Ole Miss - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and Ole Miss square off in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend on the campus of Mississippi State.

Weather - Friday, the temperatures should be in the high to mid 70s during the game and there is a 30% to 40% chance of thunderstorms throughout the game. | Saturday, temperatures should be in the high 80s to low 70s during the game and there is a 60% chance for thunderstorms during the game. | Sunday should see highs in the high 70s and there is a 70% chance of thunderstorms during the game.

Gametimes (CDT) - Friday 7:00 p.m. (FSN-TV) | Saturday 6:30 p.m. (SportsSouth-TV) | Sunday 1:30 p.m. (CSS-TV)

6-Year Series History - MSU is 9-17 vs Ole Miss during the last six seasons.

Coaches - Mike Bianco's teams have an overall record of 365-203 during his nine-year career. His teams have a 152-118 SEC record and have won one SEC overall championship and two Western Division conference championships. Eight of his nine teams have advanced to NCAA Regional play with four moving on to Super Regional play. None have played in the College World Series. His teams have a 19-17 NCAA postseason record.

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.

Ole Miss Road/Mississippi State Home Records - Ole Miss is 9-6 on the road while Mississippi State is 18-8 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Ole Miss is expected to start junior LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-0, 190 ERA) Friday, senior RHP Aaron Barrett (6-2, 3.36 ERA) Saturday and TBA on Sunday. I'm guessing TBA will be redshirt sophomore RHP David Goforth (1-2, 7.00 ERA).

Pomeranz, who is expected to be drafted among the first 5 to 10 players in the first round of the MLB draft this summer, has been nothing short of spectacular this season other than in his last outing when he gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in 3 innings against LSU. Nine walks did him in in that game. But prior to that outing, he has thrown between 6 and 8 innings in his other 5 SEC starts and given up no more than 3 runs in any game and he only did that once. The other four outings he gave up 0, 1, 1 and 0 runs. While he's only given up 18 hits in his 38.1 innings of SEC action, walks have been a slight problem for him, with him having given up 26. But his 53 Ks have helped offset his control issues. So far this season, teams have had their best luck against him in the 4th inning, with him having given up 4 of his 10 SEC runs in that inning. His SEC road ERA is 0.43 (IP 21, ER 1). SEC teams are only hitting .137 against him.

Barrett started out in the SEC with four exceptional performances, giving up just 8 runs (6 earned) in 27 innings for a 2.00 ERA. But in his last two SEC outings he has given up 13 runs (12 earned) in 9.2 innings for a 11.17 ERA. The games were against South Carolina and LSU. Home runs were a nemesis for him in those games, with him giving up 4. The thing you notice in those two outings is the fact that the two teams got to him early in the game, scoring 12 of their 13 runs in the first two innings. In his four previous SEC outings he had only given up a total of 3 runs in the first two innings.

Goforth has started the last four Sunday games for Ole Miss and usually has given them 4 to 5 innings of work. But he's also given up 3, 4, 4 and 5 runs in those four outings. And while the runs per games have slowly increased, his innings per outing has slowly decreased (5.1, 4.1, 3.1). He has been able to get through the first inning of each of his SEC starts undamaged, but teams hit him well the next three innings. In his 4 SEC starts, he's given up 0 runs in the first inning but 4, 5 and 5 runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings.

Mississippi State is expected to start senior LHP Tyler Whitney (0-1, 5.72 ERA) Friday, freshman RHP Chris Stratton (4-3, 4.97 ERA) and freshman LHP Luke Bole (2-1, 6.89 ERA) Sunday.

This will be Whitney's second start in SEC action this year. In his first start, he threw 2.1 innings, giving up 5 runs (all earned). He has faced Ole Miss this year, in the Governor's Cup in Pearl, MS, and gave up 1 run (unearned) in 2.1 innings. Whitney has primarily been used in the long relief role in SEC play and performed well of late. In his last three SEC games he has thrown 12 innings, giving up 5 runs (all earned) for a 3.75 ERA.

