Baseball: Vanderbilt hosts Missouri

Thirteenth ranked Vanderbilt will host No. 14 Missouri for a Friday-Sunday SEC series this weekend. The Commodores will be looking to end a two series losing streak but will face a tough challenge in the much improved Tigers. Look inside for a Scouting report on both teams. NOTE: Saturday's game time has been moved to noon.

Missouri at No. 7 Vanderbilt

Friday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network+)
RHP Carson Fulmer (7-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Reggie McClain (5-4, 2.95 ERA)

Saturday (Noon, SEC Network+)
LHP Philip Pfeifer (2-2, 3.27) vs. RHP Tanner Houck (6-2, 2.88 ERA)

Sunday (2:30 p.m., SEC Network+)
RHP Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.68 ERA) vs. RHP Peter Fairbanks (4-3, 2.48 ERA)


ABOUT VANDERBILT

The defending National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores (30-12, 12-6 SEC) have lost two consecutive series and six of their last nine games. Most recently, the 'Dores downed local rivals MTSU on Tuesday night, 4-0. That's at least a start towards getting things back in order. However, Vanderbilt will face its sternest test of the conference schedule this weekend when it faces a tough Missouri squad which is currently tied with Vandy for first place in the SEC East.

Vanderbilt has struggled the past several games at the plate but the team still has impressive batting stats. The 'Dores are third in the SEC in hits with 441, second in on base percentage (.392), second in walks (201), second in triples with 18. However, one infamous stat is in strikeout department; Vandy leads the league in that one with 364.

Short stop Dansby Swanson (.354, 36 RBI) is Vandy top batter. He has seven home runs on the season to lead the team. First baseman Zander Wiel (.318, 38 RBI) is due a good game. He's just 4 for 30 over the past six games. As recently as March 29 he had four hits in a game. Junior right fielder Rhett Wiseman (.318, 27 RBI) is also due a turnaround game. He is just 6-for-23 over the past half dozen contests. Center fielder Bryan Reynolds (.331, 35 RBI) has three homers on the season. Leadoff man Ro Coleman (.313, 16 RBI) has played well in his still new role.

Despite the recent team woes, Vanderbilt's pitching staff is still considered one of the top units in the nation. Vandy is No. 1 in the league in opponent's batting average (.212). Vanderbilt also leads the conference in strikeouts with 411. The 'Dores are third in team ERA at 2.93.

Righty Carson Fulmer (7-1, 1.69) is one of the most dominating and prolific pitchers in college baseball. Last week at South Carolina he struck out nine while allowing no runs. He had 14 strikeouts the week before in a shutout of Ole Miss.

Philip Pfeifer (2-2, 3.27), a lefty, has struggled in key spots in relief. However, he has pitched lots of solid innings. Likely, for that reason he's been moved into a starting role. Pfeifer has struck out 54 batters this season while allowing 25 walks. Pfeifer's last start was in June of 2013 against Georgia Tech. He allowed four hits and two walks in five innings of work.

RHP Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.68) is considered one of the top pitchers in college baseball. However, he had a rough outing last week against South Carolina in allowing three runs and three walks to pick up his first loss of the season. So far this season Buehler has allowed 47 strikeouts against just 12 walks.

The Vandy bullpen is led by former starter Jordan Sheffield (3-1, 3.27 ERA), lefty John Kilichowski (2-2, 3.63 ERA), Kyle Wright (4-1, 1.25 ERA), Ryan Johnson (4-0, 1.94 ERA, and Ben Bowden (4-1, 2.25 ERA). Pfeifer, who is now a starter, leads the team in saves with five.

ABOUT MISSOURI

Missouri is one of the surprise teams of college baseball this season. The Tigers (26-15, 12-6 SEC) don't have the greatest overall record but have put together a strong SEC ledger of wins. The Tigers have won 6-of-7 conference series, falling only to Texas A&M on the road, two games to one. Mizzou has one conference sweep this season, at Georgia. The Tigers also have 2-1 series wins against Alabama, Tennessee, Florida. Most recently the Tigers fell to Missouri State 9-8 in a midweek contest. Tim Jamieson, who is in his 21st year at Missouri, made some changes in his staff after two straight losing seasons. He brought in former Tiger star Trevor Coleman as a graduate assistant and hired Hunter Mense to serve as hitting coach. Mense was formerly a radio analyst. Jamieson's adjustments appear to have worked.

The Tigers have improved via good pitching and defense. At the plate Missouri as a team is 11th in the SEC at batting (.259) and last in the conference in on base percentage (.340). The Tigers are next to last in runs scored (198) and hits (341).

Sophomore outfielder Jake Ring (.295, 22 RBI) has seven stolen bases and leads the team in doubles with 14. Ryan Howard (.292, 29 RBI) leads the team in RBIs and has three homers. Josh Lester (.270, 27 RBI) is tops for the Tigers in getting intentional walks. Freshman Brett Bond (.310, 14 RBI) leads the team in home runs with four. Brett Peel (.262, 12 RBI), first baseman Zach Lavy (.243, 21 RBI) and freshman designated hitter Shane Benes (.500, 1 RBI) are some of the other key Mizzou hitters.

As mentioned earlier, Missouri has a formidable pitching staff. The Tigers are second in the SEC in opponent's batting average (.228), fourth in ERA (2.93), third in hits allowed (308) and 11th in batters struck out (316).

Right handed Reggie McClain (5-4, 2.95 ERA) is slated to face VU's Fulmer on Friday night. McClain's fastball runs up to 90 mph. McClain, who is a three time SEC Pitcher of the Week, has 60 strikeouts against just 13 walks.

Freshman righty Tanner Houck (6-2, 2.48 ERA) is the ace of the Tiger staff and one of the reasons for the Missouri's resurgence. Houck was a 12th round pick in the MLB Draft of the Blue Jays last year. He's struck out 58 batters while walking just seven. His fastball reaches 95 miles per hour.

Another right hander, Peter Fairbanks (4-3, 2.48 ERA), is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. He has 54 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 51 innings of work. His fastball reaches 90 mph. He had 11 strikeouts in the Tiger's series win over Tennessee.

Right handed Breckin Williams (4-2, 1.88 ERA) is the Tiger's top reliever. He has 10 saves on the season. Right Andrew Schwaab (2-0, 2.50 ERA), lefty Austin Tribby (0-2, 4.91 ERA), RHP John Miles (1-1, 3.82 ERA) and LHP Lake Dabney (1-0, 1.32 ERA) are some of the key Missouri relievers.

SEC STANDINGS
EAST CONF GB ALL
VAN 12-6 -- 30-12
MIZ 12-6 -- 26-15
FLA 12-6 -- 32-10
KEN 8-9 3.5r 23-16
USC 8-10 4 25-17
GEO 6-11 5.5 21-20
TEN 2-8 5 16-20
--- --- -- ---
WEST CONF GB ALL
TAM 12-5 -- 36-5
LSU 12-5 -- 35-6
ARK 9-9 3.5 24-17
OLM 8-10 4.5 21-20
AUB 7-11 5.5 26-16
ALA 7-11 5.5 22-18
MSU 6-12 6.5 22-19


SEC THIS WEEK

Missouri at Vanderbilt
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Texas A&M at LSU
Auburn at Georgia
Kentucky at Florida
South Carolina at Tennessee
Alabama at Ole Miss

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