LSU - MSU Baseball Series Preview

Mississippi State and LSU match up in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at LSU.

Weather - Thursday should see temperatures in the low 80s to the high 70s during the game. No rain is expected. | Friday's game temperatures should be in the mid to low 80s during most of the game. Once again no rain is expected. | Saturday should see temperatures in the low 90s to upper 80s with very little chance for rain.

Gametimes (CDT) - Thursday 7:00 p.m. | Friday 7:00 p.m. | Saturday 3:00 p.m.

6-Year Series History - MSU is 7-12 versus LSU the past 6 years.

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 last two teams to a combined 105-36-1 record, 38-21-1 in the SEC, two Super Regional appearances (hosting both) and two College World Series appearance, winning the National Championship in 2009. His 2008 and 2009 teams were 16-4 in NCAA postseason play.

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.

LSU Home Record/Mississippi State Road Record - LSU is 28-7 at home and MSU is 3-17 on the road.

Expected Pitching Rotations - LSU will start sophomore RHP Joey Bourgeois (4-1, 6.28 ERA) Thursday, junior RHP Anthony Ranaudo (2-2, 9.09 ERA) Friday and junior RHP Austin Ross (3-4, 5.27 ERA) Saturday.

Bourgeois was the Saturday or Sunday starter for LSU during the first six SEC series but was moved to the bullpen due to ineffectiveness. In the six outings he only had one solid start when he gave up just 2 runs in 4 innings. His innings pitched in his other starts ranged from 2.2 to 6.0. Although his overall ERA is high, he throws a little better at home as evidenced by his SEC home ERA of 5.87 compared to 7.36 on the road. He normally throws a good first two innings, but teams hit him pretty hard after that. In his six SEC outings he has given up just 1 run in the first two innings, but has allowed 9 in the third inning and 4 in the fourth. When he's made it into the 5th and 6th innings, which is about half the time, he is normally going to give up a run or two in each inning.

Ranaudo, a projected 1st rounder coming into the season, was recovering from an injury during the first part of the season. Since coming back, he has had a tough time of it. He was limited to 2 and 3 innings in his first two SEC starts and performed well, giving up 1 run in the combined 5 innings. In his next two outings he did decent, giving up 7 runs (6 earned) in 11 innings, but since then he has been ineffective, giving up 26 runs (all earned) in 10.2 innings (4 starts), which translates to a 21.08 ERA. As you would expect, based on the numbers, teams have hit him early and hard in those last few outings.

Ross has been the most effective of the three. He started out as the Saturday guy for LSU, was replaced by Chris Matulis, then put back in the starting threesome two weekends ago. And he's been better since coming back. During his first three starts prior to being removed as a starter his ERA was 5.82. Since coming back, his ERA is 3.65 in his two outings.

Mississippi State will start senior LHP Tyler Whitney (0-3, 6.31 ERA) Thursday, freshman RHP Chris Stratton (4-3, 5.80 ERA) Friday and probably freshman LHP Luke Bole (2-2, 8.22 ERA) Saturday.

Whitney, after starting one SEC game early during the season's first six SEC series, was put in as the Friday starter three weekends ago. After having a very good first outing against Ole Miss (7 IP, 4 R, 1 ER), he struggled against Auburn, giving up 9 runs on 16 hits in 8 innings. In his last outing, against Vanderbilt, he gave up 5 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits in 2.1 innings. A positive in his last three outings is the fact that he has only walked 3 in 17.1 innings. Plus, he ate up a lot of innings in two of the three appearances.

Stratton, as you would expect from a freshman, has been up and down. After having four good to solid outings in his first five SEC outings (29.2 IP, 15 ER), he struggled big-time in his next three outings (12.1 IP, 21 R, 20 ER). But his most recent appearance was better than those three, with him giving up just 4 earned runs in 8 innings against Vanderbilt. As for his SEC road ERA, it's very high, 8.23 (18.2 IP, 17 ER), primarily due to his last two road starts (7.2 IP, 13 ER).

