has only pitched in one SEC game this season, but he could see a little more duty this weekend if senior RHP Chad Crosswhite can't go. Crosswhite, who normally throws relief during SEC weekends, threw a little over 100 pitches Wednesday night in a start against Middle Tennessee.

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) - Vanderbilt has six hitters batting at least .300. Leading the way is Riley Reynolds, who is hitting .421 (8-for-19, 1 RBI). Next up is Brian Harris at .350 (7-for-20, 7 RBI). Three players come in at .300 - Andrew Giobbi (6-for-20, 5 RBI), Curt Casali (6-for-20, 3 RBI) and Aaron Westlake (6-for-20, 1 RBI). In limited action, Alex McClure is hitting .333 (2-for-6, 2 RBI).

Others - Joe Loftus is hitting .273 (6-for-22, 0 RBI), Steven Liddle is hitting .227 (5-for-22, 2 RBI), Jason Esposito comes in at .158 (3-for-19, 0 RBI), and in limited action Drew Fann is hitting .167 (1-for-6, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State has nine hitters hitting .333 or better, including five who are hitting .412 or higher. Leading the Dogs at the plate is an extremely hot-hitting Ryan Collins, who comes in hitting a phenomenal .625 (10-for-16, 7 RBI), Also hitting very, very well is Grant Hogue, who comes in at .455 (10-for-22, 1 RBI), Not far behind him is Jet Butler at .412 (7-for-17, 1 RBI). In limited action, two players are hitting .429 - Brent Brownlee (3-for-7, 1 RBI) and Frank Rawdow (3-for-7, 0 RBI). Russ Sneed is hitting .333 (7-for-21, 7 RBI) as is Luke Adkins (4-for-12, 3 RBI). In limited action, Ryan Duffy (3-for-9, 1 RBI) and Jason Nappi (2-for-6, 2 RBI) are hitting .333. Although only hitting .250, Connor Powers has been a very productive hitter with 6 RBI to go along with his 5-for-20 hitting.

Others - Scott DeLoach is hitting .267 (4-for-15, 2 RBI), Ryan Powers is hitting .188 (3-for-16, 2 RBI), Cody Freeman is batting .167 (2-for-12, 2 RBI) and Nick Hardy, in limited at-bats, comes in at a .143 clip (1-for-7, 0 RBI).

How Vanderbilt and MSU Match Up
Vanderbilt Category Mississippi State
24-17 Record 21-21
.309 (4th in SEC) Batting Average .298 (8th in SEC)
302 (7.5 pg) Runs 279 (6.6 pg)
26 Home Runs 42
.400 OB % .403
73-95 Stolen Bases-Attempts 60-80
184 (4.5 pg) Walks 198 (4.7 pg)
255 (6.2 pg) Strikeouts 351 (8.4 pg)
314 (7.7 pg) LOB 344 (8.2 pg)
4.58 (6th in SEC) Team ERA 5.97 (11th in SEC)
10 Saves 10
136 (3.3 pg) Walks 193 (4.6 pg)
319 (7.8 pg) Strikeouts 297 (7.1 pg)
.269 Batting Average Against .290
.965 (9th in SEC) Fielding % .967 (8th 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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