Vanderbilt - MSU Baseball Series Preview

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

Weather - Friday should see temperatures in the low 80s to high 70s during the game. There is only a 20% chance for precipitation. | The temperatures should be in the mid 80s during the game Saturday with a 30% chance for thunderstorms. | Sunday should see more of the same type weather as Saturday, although the chance for scattered thunderstorms is expected to be 40%.

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

6-Year Series History - MSU is 2-13 against Vanderbilt the last six years.

Coaches - Tim Corbin has been Vanderbilt's head coach since 2003. During that time, his teams have eight teams have won 278 games and lost 157. In SEC play, he has a 108-100 record. He has seen his teams win one SEC championship and appear in five postseason NCAA Regionals with one advancing to Super Regional play. His teams overall NCAA postseason record is 12-10.

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.

Vanderbilt Road Record/Mississippi State Home Record - Vanderbilt is 10-9 on the road and MSU is 19-11 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations - Vanderbilt is expected to start sophomore RHP Sonny Gray (6-4, 3.07 ERA) Friday, sophomore RHP Jack Armstrong (6-1, 364 ERA) and junior RHP Taylor Hill (5-3, 3.22) Saturday and Sunday.

Gray, up until last weekend in his start against LSU, had been extremely effective in all of his SEC starts whether it be at home or on the road. His SEC home ERA is 1.61 while his road ERA is 4.50. Don't let the 4.50 fool you, though. Take out the LSU game where he gave up 7 earned runs in 3 innings and his SEC road ERA is 1.89. Gray is usually going to give Vandy between six and seven innings.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any tougher it does. While Armstrong's overall ERA is about a half a run a game more than Gray's, his road SEC ERA is about a run less than Gray's, 0.97 earned runs per game. He has thrown 24.2 innings in four SEC outings, giving up 8 runs (3 earned) on 22 hits and 8 walks while striking out 13. Those four outings were against Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and LSU.

Hill won't make it any easier on Bulldog hitters on Sunday. He struggled early in SEC play, allowing 9 earned run in 13 innings in his first three SEC starts, two of which were on the road. But in his last five SEC appearances, he has allowed just 11 earned runs in 40 innings. He's been a workhorse in those five outings, throwing 7.2, 8.2, 6.2, 8.0 and 9.0 innings. An amazing stat is his 4 walks in those 40 innings.

Mississippi State is expected to start senior LHP Tyler Whitney (0-3, 5.82 ERA) Friday, freshman RHP Chris Stratton (4-3, 5.97 ERA) and, possibly, freshman LHP Luke Bole (2-1, 7.64 ERA) Sunday.

This will be Whitney's fourth start in SEC action this year. In his first two starts, he threw 9.1 innings, giving up 9 runs (6 earned). In his last two outing he performed very well in one (7 IP, 1 ER) and not so well in the second (8 IP, 9 ER). What Whitney has done well in his last two outings is eat up innings on a staff that consists mainly of true freshmen.

Stratton has been impressive at times and not so impressive at other times in SEC action. After pitching well against top-15 ranked teams like Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas (17 IP, ER 5, ERA 2.65), he has struggled of late, giving up 26 earned runs in 21.1 innings in games against Tennessee, Alabama and Ole Miss and Auburn. Even in those games, Stratton has shown signs of what kind of pitcher he will become. In his last two outings (Ole Miss and Auburn) he struck the side out in the first inning in both games.

Bole has started four SEC games so far this season. In his first two starts, he pitched extremely well the first four innings, given up a combined total of 2 runs in the first four innings of both games. But in his last two outings he has really struggled, giving up 5 runs (all earned) in 2 innings. He lasted 2/3rds of an inning in one game and 1.1 innings in the other.

Relief Pitching - Thanks to a starting unit that eats up innings, Vanderbilt primarily uses just four relievers - junior LHP Richie Goodenow, junior RHP Chase Reid, junior RHP Russell Brewer and redshirt freshman Will Clinard.

Goodenow has been a lefthanded specialist. It appears the Vandy coaching staff likes to bring him in to pitch to one or two batters. In seven of his nine SEC appearances he has only been used to get one out. He has been used in middle relief and even as a closer three times. He's had pretty good success of late. In five of his last six appearances he has not allowed a run.

Reid, who is Vandy's mid-week starting pitcher, was a closer early on in SEC play but has been used more in long and middle relief of late. And he was more effective as a closer (4 G, 6 IP, 1 ER) than he has been as a middle/long reliever (4 G, 12 IP, 7 ER).

Brewer has become one of two pitchers who have become Vanderbilt's closer the last few weekends. He is the type pitcher who can throw 1 inning or three innings. While he started off in the SEC like gang busters (4 G, 4.2 IP, 0 ER), he has been much less effective of late (3 G, 4.2 IP, 4 ER).

