Georgia-MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and Georgia tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday should see the temperatures in the mid 50s at gametime and down into the low 50s as the game progresses. No rain is expected. Saturday, the temperatures should be in the low 70s to high 60s during the game under clear skies. Winds will be upwards of 15 miles per hour from the southeast. Sunday will see a 60% chance of showers. The high temperatures should be in the low 60s with 8 miles per hour winds from the southwest.

Gametimes - Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 2:00 p.m. | Sunday 1:30 p.m.

5-Year Series History - During the past five years, Mississippi State is 4-11 against Georgia.

Coaches - Dave Perno is in his 9th season at Georgia. During that span his teams have recorded an overall record of 289-208-1 and an SEC record of 120-118-1. He has had two of his teams win the overall SEC championship. Five of his eight teams have made NCAA post-season play with three of those teams appearing in Super Regional play. Each of those three have also gone on to play in the College World Series. In post-season NCAA play his teams have accumulated a 26-15 record. Two of the three teams that have played in the College World Series ended up 2nd in the series.

John Cohen, who is in his second season at Mississippi State, came to State from Kentucky where he won the overall SEC Championship in 2006. At Kentucky, John Cohen's teams were 175-112 overall and 63-85 in SEC play. Last year's MSU team was 25-29. In five seasons at Kentucky and one at Mississippi State, he has taken two of his teams to NCAA post-season play, although neither team advanced to Super Regional play. His teams have an overall NCAA post-season record of 4-4.

Georgia Road/Mississippi State Home Records - Georgia is 2-7 on the road while Mississippi State has a 11-3 home record.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Georgia is expected to start three righthanders - senior Jeff Walters (0-2, 9.58) on Friday, junior Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.16) on Saturday and sophomore Michael Palazzone (3-2, 9.15) on Sunday.

Walters has been about as effective as his 9.58 indicates. He has gone no more than 5 innings in any of his five outings and he has given up no less than 3 runs in any of his appearances. Normally, something stands out that makes an ERA high. Maybe he had a bad outing or two that made his ERA go up so high, but he's had no effective outings. And it gets worse for him. In his last three outings he has given up 15 earned runs (16 total) in 10 innings.

Grimm has been quite a bit better than Walters. In his five appearances he has at least had three good to decent outing. His last one, against Auburn, was one of his better ones. He threw 6 innings, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and 0 walks while striking out 9.

Palazzone has been a mixture of the other two starters. While Grimm has more good than bad outings and Walters has had only 1 outings you could call decent, Palazzone has two decent outings in five of his appearances, one of which was two outings ago when he gave up 3 runs (2 earned) against Siena. But the outing before and after that have been his two roughest. He gave up 12 runs (11 earned) in 3.2 innings in those two games. One positive note for him is the fact that he doesn't walk a lot of batters.

Mississippi State will go with two true freshmen Friday and Saturday, Kendall Graveman (1-1, 4.98) on Friday and Chris Stratton (2-2, 2.63) on Saturday. Sunday's starter has yet to be determined, although it will come from a group that consists of senior lefthander Tyler Whitney (0-0, 7.27), sophomore righthander Caleb Reed (0-2, 2.73) and true freshmen lefthanders Chad Girodo (1-1, 5.09) and Luke Bole (1.0, 8.38).

This will be Graveman's second start of the season after being one of State's two middle relievers. In his first start, against Florida last week, he showed nervousness his first inning when he gave up 2 runs. Then he settled down and didn't allow a run for the next four inning before tiring in the sixth when he gave up three runs before being replaced. As a middle reliever, Graveman, who throws in the high 80s and low 90s at times, has been fairly effective. In his five outings he's given up more than 1 run just once, and that was against No. 15 ranked Oklahoma when he gave up 9 hits and 5 runs in 4.2 innings. And even in that game, after giving up the five runs in his first two+ innings of work, he settled down and allowed no runs in his last two. One thing to watch for with Kendall is the fact that he is a high pitch count guy. He normally throws between 15 and 25 pitches per inning which is a little on the high side.

Stratton, a hard thrower who consistently hits in the 90-91 range with his fastball, has been MSU's most effective starter, although, as you would expect from a true freshman he has been inconsistent. In his first start of the year, against Rhode Island, he was lights out, throwing 6 innings of shutout ball. In his next outing, against Southeastern Louisiana, he struggled from the get-go, giving up 1, 1 and 3 runs in his first three innings. In his next outing, against Southeast Missouri, he was once again very effective, going 7.1 innings, while allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk while recording 9 Ks. His last two outings have been against No. 10 ranked UCLA and No. 6 ranked Florida. In those two appearances he allowed a combined 6 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and 6 walks while striking out 13 in 11.1 innings of work. Something you notice about Stratton is he's normally very effective the first five innings. In four of his five outings, he's given up one run or less in the first five innings of each outing.

Whitney has started two games and given up 7 runs (6 earned) in 7.2 innings. Reed is normally MSU's long relief guy, a role he is excellent at. He has not started a game this season. Girodo has started one game, giving up 3 runs in 2.1 innings. Bole has started three games and has thrown 2.0, 5.1 and 1.0 innings in each, giving up a total of 10 runs (8 earned).

Relief Pitching - Look for Georgia to use five guys in relief including senior lefthanded pitcher Alex McRee, senior lefthanded pitcher Justin Earls, senior righthanded pitcher Steve Esmonde, sophomore righthanded pitcher Cecil Tanner and freshman righthanded pitcher Cooper Moseley.

McRee is Georgia's closer. In his nine appearances he has closed six games, earning 3 saves. His trend is he's either very effective or very ineffective. In four of his outings he has given up 0 runs in 4.2 innings. In the other five appearances he has thrown 5 innings, giving up 9 runs. Walks are usually his downfall. He's walked 13 batters, and 11 of those have been in his ineffective outings. He rarely goes more than 1 innings, two innings tops.

