LSU - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and LSU tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend in Starkville.

Weather - Thursday's game should see temperatures starting out in the low 80s at the start of the game and end up in the high 70s. There is a 30% chance for isolated thunderstorms.

Friday's weather should be the same as Thursday's.

Saturday's game should be played in low 80s temperatures with a 40% chance for isolated thunderstorms. The wind should be very slight, possibly 3 miles per hour, and from the south/southwest.

Gametimes (All times are Central) - Thursday 6:36 p.m. | Friday 6:36 p.m. | Saturday 2:00 p.m.

2-Year Series History - Mississippi State is 1-5 versus LSU teams coached by Paul Mainieri.

Coaches - Paul Mainieri, after coaching Notre Dame for twelve years and leading them to eleven 40+ win seasons, took over an LSU program that had seen better times. After an initial campaign in 2007 that saw his team go 29-26, he led his 2008 team to a 49-19-1 record and a College World Series appearance, the first LSU team to advance to the CWS since 2004. His 2008 team was 6-3 in NCAA postseason play.

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 Home/LSU Road Records - MSU is 17-9 at home while LSU is 10-5 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - For LSU, sophomore RHP Anthony Ranaudo (6-3, 3.10 ERA) will start Thursday's game, senior RHP Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.45 ERA) will start Friday and sophomore RHP Austin Ross (5-6, 5.09 ERA) will be Saturday's starting pitcher.

Ranaudo has pitched fairly well of late. In his last three outings he has given up 9 runs (all earned) on 17 hits and 7 walks with 29 Ks in 21.0 innings of work for a 3.86 ERA. On the road he's got a 4.15 earned run average. He's normally going to give the Tigers a very good 6 to 7 innings of work. Strange as it may seem, every third outing in SEC play he has recorded double digit strikeouts. And yes, Thursday's start will be that third outing for him.

Coleman has been exceptional in his last three outings, giving up just 6 runs (all earned) on 16 hits and 3 walks to go along with his 19 Ks in 24.0 innings for a 2.25 earned run average. In his last two outings, he's given up 0 runs in 17 innings. On the road he has a 3.30 ERA (30 IP, 11 ER). He has normally given LSU a very solid 7 or 8 innings in his starts.

The one weak link in the Tigers starting rotation has been Ross. In his last three outings, he has given up 11 runs (all earned) in 15 innings of work for a 6.60 ERA. He's about the same on the road with a 6.52 ERA (19.1 IP, 14 ER). He's usually good for about 4 to 5 innings in his outings.

Mississippi State will counter with junior LHP Tyler Whitney (3-4, 5.25) Thursday, freshman LHP Nick Routt (5-3, 3.89) will start Friday and freshman RHP Devin Jones (0-3, 7.59) expected to start Saturday.

Whitney has struggled of late, allowing 15 runs (11 earned) in 9.2 innings in his last three outings for a 10.23 earned run average. But in home SEC games he has performed well, allowing 13 runs (7 earned) in 19.1 innings for a 2.79 earned run average. Whitney will normally give State a solid 6 to 7 innings, going 6 or more innings in six of his nine SEC starts. A possible advantage for Mississippi State is the fact that LSU is only 13-11 against lefties this season.

Routt has also struggled somewhat during his last three SEC outings, giving up 17 runs (13 earned) in 17.0 innings for a 6.88 earned run average. But like Whitney he has pitched well at home, giving up just 11 runs (10 earned) in 24.2 innings for an 2.79 ERA. He's also struck out 32 and only walked 4 in those 24.2 innings. And like Whitney he's a lefty, which could give State an advantage.

Jones, a guy who throws in the high 80s and even hits the low 90s at times, has only started three SEC games this season and has struggled in two of the three. But last weekend he pitched well against Ole Miss on their home field. Although he wound up giving up 3 runs in his 5.2 innings of work against the Rebels, through five he had only given up 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 6.

Relief Pitching - Look for LSU to rely on three pitchers in relief - freshman RHP Matty Ott (3-1, 11 saves, 2.29), junior RHP Paul Bertuccini (1-0, 2 S, 4.00), and senior RHP Nolan Cain (3-0, 4.35). If a game gets out of hand, LSU will use three or four other pitchers, but these three are their primary relief pitchers.

Ott has been LSU's closer out of the bullpen since the second SEC series of the season. During that span, he has closed 13 of 22 SEC games. And he's done extremely well. In those thirteen games he's only given up a run or more in three. And in his last six outings he has given up 0 runs in 7.1 innings, allowing 2 hits, 1 walk while striking out 6. He'll normally throw 2 games a weekend and pitch either 1 or 2 innings.

Bertuccini is more of a setup man who will come in for an out or two usually to get a strikeout, and he's been very effective in that role. In four of his nine SEC outings, he has struck out the one or two batters that he faced.

