South Carolina - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and 12th ranked South Carolina tangle in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at South Carolina.

Weather - Friday - Temperature should be in the mid 80s starting out, then cool down to mid 70s by the end of the game. No rain is expected. Saturday - The temperature should be in the low 80s. There will only be a 10% chance for rain. Sunday - Temps should be in the mid 80s with a 20% chance of rain in the forecast.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 6:00 p.m. | Saturday 3:00 p.m. (TV-SportsSouth) | Sunday 1:00 p.m. (TV-ESPNU)

5-Year Series History - Mississippi State is 5-8 versus South Carolina during the past five years.

Coaches - Ray Tanner is going into his 14th season at South Carolina and has a record of 580-266, including an SEC record of 249-188. Two of his teams have won the SEC overall championship. Eleven of his twelve teams have appeared in NCAA Regionals with seven advancing to Super Regionals and 3 of those 7 advancing to the College World Series. His 2002 team was national runner-up in the College World Series. His teams have an NCAA post-season record of 49-26.

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.

South Carolina Home/Mississippi State Road Records - South Carolina is 14-1 at home while Mississippi State is 1-7 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - South Carolina is expected to start senior RHP Blake Cooper (4-0, 3.32) Friday, junior RHP Sam Dyson (2-0, 4.15) Saturday and senior RHP Jay Brown (1-1, 3.38) Sunday.

Cooper has been fairly effective in his two SEC outings, although he was much better against Tennessee than he was against Auburn last week. He went 6.1 innings against Tennessee, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8. The two runs were scored against him in the 7th inning. Auburn, on the other hand, jumped on him for 2 runs each in the first two innings. He gave up 8 hits and walked 4 in his Auburn appearance. He's normally going to be in the 17 to 18 pitch range for each inning, so while he will give you a quality 6 to 7 innings, he's not likely to complete the game.

As you would expect from a junior, Dyson (a pitcher who has first round stuff - mid to upper 90 miles per hour fastball and a hammer curve) has been very effective in his two SEC starts, giving up just 2 runs (both earned) in 13.0 innings. He has thrown 6 and 7 innings in his two starts. Teams haven't scored against him in the first four innings of both starts. And he threw shutout ball last week in his 7 innings against Auburn. He rarely walks anyone, having walked just 2 in his 13 SEC innings. He's normally going to throw about 13 to 16 pitches an inning and like Cooper will give his team a very solid 6 to 7 innings in his starts.

Brown will be making his first start this season after relieving in 8 games. He has normally been a setup man who throws 1 to 2 innings each time out. In SEC play, he has appeared in three games with his longest outing being 2.2 innings. In that game he gave up 3 runs (0 earned) on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1.

Mississippi State has announced that freshman righthander Kendall Graveman (1-1, 6.20) will start Friday and freshman righty Chris Stratton (2-3, 3.48) will start Saturday. Although not announced yet, Sunday's starter could possibly be freshman lefthander Chad Girodo who started last Sunday.

This will be Graveman's third SEC start of the season. In his first start, against Florida, 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. Last week, against Georgia, Kendall, who normally throws in the high 80s to low 90s, went three-plus innings, allowing 5 runs, all in the fourth inning. In his first three innings, he gave up 2 hits while walking no one.

Stratton, a hard thrower who consistently hits in the 90-91 range with his fastball, will also be starting for the third time in SEC play. In his first start, he held Florida to 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 7 in 6 innings of work. Then, last week, he continued his outstanding performance against Florida into the first three innings against Georgia, striking out 7 batters while giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk. Then, in the fourth, he seemed to completely lose it, allowing just one base hit but walking two and hitting one. Before being taken out he allowed two runs and the other two runners he left on base also scored.

Girodo, if he starts, will be making his second SEC start. Last week, against Georgia, he threw 3 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk. Girodo, who has excellent control, will normally throw in the 82 to 84 miles per hour range.

Relief Pitching - South Carolina normally uses around six pitchers in relief in SEC play, although one of them, Jay Brown, is expected to start the Sunday game for the Gamecocks. The other five are two setup men, Jose Mata, Michael Roth, and three guys who have closed in SEC play, Ethan Carter, Matt Price and Parker Bangs.

Mata, a righthander, normally is brought in to face one or two batters, then is replaced by another reliever. In his three outings, he's allowed no hits, walks or runs in two times.

Roth, a lefthander, is pretty much used the same way as Mata - he's brought in to face one or two batters, then he's quickly replaced. In his four outings, he's allowed no runs in three.