Clinard is the other closer. He's been the exact opposite of Brewer; he's been more effective the last few weekends than he was early on, although he was pretty good even then. In his last two outings he has given up no runs in 3 innings. And in his three previous outings, he gave up 2 earned runs in 4 innings.

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 and C.C. Watson, both LHP, as well as sophomore RHP Devin Jones and freshman RHP Ben Bracewell.

Reed is back in his original role as a long reliever, a role he performed ok in prior to moving to the SEC starting rotation. In three of his first 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. But in his last five SEC appearances he has given up 8 runs (7 earned) in 5.0 innings.

Houston has pitched in 9 of MSU's 21 SEC games. In those outings, he has given up 11 runs (9 earned) in 5.2 innings.

Collins has appeared in 5 games and had a couple of good outings (IP 2, 0 R) and three bad ones (IP 2.2, 7 R). He didn't appear in any of the three Auburn games last weekend.

Girodo has appeared in relief in 8 SEC games and has been good of late except for his outing against Auburn last weekend when he gave up 4 runs without recording an out. But in his last three SEC appearances, prior to that, he gave up no earned runs (4 unearned) in 7.1 innings. During those innings, he allowed 5 hits, 3 walks and struck out 6. This past Wednesday, he pitched extremely well in a start against Northwestern State, giving up just 1 run in 5 innings.

After not pitching for about a month due to an injury, Watson has appeared in two SEC games during the past two SEC series, giving up 3 runs in 1 inning.

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 6, 8 R). If he is decently effective he can give MSU 2 to 3 innings.

Jones did well early on (IP 4.1, R 0) then struggled (IP 2.2, R 4) before having a decent outing against Ole Miss (2.2 innings, 1 unearned run). But he struggled again against Auburn, giving up 4 runs (all earned) in 1.2 innings.

Bracewell is the main closer for MSU. And he's been much more up than down in that role. Although he had a poor outing against Arkansas (IP 1, R 6), in his four outings since then and his previous two, he pitched a combined 6.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 4 walks while striking out 8. He's actually only had two poor outings out of his eight SEC appearances.

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - In the last five games, Vanderbilt is led at the plate by Anthony Gomez who comes in at .444 (12-for-27, 3 RBI). Not far behind is Brian Harris who is hitting .417 (10-for-24, 5 RBI). Jason Esposito is hitting .333 (8-for-24, 2 RBI) and Aaron Westlake is batting .308 (8-for-26, 8 RBI).

Although those four are the only ones hitting over .300 in the last five games, the three most productive hitters, RBI-wise, are Joe Loftus at .280 (7-for-25, 8 RBI), Curt Casali at .273 (6-for-22, 10 RBI) and Andrew Giobbi at .269 (7-for-26, 8 RBI). In limited action, Drew Fann is hitting .286 (2-for-7, 0 RBI).

Others are Connor Harrell who is batting .056 (1-for-18, 0 RBI) and Mike Yaztrezemski at .182 (2-for-11, 2 RBI).

For Mississippi State Connor Powers leads the way with a .429 batting average (9-for-21, 3 RBI) Next up is Jaron Shepherd at .364 (4-for-11, 7 RBI), Ryan Collins at .350 (7-for-20, 1 RIB), Luke Adkins at .333 (7-for-21, 6 RBI), Nick Vickerson at .333 (7-for-21, 3 RBI), Russ Sneed at .333 (6-for-18, 8 RBI) and Sam Frost at .316 (6-for-19, 1 RBI). In limited action Cody Freeman is also hitting .333 (2-for-6, 2 RBI).

Jonathan Ogden comes in at .222 (4-for-18, 2 RBI), Ryan Duffy at .167 (2-for-12, 0 RBI) and Wes Thigpen at .091 (1-for-11, 0 RBI).

How Vanderbilt and MSU Match Up
Vanderbilt Category Mississippi State
36-13 Record 21-28
.314 Batting Average .296
371 (7.6 pg) Runs 359 (7.3 pg)
42 Home Runs 57
.416 OB % .400
66-86 Stolen Bases-Attempts 52-67
224 (4.6 pg) Walks 228 (4.7 pg)
280 (5.7 pg) Strikeouts 372 (7.6 pg)
425 (8.7 pg) LOB 409 (8.3 pg)
3.54 Team ERA 6.30
10 Saves 6
160 (3.3 pg) Walks 206 (4.2 pg)
420 (8.6 pg) Strikeouts 347 (7.1 pg)
.260 Batting Average Against .308
.972 Fielding % .956

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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