Bole has struggled in all five of his SEC outings, although his first two were decent (11.1 IP, 6 ER). But since then, he has appeared in three games and given up 10 runs (all earned) in 5 IP. The biggest struggle for him has been throwing strikes. He has walked 14 in 16.2 innings in his SEC appearances.

Relief Pitching - In an understatement, LSU uses a lot of relievers in SEC play, nine to be exact, although three are used about twice as much as the others. Senior RHP Paul Bertuccini, sophomore RHP Matty Ott and freshman LHP Jordan Rittiner are used the most. The others are junior RHP Mitch Mormann, freshman LHP Chris Cotton, junior RHP Daniel Bradshaw, junior RHP Ben Alsup, freshman LHP Zach LaSuzzo and sophomore LHP Chris Matulis.

Without question, Bertuccini has been the most effective pitcher out of the bullpen. Whether it is throwing an out or two or throwing 2 to 3 innings, he has done a great job. He has only given up 1 run in SEC action and that was early on. In his last nine outings, he has given up 0 runs. He's usually used in middle relief. After being a 1 to 2 out guy in his first nine appearances, he has thrown in the 1 to 3 innings range of late.

Ott was very effective in the first half of the SEC (7 G, 7 IP, 2 R) but has struggled in his last six outings, giving up 11 runs (all earned) in 16.0 innings for a 6.19 ERA.

Rittiner started the season strong, giving up just 2 earned runs in 11.1 innings. But as you would expect from a freshman, the SEC appears to have caught up to him, with him giving up 11 runs (10 earned) in 8.1 innings in his last four outings. His last two appearances have been especially rough on him (4 IP, 8 R, 7 ER).

Cotton has been effective in situational short stints but less effective in longer ones. In four of his seven outings, he has thrown less than an inning and has given up 0 runs in those 1.2 innings (4 games). But when he throws an inning or more, he has been, for the most part, ineffective, giving up 6 runs (all earned) in 4.2 innings (3 games).

Mormann is exactly the opposite of Cotton - he's more effective in longer stints than in shorter ones. In three outings, he threw 8.2 innings and gave up just 3 runs (all earned) while in his other outings, when he threw 1.1 innings or less, he gave up 10 runs (all earned) in 2.1 innings. His last two appearances have been his worse (1 IP, 5 ER). Basically, you will know almost immediately if he is going to be effective.

Bradshaw hasn't been effective in any of his six SEC appearances. He normally will throw an inning but he's also going to give up at least one run.

Alsup is a long reliever for LSU. When he comes in expect him to throw from 2 to 5 innings. And he's normally going to be very effective in his role. In his last three outings (he has appeared in 4 SEC games), he gave up just 2 earned runs in 10.2 innings.

LaSuzzo has been very effective, for the most part, partly due to being a situational type guy. He is usually going to throw an out, then LSU will bring in someone else to relieve him. In four outings he has thrown 1.2 innings and given up 1 run (earned). The run was given up in his last appearance.

Matulis, who has been used as a starter in a few SEC games, is back in the bullpen this weekend. He's probably going to be used in long relief, a role he has been used in two of his three SEC relief appearances. While he will eat up 4 to 5 innings, also expect him to give up a fair share or runs. In his three relief outings, he has given up 9 runs (7 earned) in 10.1 innings.

Mississippi State will primarily use eight pitchers in relief, including sophomore RHP Caleb Reed, senior RHP Greg Houston, junior RHP Corey Collins as well as freshman RHP Kendall Graveman, sophomore RHP Devin Jones, freshman RHP Ben Bracewell, freshman LHP C.C. Watson and junior LHP Trey Johnson.

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 In five of the six SEC appearances after moving back to the bullpen he struggled, giving up 10 runs (9 earned) in 5.0 innings. In his other appearance, which was last weekend against Vanderbilt, he has his best SEC outing, giving up 2 runs (both earned) in 4.1 innings.

Houston has pitched in 10 of MSU's 27 SEC games. In those outings, he has given up 14 runs (13 earned) in 8.1 innings. He's normally going to throw an out or two, although he has thrown 1 or 2 innings in three of his outings.

