Ole Miss - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and Ole Miss tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend in Oxford.

Weather - Friday's game should see temperatures in the high 70s starting out and drop into the low 70s by the end of the game. There is a 30% chance of scattered thunderstorms during the game.

Saturday's game temperatures should be in the high 70s with a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms during the game.

Sunday's temperatures should be in the low 70s with a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms.

Gametimes (All times are Central) - Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 3:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

8-Year Series History - MSU is 18-18 against Bianco-led Ole Miss teams coming into this season.

Coaches - Mike Bianco's teams have an overall record of 321-183 during his eight-year career. His teams have a 132-108 SEC record and have won one SEC Western Division conference championship. He is the only coach in Ole Miss history to win 40 or more games more than once in his career. For the past five years, his teams have ended up no lower than 3rd place in the Western Division. Seven of his eight teams have advanced to NCAA Regional play with three moving on to Super Regional play. None have played in the College World Series. His teams have a 15-14 NCAA postseason record.

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/Ole Miss Road Records - Mississippi State is 4-15 on the road while Ole Miss is 23-6 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Ole Miss is expected to start sophomore LHP Drew Pomeranz (5-2, 3.27) Friday, junior RHP Phillip Irwin (5-3, 4.15) Saturday and, if healthy, senior RHP Scott Bittle (5-2, 2.17) Sunday.

Pomeranz has been Ole Miss' most consistent SEC starter this season. And in his last three SEC starts he has been at his best with a 1.71 ERA (21.1 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 8 BB, 27 SO). Although most pitchers are more effective at home, Drew is the opposite. In his four home SEC starts he has given up 17 runs (10 earned) in 22.0 innings for a 4.09 earned run average. On the road, he has a 2.77 ERA (8 ER, 26.0 IP). He's normally going to give Ole Miss 6 to 7 very high quality innings.

Irwin's effectiveness has tailed off as of late. During his last three SEC starts, he has a 7.36 earned run average and has lasted just 2.1, 5.1 and 3.1 innings, giving up 15 runs (9 earned) and 23 hits in the 11.0 innings. In his four home SEC starts he has a 5.00 ERA. Ironically, his road SEC ERA is also 5.00.

Bittle is almost unhittable at home. In his three SEC home starts he has a 0.82 ERA, allowing 2 runs (both earned) on 12 hits and 3 walks in 22.0 innings while striking out 35. He missed his last outing with a minor arm injury, but in his previous three starts he had a 2.37 ERA (19.0 IP, 14 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 9 BB, 30 SO).

Mississippi State may start senior RHP Chad Crosswhite (0-3, 7.71) Friday, true freshman LHP Nick Routt 4-3, 3.54) Saturday and junior LHP Tyler Whitney (2-4, 5.09) Sunday.

With the possibility that Forrest Moore is out for the rest of the season resting his arm, the MSU coaching staff has been scrambling to find a Friday night starter. Crosswhite, who has been a Friday night starter in the past, is a possible candidate for the job this weekend. In three starts this season (all non-SEC games), Chad has thrown 14.0 innings, allowing 14 runs (12 earned) on 21 hits, 3 walks to go along with his 7 Ks.

Routt has been the work horse on the staff this year, throwing 5 or more innings in seven of his eight SEC starts. Nick had a nice run in the middle of the season where he completed four straight SEC starts against Georgia, Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee. However, over the course of the last three games, his effectiveness has not been as good, with him having a 5.00 earned run average in 18 innings. He has given up 24 hits while walking 5 and striking out 21 in those 18 innings. Also a factor is Nick's SEC road earned run average which is 4.80 (IP 30.0, H 32, R 21, ER 15, BB 12, SO 29). Nick has a 2.79 SEC home ERA.

Up until his last two SEC games, Whitney has been a pitcher who normally gave the Bulldogs 6 to 7 innings and keeps them in a position to be in a game. But in the last two games (1 start, 1 relief), he has only been able to last 1.0 and 1.2 innings, giving up a total of 10 runs (6 earned) for a 20.22 earned run average. When he's at his best, he's normally going to give up no more than 6 runs and no less than 2 in his 6 to 7 innings of work. His SEC road ERA is 8.31 (21.2 IP, 22 R, 20 ER).

Relief Pitching - Ole Miss normally uses between four to five pitchers in relief in SEC action, including redshirt sophomore RHP Jake Morgan (3-1, 6 saves, 1.84 ERA), redshirt freshman RHP David Goforth (1-0, 3 saves, 2.77), junior RHP Roy McKean (5-1, 1 save, 4.35), junior LHP Nathan Baker (4-1, 3.35) and possibly junior RHP Aaron Barrett (0-1, 8.78) and senior LHP Brett Bukvich (8-1, 3.63).

Morgan is Ole Miss' closer. In 12 SEC relief appearances he has closed 10 games. And he currently has a string of 7 games where he hasn't allowed a run. In the 10 innings that he has thrown during those appearances he has only allowed 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 11. Ole Miss will normally use him in two of the weekend games and for no more than an inning in each.

Goforth is a middle reliever who normally comes in for an inning, sometimes two. Ole Miss has used him more of a late, throwing him in two games in each of the last two SEC series. And he's been very effective in three of the four games, allowing 1 hit in 3 innings in his last three games while giving up 3 runs (all earned) in 0.1 inning of work in the other game. You'll know if he's going to be effective based on whether he walks hitters. In his two ineffective SEC outings he has walked 6 hitters in 1.1 innings while giving up 5 runs (4 earned), whereas in his other SEC relief appearances he has walked 1 in 10 innings and hasn't given up a run.