Cain is a guy who usually pitches in one game during an SEC weekend and is versatile enough to be used in long or short relief. He's effective in both cases. In fact, he's only given up one run in SEC play and that was in his first outing of the season. Since then, he has thrown 8.2 innings without allowing a run.

Mississippi State will very likely have senior RHP Chad Crosswhite (0-3, 6 saves, 7.63), senior LHP Jared Wesson (2-0, 1 S, 6.86), senior RHP Lee Swindle (1-4, 3 S, 8.13), junior RHP Greg Houston (1-2, 1 S, 6.99), redshirt freshman Paxton Pace (2-0, 5.23) and freshman Caleb Reed (2-1, 9.72) in the bullpen this weekend.

Crosswhite is a versatile pitcher who can close out a game or come in as a long reliever. After giving up 16 runs (all earned) in 8.2 innings in SEC action, he has been more effective of late, giving up 4 runs (all earned) in 6.2 innings.

Wesson, who throws in the high 80s, has been one of MSU's best SEC relievers of late. In his last six outings, he has given up 6 runs (5 earned) in 9 innings. However, four of the runs came in one outing.

Swindle started SEC play throwing well, but has had a tough go of it of late, giving up 10 runs (all earned) in 5 innings. He's normally going to be used in one game during the SEC weekend, usually for an inning.

Houston is MSU's long reliever in SEC action and he's been fairly effective in that role. In his last five SEC appearances he has given up 9 runs (8 earned) in 15.2 innings but 7 of those runs were given up in 1 outing. Take that outing away and he's given up just 2 runs on 12 hits and 1 walk with 8 Ks in 12 innings. He can usually throw 3 to 5 innings if needed.

Pace, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, has struggled in SEC action, especially in his last five outings. In those appearances he has given up 6 runs (5 earned) in 4 innings. But he's a guy who can come in for an out or even an inning and get strikeouts. In fact, of his last 9 outs, 6 were Ks.

Reed is a guy who can give you a few innings if a game has gotten out of hand. And as you would expect from a typical freshman, he's had his ups and downs in SEC play. In his last three SEC appearances he has given up 8 runs (7 earned) in 5.2 innings. But during that span, he had a solid 3 innings against Alabama where he gave up no runs before giving up 3 in his fourth 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) - LSU has five players hitting .313 or better. Two players who are hitting the ball extremely well - both in limited action - are Leon Landry who is hitting .833 (5-for-6, 1 RBI) and Micah Gibbs who is hitting .636 (7-for-11, 0 RBI). Ryan Schimpf comes in at .368 (7-for-19, 3 RBI), Blake Dean is hitting .316 (6-for-19, 5 RBI) and Sean Ochinko is hitting .313 (5-for-16, 1 RBI).

Others - Jared Mitchell is hitting .267 (4-for-15, 3 RBI), Mikie Mahtook (5-for-19, 6 RBI) and Tyler Hanover (5-for-19, 2 RBI) are hitting .263, DJ MeMahieu comes in hitting .250 (5-for-20, 5 RBI) and Austin Nola is hitting .083 (1-for-12, 2 RBI).

Mississippi State has six players hitting over .300. Leading the pack is Cody Freeman who is hitting at a .500 clip (6-for-12, 6 RBI). Not far behind is Scott DeLoach who comes in at .474 (9-for-19, 4 RBI) and Jet Butler who is hitting .412 (7-for-17, 1 RBI). Also hitting .400 in limited action (4-for-10, 1 RBI) is Brent Brownlee. Connor Powers is hitting a very productive .333 (6-for-18, 9 RBI) and Ryan Duffy is hitting .300 (3-for-10, 4 RBI) in limited action.

Others - Grant Hogue is hitting .280 (7-for-25, 2 RBI), Russ Sneed comes in at .273 (6-for-22, 3 RBI), Frankie Rawdow is at .267 (4-for-14, 0 RBI). Ryan Collins (4-for-20, 3 RBI) and Ryan Powers (2-for-10, 2 RBI) are both hitting at a .200 clip.

How LSU and MSU Match Up
LSU Category Mississippi State
39-14 Record 24-27
.313 (3rd in SEC) Batting Average .298 (8th in SEC)
418 (7.9 pg) Runs 340 (6.7 pg)
80 Home Runs 58
.405 OB % .401
97-131 Stolen Bases-Attempts 68-88
260 (4.9 pg) Walks 241 (4.7 pg)
365 (6.9 pg) Strikeouts 441 (8.6 pg)
373 (7.0 pg) LOB 425 (8.3 pg)
4.25 (3rd in SEC) Team ERA 6.44 (12th in SEC)
16 Saves 12
133 (2.5 pg) Walks 231 (4.5 pg)
524 (9.9 pg) Strikeouts 354 (6.9 pg)
.261 Batting Average Against .301
.974 (2nd in SEC) Fielding % .966 (10th 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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