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Mississippi State vs. Indiana State and Marist Baseball Preview

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The Bulldogs welcome a Missouri Valley Conference team and a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team to Dudy Noble Field this weekend.

A Mississippi State Baseball hat, glove, baseball, and sunglasses.
Kelly Price: @HailStatePics

Game Times and Broadcast Info

Game 1: Indiana State

  • First Pitch: Friday, 4:00 p.m.
  • Radio: MSU Radio Network
  • Television: SEC Network+

Game 2: Marist

  • First Pitch: Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Radio: Starkville 100.9 FM or 96.1 (Not on MSU Radio Network due to Men’s Basketball Game)
  • Television: SEC Network+

Game 3: Indiana State

  • First Pitch: Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
  • Radio: Starkville 100.9 FM or 96.1 (Not on MSU Radio Network due to Men’s Basketball Game)
  • Television: SEC Network+

Game 4: Marist

  • First Pitch: Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Radio: Starkville 100.9 FM or 96.1 (Not on MSU Radio Network due to Women’s Basketball Game)
  • Television: SEC Network+

The Bulldogs have had a tough week. They had an impressive first weekend in which they split two games between nationally ranked Texas Tech and swept Western Illinois. Things were looking good. Then the team went out and lost to Morehead State after being up by 5 runs entering the top of the 9th. So what can we expect when the Indiana State Sycamores and Marist Red Foxes come to Starkville?

2017 Indiana State Offensive Profile

  • Team Batting Average: .377 compared to Mississippi State’s .297
  • Extra Base Hits: 16 compared to Mississippi State’s 17
  • Home Runs: 6 compared to Mississippi State’s 6
  • Runs Scored: 33 (11 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 36 (7.2 per game)
  • Slugging Percentage: .623 to Mississippi State’s .474
  • On Base Percentage: .453 to Mississippi State’s .408
  • Strike Outs: 27 (9 per game) to Mississippi State’s 39 (7.8 per game)
  • Stolen Bases: 6 on 7 attempts compared to Mississippi State’s 10 on 10 attempts

Evaluating this series for the Bulldogs won’t be easy. Indiana State and Marist both won two of their three games the first weekend, but did so against far inferior competition. Normally, I wouldn’t be worried about either opponent, but Morehead State happened on Tuesday, and it makes me question everything.

Indiana State is probably a little more daunting simply because they did a really good job of hitting the ball in their first weekend. They averaged 11 runs per game and Mississippi State’s pitching has been far from perfect. Indiana State hit the ball hard in the opening weekend with an amazing .623 slugging percentage. How much of it was great at bats and how much of it was the result of facing bad teams, I simply don’t know. But we’ll find out this weekend.

2017 Marist Offensive Profile

  • Team Batting Average: .294 compared to Mississippi State’s .297
  • Extra Base Hits: 13 compared to Mississippi State’s 17
  • Home Runs: 2 compared to Mississippi State’s 6
  • Runs Scored: 18 (6 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 36 (7.2 per game)
  • Slugging Percentage: .461 to Mississippi State’s .474
  • On Base Percentage: .429 to Mississippi State’s .408
  • Strike Outs: 27 (9 per game) to Mississippi State’s 39 (7.8 per game)
  • Stolen Bases: 4 on 5 attempts compared to Mississippi State’s 10 on 10 attempts

Marist did not have quite as many offensive fireworks as Indiana State did in their first weekend of play, but they still did pretty well. The Red Foxes put up 6 runs a game and had similar offensive numbers to what Mississippi State has done so far.

Marist appears to be more station to station. They have only two home runs, both of which came from Left Fielder Frankie Gregoire. If things go as planned, the Mississippi State pitching should get a much needed confidence boost against Marist.

2016 Indiana State Pitching Profile

  • Team ERA: 8.31 compared to Mississippi State’s 5.94
  • Batting Average Against: .286 compared to Mississippi State’s .266
  • Extra Base Hits Allowed: 11 compared to Mississippi State’s 10
  • Home Runs Allowed: 6 compared to Mississippi State’s 1
  • Strike Outs: 28 (9.33 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 55 (11 per game)
  • Walks Allowed: 15 (5 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 24 (4.8 per game)

Neither Indiana State nor Mississippi State has had a lot of success on the mound. Indiana State put up a bunch of runs, in their opening weekend, but they also gave up a lot. They also gave up an average of two home runs per game. Facing a lineup that went deep four times on Tuesday, there might be a lot of balls headed to the Lounge this weekend.