Earls started out the year in great fashion, throwing 4.2 innings where he gave up 2 hits and 0 runs over the course of four outings. His last six appearances haven't been so good, with him giving up 15 runs (all earned) in 11 innings. In those 11 innings he gave up 22 hits and 0 walks.

Tanner, like McRee, has been up and down. He's had 5 good outings (5 IP, 0 R) and 5 bad outings (6 IP, 16 R). Like with Earls walks are his nemesis, with him giving up 15 in his 5 ineffective outings.

Esmonde is similar to Tanner; he has had good outings half the time and bad outings half the time. Walks are a problem with him.

Moseley has probably been the most effective of the group. He has had five good outings and four poor ones. But two of his bad appearances were among his first three outings of the season. In his last six games he has had four good appearances where he has thrown 3.2 innings and given up no runs. He rarely walks a batter. Don't look for him to throw more than an inning, possibly two.

Mississippi State is likely to use the following pitchers during the series - sophomore righthander Caleb Reed, senior righthander Greg Houston, true freshman lefthander C.C. Watson, true freshman righthander Ben Bracewell, sophomore righthander Devin Jones, true freshman lefthander Chad Girodo and true freshman lefty Luke Bole.

Reed has usually been the first man out of the pen when a starter is hit early. And he's been very effective in that role, having given up no more than 1 earned run in six of his eight outings. He's normally good for upwards of 5 innings if needed.

Houston has been very good this season. In 7 outings, he has only given up 1 run and that was when he came in against Florida and walked the one man he faced. He was taken out and the next reliever allowed the runner to score. He'll normally throw 1 to 2 innings and can be used as a set-up man or a closer.

Girodo is another pitcher who is normally used in a set-up role. He started the season very effectively, allowing just 3 runs (2 earned) in 10 innings. But the freshman in him has shown of late. In his last four relief appearances he has given up 5 runs (all earned) in 6 innings of work.

Bole has only been used in relief once and that was against Memphis this past Wednesday when he threw 1/3 of an inning and gave up 1 run on 2 hits and 1 walk. If he's effective, he has the type arm that would allow him to be a long relief guy.

Watson is MSU's lefty closer. In his 7 appearances he has closed 3 games. He has given up just 1 run on 2 hits in all of his appearances combined. Walks have been his main problem this year. He has given 7 base on balls in his 8.2 innings of relief.

Jones was expected to be MSU's closer this season, and he's been tried at that role in almost all of his 9 outings. But so far, he has not shown the dominance the MSU coaching staff was hoping for. He's given up at least 1 run in 4 of his 9 appearances. And he's going to put 1 or 2 runners on base each of his innings. He's got the stuff to be a closer, considering his fastball is in the low 90s, topping out at 95, but the results haven't matched the stuff.

Bracewell is another righty the staff felt could be a closer. And at times he has been dominating. In five of his eight outings, he has done exactly what the coaching staff wanted, allowing a combined 0 runs on 0 hits while walking just 1. In those outings he struck out 8 in 5.1 innings. He's only had two outings when he hasn't been effective, giving up 4 runs in 2.2 innings.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Georgia has two starters who are hitting better than .300 in their last five games - Zach Cone who is hitting .409 (9-for-22, 5 RBI) and Peter Verdin who comes in at .333 (7-for-21, 4). In limited action Carson Schilling is batting .571 (4-for-7, 1).

Levi Hyams is hitting .273 (6-for-22, 1), Colby May is stroking the ball at a .222 clip (4-for-18, 4), Todd Hankins is hitting .200 (4-for-15, 0) while Christian Glisson is batting .182 (2-for-11, 2), Jonathan Taylor is hitting .158 (3-for-19, 1) and Brett DeLoach chips in at .091 (1-for-11, 0). In limited action Robert Shipman is hitting .100 (1-for-10, 1) and Zach Taylor comes in at .250 (2-for-8, 1). Expected to play this weekend is Kyle Farmer who has been injured during the past five games.

For Mississippi State Connor Powers continues to have the hot hand. In the last five games he is hitting .500 (8-for-16, 2 RBI). Also hitting .300 or above are Luke Adkins at .375 (6-for-16, 0), Ryan Collins at .313 (5-for-16, 4) and Jet Butler who is at .300 (6-for-20, 2). In limited activity Wes Thigpen is hitting .444 (4-for-9, 3) and Russ Sneed is hitting .500 (3-for-6, 2).

Sam Frost is hitting .250 (4-for-16, 5). Nick Vickerson comes in at .158 (3-for-19, 2). Cody Freeman is hitting .067 (1-for-15, 1) and Jonathan Ogden is hitting .063 (1-for-16, 2). In limited playing time Jaron Shepherd is hitting .143 (1-for-7, 0) and Ryan Duffy is hitting .000 (0-for-8, 2).

How Georgia and MSU Match Up
Georgia Category Mississippi State
8-13 Record 12-9
.290 Batting Average .279
127 (6.1 pg) Runs 137 (6.5 pg)
22 Home Runs 22
.370 OB % .393
26-36 Stolen Bases-Attempts 27-32
78 (3.7 pg) Walks 105 (5.0 pg)
152 (7.2 pg) Strikeouts 171 (8.1 pg)
163 (7.8 pg) LOB 176 (8.4 pg)
8.31 Team ERA 4.50
3 Saves 3
98 (4.7 pg) Walks 81 (3.9 pg)
171 (8.1 pg) Strikeouts 155 (7.4 pg)
.328 Batting Average Against .273
.962 Fielding % .963

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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