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WEEKEND GAMETHREAD: Mississippi State

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Tigers host the Bulldogs to begin conference play

The Resume

Record: 14-3

D1 Ranking: 3

The Bulldogs opened the season in Arlington, partaking in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown where they went 2-1 with wins against Texas and Texas Tech sandwiching a loss to TCU. The Bulldogs then returned home and dropped game one against Tulane before coming back (literally) to take the series against the Green Wave.

Apart from a midweek against ULL and Southern Miss (both wins), the quality of opponents since then took a significant nosedive, but going back to their loss against Kent State on the 6th, the Bulldogs have only allowed four runs in their seven games. Quick math says that averages out to a little over half a run per nine innings, which is ideal.

The Pitching

Rotation

Houston Harding (L): .96 ERA, (2/18.2), .93 WHIP (5/12), 25 SO, .182 BAA

Jackson Fristoe (R): 1.59 ERA (3/17), .82 WHIP (6/8), 22 SO, .138 BAA

Christian MacLeod (L): 1.84 ERA (3/14.2), 1.41 WHIP, 28 sO, .246 BAA

Bullpen

Brandon Smith: .64 ERA (1/14), .43 WHIP (2/4), 16 SO, .087 BAA

Landon Sims: .77 ERA (1/11.2), .81 WHIP (3/6), 30 SO, .143 BAA

Carlise Koester: .96 ERA (1/9.1), .99 WHIP (4/5), 13 SO, .152 BAA

Will Bednar: 0.00 ERA (0/7), .26 WHIP (0/2), 14 SO, .095 BAA

All three of MIss State’s starting pitchers combined have less than nine earned runs allowed. That’s it, that’s all. Again, that’s pretty ideal.

And it’s not like the bullpen is a weak spot either, with the team sporting a 2.24 ERA and a WHIP of .987. State’s pitching is good, perhaps the best in the nation at this point. If you want to poke holes and look for optimism, you could say the past two weeks against Kent State and Eastern Michigan don’t necessarily translate to playing in Alex Box, but the pitching handled those teams like they should. I’m not convinced of that argument, personally.

Looking to the bullpen, Smith and Sims are some HOSSES. To allow one earned runs across 14 innings and to strike out 30 in 11.2 is some serious nasty stuff.

The Hitting

C Luke Hancock (L/R): .308/.625/.464, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .27 K/BB (4/15)

OF Tanner Allen (L/R): .308/.431/.400, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 1.85 K/BB (13/7)

C Logan Tanner (R/R: .296/.426/.415, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .91 K/BB (10/11)

IF Kamren James (R/R): .286/.540/.338, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 3.25 K/BB (13/4)

For the most part State doesn’t have the same pop across the lineup that LSU has, hitting less than half as many home runs (16), but they seem to have a better sense of day in and out starters and less lineup volatility.

The Bulldogs are batting exactly ten points lower than LSU as a team (.279), so it’s not like there’s a day and night difference between the two teams. Mississippi State has four batters hitting within the .250 to .300 “not great, but good enough” range, which when paired with the insane pitching is a tough pill to swallow.

State’s a good hitting team across the board for the most part, but it’s been Hancock who has been doing all the heavy lifting for state, posting a .625 slugging percentage and only striking out four times. That’s the worst type of hitter to face: somebody who can push a ball a mile but can spoil your best out pitches and stay alive.

The Prediction

2-1 Mississippi State

That’s a hard prediction to make, because this is shaping up to be a really excellent series of pitching matchups. Jaden Hill and Landon Marceaux are going to be in absolute dogfights against Harding and Fristoe, and then AJ Labas and MacLeod are pretty comparable. It’s going to be tight and exciting, but these games are decided by tight margins. I don’t know which game LSU will win or lose Saturday or Sunday, but given how Hill has yet to really truly go deep in a game I think Friday night becomes a battle of Harding vs. the LSU bullpen, and, well...

LSU wins if...

1) Jaden Hill becomes the Ace: We’ve seen flashes of what Jaden Hill can do, but we haven’t seen it sustained for seven innings at a time, which is what it takes from your Friday starter to win series in the SEC. This is the litmus test for Hill. If he can go out and give LSU a quality start and then some, then not only will LSU have a chance in the series but that will bolster the direction of the team for the entire season.

2) They don’t let Luke Hancock beat them: State’s a good hitting team. I really want to pepper that in here. Hancock can go hitless on the weekend and State could still sweep. That’s a possibility. But what I’m saying is if LSU has a say in the matter, force State to get their big hits elsewhere in the lineup. There are multiple good Bulldog hitters, but unlike LSU there aren’t as many just as likely to tear the game open with one swing.

3) The bullpen doesn’t blow another one: Look, last week against UTSA was ROUGH for the bullpen and that’s not something that you can wave a wand over and magically fix. The midweek against Southeastern was better, but there were still troubling signs. If LSU has a chance to win two games they’ll probably come via the slimmest of margins, and the onus will be on the pitching staff to preserve the win. This, to me, is by far the biggest ask.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 - Friday, 6PM, SEC Network

LSU – Jr. RH Jaden Hill (2-1, 4.24 ERA, 17.0 IP, 4 BB, 15 SO)

MSU – Jr. LH Christian MacLeod (1-1, 1.84 ERA, 14.2 IP, 6 BB, 28 SO)

Game 2 - Saturday, 6:30PM, SECN+

LSU – Jr. RH Landon Marceaux (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 23.0 IP, 3 BB, 32 SO)

MSU – So. RH Will Bednar (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 7.0 IP, 0 BB, 14 SO)

Game 3 - Sunday, 2PM, SECN+

LSU – Jr. RH AJ Labas (0-0, 3.10 ERA, 20.1 IP, 3 BB, 27 SO)

MSU – Jr. RH Eric Cerantola (0-1, 6.97 ERA, 10.1 IP, 7 BB, 12 SO)

Weather

Top 25 and SEC In Action

Rank Team Opponent
Rank Team Opponent
1 Arkansas vs Alabama
2 Vanderbilt vs South Carolina
3 Mississippi State @ LSU
4 Ole Miss vs Auburn
5 Florida vs Texas A&M
6 Miami vs Florida State
7 Texas Tech vs Oklahoma State
8 Louisville @ NC State
9 East Carolina vs Illinois State
10 Texas @ Baylor
11 UCLA vs Arizona
12 Georgia Tech @ Wake Forest
13 Tennessee @ Georgia
14 Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech
15 TCU @ USL
16 South Carolina @ Vanderbilt
17 Notre Dame vs Duke
18 Pittsburgh @ Virginia
19 LSU vs Mississippi State
20 Oregon vs Arizona State
21 UC Santa Barbara @ Cal State Fullerton
22 Michigan vs Illinois
23 Oregon State vs Washington State
24 Boston College vs North Carolina
25 Virginia Tech @ Clemson
Missouri @ Kentucky