Diamond Dawgs vs. Vanderbilt: Can State get its first SEC series win of 2012?

For a team that has been bitten HARD by the injury bug, State really can't complain much about the performance it has gotten out of it's 2012 squad thus far. At 18-11 (3-6 SEC), the Dawgs are having a solid year, but so far in SEC play they've yet to get over the hump. In its last two SEC series against Arkansas and Auburn, State won the Friday contest, but was unable to capture either the Saturday or Sunday games to come away with a series win. Although they've been so close in all 3 series so far to taking the series 2-1 (against ranked foes, mind you), the dogs hope to finally come away with an SEC series W when they face off with the struggling Commodores of Vanderbilt tonight at Dudy Noble Field.

The 2012 version of the Commodores' baseball team isn't what we've come to expect from a Tim Corbin coached Vandy team. The 'Dores, who came in to the season highly ranked, have struggled mightly, and are off to a slow 12-17 (3-6 SEC) start thus far. The 'Dores have also struggled quite a bit on the road this season as they are 0-7. Of course, 6 of those games were on the road in Palo Alto and Gainesville against top 5 teams Stanford and Florida. Still, when you're dealing with a Vanderbilt team, you can never look at the record and think "this will be easy." The gold and black will always fight you tooth and nail, and I would expect a tough series this weekend just like the ones in 2010 and 2008.

For State, the dawgs will shake things up a bit this weekend as Nick Routt exits the weekend rotation and Senior closer Caleb Reed enters it. Routt's recent struggles forced Coach John Cohen to move Sunday starter Kendall Graveman up a day and to move Reed to the Sunday starter position. This may also benefit Reed, who was expected to be a rock this year but has had his fair share of struggles as well.

At the plate and in the field, the dogs are still looking to get OF leaders C.T. Bradford and Brent Brownlee 100% healthy. Coach Cohen earlier this week said he may rest Brownlee, while I believe Bradford will play but is still coming back into things slowly. In addition, 3B Darryl Norris, whom the dogs have missed mightly in SEC play, is still probably 2 weeks away from returning, which hampers the dogs lineup against the Vandy rotation.

Weekend Rotation:

Friday: Jr. RHP Chris Stratton (6-0, 2.21) vs. So. LHP Kevin Ziomek (2-4, 4.70)

Saturday: Jr. RHP Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.45) vs. Fr. RHP Tyler Beede (1-3, 5.46)

Sunday: Sr. RHP Caleb Reed (0-4, 2.49) vs. TBA

Player To Watch:

Mike Yastrzemski, Jr. OF - Yep, grandson to baseball legend Carl Yastrzemski. The Junior outfielder is having himself a good 2012 campaign, batting at a .317 clip, with 19 RBI's and leading the team with 4 HR's. He, along with So. Tony Kemp spearhead this Vandy offense and will look to do so further this weekend against Stratton, Graveman and Reed.

Series Prediction:

This is an SEC series that pits two teams who have struggled, State with injuries and Vanderbilt with wins, against each other. Although you can never discount Vandy and their ability to play at a high level with any team in the country, this isn't the Vanderbilt team we've seen in the past several seasons, and I look for the dawgs to take advantage of that. I expect Stratton to have another solid performance tonight, and give the dogs a 1-0 series advantage. If Graveman brings his Arkansas and LSU level stuff then State could again find itself in a win on Saturday, and be sitting pretty going into the series finale Sunday. Even with an 0-4 record, I always feel good with Caleb Reed on the mound for me, and Sunday will be no different. I look for Reed to have another solid outing, and possibly come away with a win. I don't think the dogs will sweep, I think this Vanderbilt team is too scrappy for that. I would expect Vandy to take either the Saturday or Sunday game, but for State to emerge with a 2-1 series win. To do that though, they will need better base running than they got last weekend against Auburn, and will need a better average with RISP. Would love to see this be the weekend that Wes Rea, Trey Porter and Adam Frazier all go off.

Series Record:

Recently: State is 1-12 (!) against the Commodores, snapping the skid with a win in the Sunday finale in Nashville last season.

All time: 62-38-1 according to HailState.com, 53-36-2 according to vucommodores.com. You decide which you believe.

First pitch tonight is set for 6:30 P.M.

#HailState

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