The righthanded Carter, through the first two SEC weekends, has been South Carolina's Friday night closer. And he has thrown 1.1 innings in each appearance, striking out 2 in each while not allowing a run on 1 hit and no walks. He appears to be done for the weekend after his Friday outing

Price, another righthander, seems to be the guy they go to to close if needed either Saturday or Sunday. And, like Carter, he has been very successful in his role. In his two outings, he has thrown a combined 3.1 innings, allowing no runs, hits or walks while setting down 5 batters on strikeouts.

Mississippi State will primarily look to relievers Caleb Reed, C.C. Watson, Greg Houston, Ben Bracewell and Devin Jones.

Reed has been used in four of the six SEC games and performed ok his first two outings (IP 7, R 3) and not so well his second two (IP 5.1, 6 R). While he does give up a few runs, he is good about eating up innings if needed. In two of his outings, he has thrown 5.1 and 4.1 innings.

Houston has appeared in three SEC games, two in middle relief and one as a closer. He performed best in the closer role, striking out 3 in 1.1 innings while giving up no runs on no hits and 1 walk. He appeared in two of three games against Georgia last week after only appearing in one of the Florida games the previous week.

Watson has appeared in three SEC games and was effective in his first outing (1.1 IP, 0 R) but wasn't as successful the last two, giving up 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out no one in 1+ inning. He started against Ole Miss this past Tuesday night and was hit fairly hard in that game as well.

Jones, who throws in the low 90s and tops out at 95, started out as MSU's closer this season, then was relegated to preceding Bracewell, who took on the closer role. But of late, he has started pitching the way the MSU coaches hoped he would. During the last two SEC weekends, he has been used in three of the games and recorded 6 Ks in 3.1 innings while giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk. He'll normally give the Dogs 1+ innings in two of the three games if necessary.

Bracewell has appeared in two SEC games, both as a closer. He, basically, was tried as the closer after Jones struggled, but he has also struggled in the role, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2 in 1.2 innings.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - South Carolina has six players hitting .316 or better led by Adam Matthews who is batting .467 (7-for-15, 5 RBI). Jackie Bradley and Parker Bangs are also above the .400 mark. Bangs comes in at .417 (5-for-12, 6 RBI) and Bradley is at .409 (9-for-22, 6 RBI). Brady Thomas is hitting .333 (4-for-12, 4 RBI) while Whit Merrifield is batting .316 (6-for-19, 0 RBI). In limited activity Nick Ebert is hitting .333 (2-for-6, 0 RBI). Kyle Enders is hitting at a .273 clip (3-for-11, 2 RBI), Scott Wingo is batting .263 (5-for-19, 3 RBI) and Bobby Haney is at .250 (5-for-20, 2 RBI). Bringing up the rear are Christian Walker who is hitting .125 (2-for-16, 0 RBI) and Adrian Morales at .100 (2-for-20, 0 RBI).

Mississippi State has four players hitting .300 or better. Jet Butler leads the Dogs with a .471 batting average (8-for-17, 3 RBI), followed by Russ Sneed at .467 (7-for-15, 6 RBI). Connor Powers comes in at .313 (5-for-16, 5 RBI) while Sam Frost is hitting .300 (3-for-10, 0 RBI). Cody Freeman is hitting .273 (3-for-11, 1 RBI), Nick Vickerson is batting .261 (6-for-23, 0 RBI), Luke Adkins is at .250 (5-for-20, 2 RBI), Ryan Collins comes in at .222 (4-for-18, 4 RBI) and Jonathan Ogden is hitting .167 (3-for-18, 5 RBI). In limited action Wes Thigpen is hitting .250 (2-for-8, 2 RBI).

How South Carolina and MSU Match Up
South Carolina Category Mississippi State
20-5 Record 14-11
.302 Batting Average .280
191 (7.6 pg) Runs 164 (6.6 pg)
28 Home Runs 25
.406 OB % .394
16-23 Stolen Bases-Attempts 31-38
121 (4.8 pg) Walks 125 (5.0 pg)
133 (4.9 pg) Strikeouts 206 (8.2 pg)
214 (8.6 pg) LOB 209 (8.4 pg)
3.41 Team ERA 4.78
5 Saves 4
88 (3.5 pg) Walks 104 (4.2 pg)
263 (10.5 pg) Strikeouts 190 (7.6 pg)
.216 Batting Average Against .283
.970 Fielding % .961

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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