Collins has appeared in 6 games and has had three good outings (IP 3, 0 R) and three bad ones (IP 2.2, 7 R). He's normally going to give MSU an inning of work in middle relief.

Graveman began the season as an SEC starter but wasn't effective in the role (IP 8, R 14, ER 13) and has been moved to the bullpen in SEC action. He has struggled in that role as well (IP 9, 16 R, 14 ER). If he is decently effective he can give MSU 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 and Vanderbilt, giving up 5 runs (all earned) in 2.0 innings.

Bracewell is the main closer for MSU. And he's been more up than down in that role. Although he had a poor outing against Arkansas (IP 1, R 6), in four of his 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. However, he did struggle in his last outing against Vanderbilt last weekend when he walked a batter, threw a wild pitch and hit two.

Watson, who was out for part of the season with a shoulder injury, has been used mostly as a one-inning reliever. After been successful in his first two outings (2.1 IP, 0 R), he has struggled since coming back from his injury (4 G, 1 IP, 8 ER). His fastball velocity, which was in the low 90s in high school, has also been down this season (83 to 85 mph range), probably due to the shoulder injury.

Johnson has been used sporadically in SEC action this season, appearing in four games as a reliever. He was effective in three (3.1 IP, 1 R, 0 ER) and ineffective in the other (1.2 IP, 7 R, 6 ER).

Who's Hot at the Plate and Who's Not in the Last 5 Games - LSU, during the past 5 games, has three players hitting above .300. Micah Gibbs leads the Tigers with a .350 batting average (7-for-20, 3 RBI) followed by Leon Landry at .316 (6-for-19, 2 RIB) and Blake Dean at .313 (5-for-16, 3 RBI).

Alex Edward comes in at .267 (4-for-15, 4 RBI), Matt Gaudet is hitting .250 (5-for-20, 5 RBI) and Tyler Hanover is hitting .235 (4-for-17, 1 RBI). In limited action, Wet Delatte is hitting .286 (2-for-7, 0 RBI).

Bringing up the rear are three players - Austin Nola at .174 (4-for-23, 1 RBI), Trey Watkins .154 (2-for-13, 0 RBI) and Mike Mahtook at .150 (3-for-20, 1 RBI).

Mississippi State has six players hitting over .300. Leading the way is Ryan Duffy who comes in at .615 (8-for-13, 6 RBI). Next is Jet Butler at .385 (5-for-13, 6 RBI), followed by Connor Powers at .375 (9-for-24, 3 RBI), Ryan Collins at .364 (4-for-11, 1 RBI), and Sam Frost at .333 (3-for-9, 1 RBI. In limited action Cody Freeman is hitting .571 (4-for-7, 0 RBI).

Just out of the .300 group is Russ Sneed who is hitting .294 but leading the team in RBIs (5-for-17, 7 RBI) and Nick Vickerson at .273 (6-for-22, 1 RBI).

Others are Jonathan Ogden who is hitting .250 (4-for-16, 5 RBI), Luke Adkins .235 (4-for-17, 2 RBI), Wes Thigpen at .154 (2-for-13, 2 RBI and Jaron Shepherd at .111, although it's a very productive .111 considering the number of RBIs (2-for-18, 6 RBI).

How LSU and MSU Match Up
LSU Category Mississippi State
34-19 Record 22-31
.315 Batting Average .297
419 (7.9 pg) Runs 394 (7.4 pg)
64 Home Runs 63
.405 OB % .400
72-96 Stolen Bases-Attempts 54-70
255 (4.8 pg) Walks 250 (4.7 pg)
342 (6.5 pg) Strikeouts 403 (7.6 pg)
458 (8.6 pg) LOB 441 (8.3 pg)
5.72 Team ERA 6.71
17 Saves 6
194 (3.7 pg) Walks 234 (4.4 pg)
390 (7.4 pg) Strikeouts 369 (7.0 pg)
.285 Batting Average Against .314
.975 Fielding % .958

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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