I’ll be interested to see how Indiana State and Marist handle their pitching staffs. Logic would dictate their best chance of a win are against each other, despite what happened this past Tuesday. So will they start their best pitchers against each other, save them for Mississippi State, or just go with their normal rotation regardless of the opponent?

For Indiana State, the best pitcher the Bulldogs could face would be Right Handed Pitcher Tyler Ward. The 6’0” right hander pitched five innings in the season opener and picked up the win. He struck out six while giving up one earned run and walked one batter.

The other two starters for Indiana State are Ryan Keaffaber and Will Kincannon. They combined for an ERA of 15.00 in their first two starts. Kincannon really struggled in his 2017 debut giving up 7 earned runs in 1.2 innings. The opposition hit .615 against him. Expect to see at least one of the these three starters and possibly two.

Konnor Pilkington will go back to the mound in all likelihood Friday night. He pitched well except for one inning against Texas Tech. His 10.80 ERA is a reflection of his four run 4th inning. Until that point, he had been cruising along. Pilkington struck out 7 in 3.1 innings, walked 1 and gave up four hits. I expect him to do better now that he’s gotten through that first game. If he doesn’t, there could be some problems.

2017 Marist Pitching Profile

  • Team ERA: 4.50 compared to Mississippi State’s 5.94
  • Batting Average Against: .176 compared to Mississippi State’s .266
  • Extra Base Hits Allowed: 7 compared to Mississippi State’s 10
  • Home Runs Allowed: 0 compared to Mississippi State’s 1
  • Strike Outs: 22 (7.33 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 55 (11 per game)
  • Walks Allowed: 21 (7 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 24 (4.8 per game)

Marist had a solid weekend hitting in the season opening weekend, but their pitching is what carried them. The Red Foxes gave up very few hits, but they also walked a lot at a seven per game clip. Andy Cannizaro has preached an aggressive mentality, so it will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs can force the Marist pitchers to throw strikes.

If Marist decides to pitch their best against the Bulldogs, then they’ll send Charlie Jerla to the mound Saturday instead of Friday. Jerla was impressive. He struck out 8 in 5.2 innings, walked 3 and surrendered just two hits and 0 earned runs to pick up the win.

Marist’s other two starters couldn’t get past the fourth inning. Scott Boches gave up 4 walks and Sean Keenan gave up 5. Both also hit a batter. Neither got hit hard, but because there were so many runners on base, when they did get hit, it resulted in runs.

I would expect Mississippi State to use a more traditional rotation this weekend. Ryan Cyr likely pitches Saturday instead of Sunday, the question would be if he pitched against Marist in the opener on Saturday or Indiana State in the second game. Outside the first inning, Cyr pitched well. He gave up four runs in the first inning, but didn’t give up any the next three he pitched.

Peyton Plumlee was the most effective starter last weekend and should get the call to start again. He pitched 6 innings, and Plumlee only surrendered 1 earned run on 4 hits, 0 walks and struck out 7. He’ll try to build on that performance this weekend.

The biggest question is if the Bulldogs let Graham Ashcraft get another start, or do they turn to Riley Self instead. Ashcraft looked great for three innings and then ran out of gas in the fourth when he gave up all three of his runs. It might be a signal he’s better suited for the bullpen, at least for this year while he builds up stamina.

Riley Self was arguably the most impressive pitcher from last weekend. He made two appearances and pitched 6 innings. In that time, he gave up just 2 hits and one earned run and 9 strikeouts. If I’m Cannizaro, I give the ball to Self.

Prediction for the weekend

When I first saw the schedule a few months ago, I thought Mississippi State could afford to lose one game this weekend just because baseball things happen. But since the team lost to Morehead State, I don’t think they can afford to lose one of these four games.

I think Pilkington and Cyr settle down and pitch much better now that they have had their first start in their new roles. Plumlee should be fine as well, and either Self or Ashcraft can figure things out. The question is the closer and bullpen.

Blake Smith was given the opportunity to be the closer, but has blown two big leads in both of his opportunities. I think you have to try someone else at this point. This is why I would start Self and see if Ashcraft can be at his best from the bullpen and possibly close. We still haven’t seen Kale Breaux pitch, and there has been no explanation of why. He might could be another pitcher to go from the bullpen if his command is good.

I’m going ahead and predicting a sweep. I don’t feel good about it, but I think the Bulldogs will see some different options on the mound in relief. The Bulldogs are the far superior team in terms of talent, so they need to make sure they do what they’re capable of and win all four games this weekend.