McKean normally comes in when Ole Miss needs a guy to relieve a starter early in the game. And he'll normally go 2, 3, sometimes 5 innings. McKean hasn't been as successful of late as he was early on in SEC action. In his last four SEC relief appearances he has given up 12 runs (all earned) on 23 hits in 11.1 innings for a 9.52 ERA.

Baker is another guy who comes in in long relief for Ole Miss. He's normally going to throw 2 to 4 innings. After struggling in his first three SEC relief apperances (5.1 IP, 5 R, 3 ER), he has pitched very well of late, giving up 1 run (earned) in 11.2 innings in three games.

Bukvich, who was an SEC starter at the beginning of SEC action and has now moved into a mid-week starting road, hadn't seen much SEC activity until last week when he started in place of an injured Scott Bittle. He did ok in the game, giving up 3 runs (all earned) on 8 hits in 5 innings.

Barrett was used as a closer in early SEC action (2 G, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R) but has only appeared in one game since then, this past weekend against Auburn when he threw 2 innings, allowing 1 (earned) run.

Mississippi State will probably use up to six or seven guys out of the pen, including senior RHP Lee Swindle if healthy (1-4, 3 saves, 7.71), junior RHP Drew Hollinghead (1-1, 7.08), junior RHP Greg Houston (1-2, 1 save, 6.48), senior LHP Jared Wesson (2-0, 6.63), redshirt freshman Paxton Pace (2-0, 5.23), true freshman RHP Caleb Reed (2-1, 9.98) and true freshman Devin Jones (0-2, 8.62).

Swindle has had an up and down senior season. In his last four outings he has given up 12 runs (11 earned) in 5.1 innings for a 18.57 earned run average. But in his previous three outings he threw 6.1 innings, allowing no runs. He can close or come in for middle relief duty.

Hollinghead has also had an up and down season, but he has been somewhat effective in his last few outings. In his last three appearances he has given up 2 runs in 3.1 innings. He's a guy who will come in and give you about an inning of work.

Houston has been used mainly in long relief in SEC action and has been fairly effective. He is normally going to give the team 2 to 5 innings of work and normally won't give up more than 2 runs. In fact, in eight SEC relief appearances, he's only given up more than 2 runs once. He did start a game in SEC play last weekend, giving up 5 runs (all earned) in 3.2 innings.

Wesson, in his last four SEC relief appearances, has given up 4 runs (all earned) in 8.1 innings. But the four runs all came in one game. In the other three outings he threw 3.2 innings, giving up just 1 hit and 0 runs.

Pace is a guy who will normally give the team an inning of work. But he's also likely to give up a run in his inning of work. But if State needs a guy who can come in and strike out a batter, he's your guy. In 5.1 innings of SEC action, he has struck out 9.

Reed and Jones has pretty much struggled when they are brought in to relieve in SEC play but it's possible either one or both could see action this weekend.

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) - Ole Miss' hitters are as hot as you can get right now, with eight players hitting over .400. Leading the way is Matt Snyder with a .600 batting average (9-for-15, 5 RBI). Not far behind is David Phillips with a .571 average (8-for-14, 5 RBI). Logan Power is hitting .478 (11-for-23, 7 RBI), while Matt Smith (7-for-16, 7 RBI) and Kevin Mort (7-for-16, 2 RBI) are hitting .438. Evan Button comes in at .429 (6-for-14, 4 RBI), while Zach Miller is hitting .421 (8-for-19, 5 RBI). In limited action, Tim Ferguson is hitting .625 (5-for-8, 3 RBI).

Others - Kyle Henson is hitting .273 (3-for-11, 2 RBI) and Jordan Henry is hitting .188 (3-for-16, 1 RBI).

Although not hitting as well as the Ole Miss players, Mississippi State has five players hitting .300 or better, including Scott DeLoach who comes in at .385 (5-for-13, 2 RBI), Cody Freeman at .364 (4-for-11, 3 RBI), Ryan Duffy (5-for-15, 5 RBI) and Ryan Collins (8-for-24, 2 RBI) at .333, and Russ Sneed at .300 (6-for-20, 5 RBI). Connor Powers is hitting a very productive .292 (7-for-24, 7 RBI).

Others - Luke Adkins is hitting .286 in limited action (2-for-7, 0 RBI), Jet Butler is batting .250 (5-for-20, 2 RBI), Grant Hogue comes in at .217 (5-for-23, 3 RBI) and Ryan Powers is hitting .167 (3-for-18, 1 RBI).

How Ole Miss and MSU Match Up
Ole Miss Category Mississippi State
36-13 Record 21-26
.313 (2nd in SEC) Batting Average .297 (8th in SEC)
376 (7.7 pg) Runs 316 (6.7 pg)
44 Home Runs 52
.401 OB % .401
70-91 Stolen Bases-Attempts 64-84
218 (4.4 pg) Walks 222 (4.7 pg)
319 (6.5 pg) Strikeouts 403 (8.6 pg)
380 (7.8 pg) LOB 390 (8.3 pg)
3.95 (2nd in SEC) Team ERA 6.42 (12th in SEC)
13 Saves 10
147 (3.0 pg) Walks 215 (4.6 pg)
462 (9.4 pg) Strikeouts 327 (7.0 pg)
.266 Batting Average Against .299
.972 (4th in SEC) Fielding % .965 (10th 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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