Stratton, who consistently throws his fastball in the low 90s, has been fairly impressive as a true freshman pitching in the SEC. He has faced top 10 teams such as Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas and handled himself well against each one, giving up 6 runs (5 earned) in 17 combined innings of work. And two of those series, Florida and South Carolina, were on the road. As you would expect from a freshman, he has had bumps in the road. After a solid complete-game performance against Tennessee two weekends ago, Stratton gave up 8 runs in 3.1 innings against Alabama. But even in that game, he performed well in the first three innings before giving up all 8 runs in the bottom of the fourth. Something to watch out for is the fact that Stratton's home ERA is 5.30.

Bole, who throws his fastball in the upper 80s and touches 90 on occasion, has started two SEC games so far this season and performed decent in both, giving up 8 earned runs in 11.1 innings. But when you look at his starts in even more detail you notice that he pitches extremely well the first four innings, having given up a combined total of 2 runs in the first four innings of both games. Previous to becoming an SEC starter, he has been used in various roles (starting and relieving) in SEC and non-SEC games with mixed success, as you would expect from a freshman. His two best outings, both in relief, were against Ole Miss in a non-SEC counting game (IP 3.2, R 1) and against Arkansas (IP 2, 0 R).

Relief Pitching - Ole Miss' relief pitching for SEC action mainly consists of six guys, redshirt freshman RHP Brett Huber, junior RHP Trent Rothlin, junior RHP Matt Tracy, sophomore LHP Matt Crouse, junior RHP Eric Callender and senior RHP Rory McKean.

Huber has been Ole Miss' go-to closer, appearing in 11 of their 18 SEC games. He started SEC play a little slow, giving up 5 runs (all earned) on 10 hits and 5 walks while striking out 9 in 6.1 innings. But since then, he has appeared in six games and been extremely good, giving up just 1 earned run on 5 hits and 3 walks with 9 Ks in 9 innings. He did give up another 4 runs in another game but all 4 were unearned. Ole Miss in not afraid to use him in 2 of the 3 SEC weekend games. He'll normally give them an inning but can throw 2 or 3 if necessary.

Rothlin, who has been moved from a closer role to a middle relief role, has been used in 7 SEC games and has been very effective, giving up 1 earned run (6 total runs) on 7 hits and 6 walks while striking out 10 in 11 innings. He'll normally throw 2 to 3 innings.

Tracy, who has been used exclusively in a middle relief role, has been fairly inconsistent in the role, giving up runs in all but 1 of his appearances. He's had three good outings (IP 8.1, R 2) and he's had three bad outings (IP 4.1, R 9). With him, you simply don't know what you are going to get when he comes in. One thing you do know is he will almost always give the Rebels 2 to 3 innings of work.

Crouse is Ole Miss lefthanded closer and he's been very, very effective in that role in SEC action. In his four appearances he has not given up a run, allowing just 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 7 in 7.2 innings. What he gives them that most closers don't is more than an inning in his outing. He's thrown anywhere from 2/3rds of an inning all the way up to 3 innings and he's been effective in all of them.

Callender has primarily been used in middle relief and hasn't fared so well in the role. Other than his first SEC outing when he threw 3 innings of no run ball, he's been hit pretty hard, to the tune of 6 runs (all earned) on 11 hits in 5.2 innings. I simply don't see Ole Miss using him unless a game is out of hand one way or the other.

McKean is in the same type situation as Callender, he is more of a middle relief pitcher. The difference between he and Callender is he has fared a little better in the role. He has thrown in three games, giving up 4 runs on 11 hits in 6.1 innings. When he does come in, he'll probably give the Rebels 3 innings of work.

You can expect Mississippi State to use upwards of seven pitchers in relief, including sophomore RHP Caleb Reed, senior RHP Greg Houston, junior RHP Corey Collins, freshmen Chad Girodo, a LHP, and Kendall Graveman, a RHP, as well as sophomore RHP Devin Jones and freshman RHP Ben Bracewell.

Reed will be moving back to his long relief role, a role he performed ok in prior to moving to the SEC starting rotation. In three of his five SEC relief appearances he threw 5.1, 4.1 and 8.0 innings, giving up a combined 11 runs (10 earned) in the 17.2 innings. One thing Reed will usually do is make a team earn their runs. In those three games he only walked 3 in the 17.2 innings.

