A crucial weekend for the 2015 Mississippi State baseball team has arrived as the Bulldogs travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky. If ever there was a time a team needed a series win or even a sweep, this would be it.
Kentucky sits at 13-7 (0-3) after being swept on the road last weekend against South Carolina. The Wildcats faced a fairly tough non-conference schedule, including road games at USC and UC Santa Barbara. They went 0-4 in those games. There was one game against a common opponent with MSU against Cincinnati. Kentucky came out on top in that game 9-1.
Shively field hasn't been kind to MSU in the past several years, as John Cohen has struggled to take down his former team. It won't come any easier this weekend considering the Dogs have yet to play a game on the road all season.
If you compare the numbers of these two teams, you won't find a lot of difference. Had Kentucky played as many games at home as MSU has, they would likely have a comparable record. The Wildcats have played 14 of their 20 games this season away from home. That's a difficult thing to do, especially at the beginning of the season.
It seems like every year Kentucky has a couple of the better hitters in the conference, and this year is no different, even tho AJ Reed left for the MLB (hallelujah). They also have some reliable arms on the pitching staff, most of which are young, especially in the bullpen.
Here are those players that MSU will have to focus on the most this coming weekend:
Ka'ai Tom (junior): He was one of the best hitters in the SEC last season with a .373 average in conference play in his first season playing Division 1 baseball. He was a First Team All-SEC selection playing left field. This year the speedy Tom has picked up where he left off. He's stroking at a .387 clip with seven doubles, 20 RBI's, and 19 runs scored. He will hit third in the lineup.
Zack Brown (sophomore): The big 6-2, 200 pound right-handed pitcher came on strong late last year and has continued that play into this season. He sports just a 1-2 record, but Brown's 2.77 ERA leads the starting pitchers on the team. Brown has pitched 26 innings, struck out 27 batters, and walked 10. Teams are hitting .189 against him. Brown had a streak of 14.2 consecutive scoreless innings end last week against South Carolina. He can struggle out of the stretch at times. MSU needs to get runners on base and put the pressure on him early.
Kyle Barrett (junior): Barrett plays center field and leads off for the Kentucky lineup. He hits for average and also boasts plus speed on the base paths. He had one of the best years for a freshman in school history two years ago before experiencing a sophomore slump last season. He has picked it back up in his third year, leading the team so far with 34 hits, which is good for a .370 average. Twenty-nine of Barrett's 34 hits have been singles. I would say he is Kentucky's left-handed Seth Heck.
Zach Logue (freshman): I guess you could say the Bulldogs have to watch out for the Zach's on the mound this weekend. Even though he's just a freshman, Logue has been the Wildcats' best option out of the pen. He's a lefty who fills up the strike zone and doesn't walk hardly anyone. He has made eight appearances, which ties for most on the team, and has struck out 17 and only walked two in 15 innings pitched. He sports a 1.80 ERA and has limited opponents to a .214 batting average. Logue is one of two freshmen in the bullpen with an ERA under 2.00.