Houston has pitched in 6 of MSU's 18 SEC games. While he's been every effective in non-SEC games, his SEC outings haven't been quite as good, with him giving up 7 runs (5 earned) in 4.0 innings.

Collins has appeared in 4 games and had a couple of good outings (IP 2, 0 R) and a couple of bad ones (IP 2.1, 6 R).

Girodo appeared in relief in 6 SEC games, giving up runs in five of the six. But his last outing, last weekend against Alabama, was his best of the season. He threw a perfect 2.2 innings, facing 8 hitters, striking out 3 and recording 4 groundball outs.

Graveman began the season as an SEC starter but wasn't effective in the role (IP 8, R 14) and has been moved to the bullpen in SEC action. He hasn't been quite as effective as the coaches would hope in that role either (IP 2, 4 R). Lately, the coaches have brought him in in games that Bole has started (non-SEC and SEC).

Jones, who throws in the low to mid 90s, was initially set to be one of MSU's two closers in SEC games but hasn't been effective of late. While he did well in his first four SEC games in that role (IP 4.1, R 0), in his last three outings he has given up 4 runs (all earned) in 2.2 innings. Walks have been a nemesis of his in his SEC outings.

Bracewell, who possesses a low 90s MPH fastball and a nasty slider, is the other closer. And he's been more up than down in the role. Although he had a poor outing against Arkansas (IP 1, R 6), in his two outings since then and his previous two, he pitched a combined 4.1 innings, giving up 1 run on two hits and 3 walks while striking out 5.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - Ole Miss has been hitting the ball well of late, with four of their regulars hitting at a .429 or better clip. Leading the charge is junior Tim Ferguson at .478 (11-for-23, 4 RBI), followed by sophomore Matt Snyder at .444 (8-for-18, 8 RBI), sophomore Taylor Hightower at .438 (7-for-16, 1 RBI), and junior Matt Smith at .429 (9-for-21, 6 RBI).

Hitting in the .300+ range are senior Kevin Mort at .360 (9-for-25, 4 RBI), freshman Alex Yarbrough at .333 (8-for-24, 7 RBI) and junior Miles Hamblin at .313 (5-for-16, 6 RBI). In limited action, senior Taylor Hashman is hitting at a .800 clip (8-for-10, 9 RBI).

Bringing up the rear is senior Zach Miller at .190 (4-for-21, 2 RBI). In limited action, senior David Phillips is hitting .286 (2-for-7, 1 RBI).

In the last five games MSU's hitters have continued their hot hitting with senior Jet Butler leading the way with a .526 average (10-for-19, 5 RBI), Not far behind is junior Wes Thigpen who comes in at .500 (6-for-12, 5 RBI). Junior Jaron Shepherd has really picked up his hitting of late and comes in with a five-game average of .421 (8-for-19, 8 RBI). Senior Ryan Duffy continues having a hot bat, hitting .391 (9-for-23, 7 RBI). Not far behind him is junior Nick Vickerson at .389 (7-for-18, 2 RBI). Senior Connor Powers also continues to hit well, as evidenced by his .350 batting average (7-for-20, 10 RBI). Senior Russ Sneed also is performing well with a .313 average (5-for-16, 6 RBI). In limited action junior Cody Freeman is hitting .375 (3-for-8, 6 RBI).

Under .300 are senior Luke Adkins at .286 (4-for-14, 1 RBI) and junior Jonathan Ogden at .200 (3-for-15, 2 RBI).

How Ole Miss and MSU Match Up
Ole Miss Category Mississippi State
30-13 Record 20-20
.304 Batting Average .299
318 (7.4 pg) Runs 296 (7.4 pg)
46 Home Runs 46
.396 OB % .404
53-63 Stolen Bases-Attempts 44-58
197 (4.6 pg) Walks 189 (4.7 pg)
317 (7.4 pg) Strikeouts 306 (7.7 pg)
347 (8.1 pg) LOB 334 (8.4 pg)
4.07 Team ERA 5.85
14 Saves 5
167 (3.9 pg) Walks 165 (4.1 pg)
402 (9.3 pg) Strikeouts 290 (7.3 pg)
.259 Batting Average Against .298
.975 Fielding % .959

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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