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Mississippi State at Oregon Baseball Preview

The Bulldogs head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Ducks in a three game set.

Kelly Price: @HailStatePics

Game Times and Broadcast Info

Game 1

  • First Pitch: Friday, 8:00 p.m.
  • Radio: MSU Radio Network
  • Television: PAC-12 Network

Game 2

  • 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: PAC-12 Network

Game 3

  • First Pitch: Sunday, 2:00 p.m.
  • Radio: MSU Radio Network
  • Television: SEC Network+

In 2016, the Mississippi State Baseball team made their first big statement when they swept top 10 Oregon of the PAC-12. It turned out the Ducks weren’t nearly as good as we thought they were, but the sweep gave the Bulldogs tons of confidence as they were preparing for SEC competition.

If the Bulldogs were to win the series in 2017, it won’t come with the hype it received a season ago. Oregon enters the series with a record of 4-3 and the Bulldogs come to Eugene with a 6-3 record. The battle between the Ducks and Dogs will be a match-up of strength versus strength and weakness versus weakness.

Whenever the baseball team is as far away as they will be for this series, there is always the possibility a travel restriction will be placed on Sunday’s game. The Bulldogs aren’t flying back until Monday, so it shouldn’t be an issue this time around.

2017 Oregon Offensive Profile

  • Team Batting Average: .240 compared to Mississippi State’s .313
  • Extra Base Hits: 13 compared to Mississippi State’s 34
  • Home Runs: 5 compared to Mississippi State’s 11
  • Runs Scored: 34 (4.9 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 76 (8.4 per game)
  • Slugging Percentage: .344 to Mississippi State’s .498
  • On Base Percentage: .385 to Mississippi State’s .408
  • Strike Outs: 56 (8 per game) to Mississippi State’s 72 (8 per game)
  • Stolen Bases: 3 on 6 attempts compared to Mississippi State’s 23 on 26 attempts

The biggest weakness for the Oregon Ducks is their hitting, much like it was a season ago. The biggest strength for the Bulldogs is their hitting in 2017. But that doesn’t mean the Ducks are to be taken lightly.

The Ducks only hit .240, but they still get runners on base. To have an OBP 145 points better than your team batting average is impressive. The Ducks average almost 6 walks a game, so it will be imperative for the Bulldog pitchers to throw strikes.

Both teams have a problem striking out. Each has struck out an average 8 times a game. Andy Cannizaro has said those who are striking out too much will likely see a decrease in playing time. The most likely candidates to suffer such a fate would be Cole Gordon and Brant Blaylock. Each player has struck out 11 times in 23 at bats. I’m not saying they won’t receive any more starts or playing time, but they are going to have to cut down on those when they get on the field or the risk is there.

Another problem both teams have is they are getting lots of production from about half their lineup and almost nothing from the other half. The Bulldogs have five players who are regular starters hitting .378 or above, and everyone else is hitting .227 or below. Oregon is even worse. They have three regular starters who are hitting .292 to .308. The rest of the hitters with 10 or more at bats are hitting .250 or lower.

The biggest offensive threat for Oregon is Daniel Patzlaff. He’s hitting .300 with 2 of the Ducks’ 5 home runs and has driven in 7 runs. He’s slugging .600 on the young season with a .423 on-base percentage.

Mississippi State will look for Rooker, Mangum, Alexander, and Gridley to lead the way at the top of the lineup. Andy Cannizaro said Hunter Stovall will be back in the lineup, so he’ll provide some much needed life at the bottom of the order. If the Bulldogs want the season to end in the postseason, they need more from their third outfielder, first base, DH, and catcher. No one has made much of an impact in those positions.

2017 Oregon Pitching Profile

  • Team ERA: 4.05 compared to Mississippi State’s 5.31
  • Batting Average Against: .259 compared to Mississippi State’s .248
  • Extra Base Hits Allowed: 18 compared to Mississippi State’s 14
  • Home Runs Allowed: 7 compared to Mississippi State’s 4
  • Strike Outs: 59 (8.4 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 86 (9.6 per game)
  • Walks Allowed: 16 (2.3 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 41 (4.6 per game)

Oregon’s strength is their pitching, and more specifically, their bullpen. David Peterson has been the Ducks starter on Friday night so far this season, and he has been less than stellar. He currently has an ERA 8.10 and a record of 1-1. While Peterson has been subpar, the other two starters have been spectacular in very limited roles.

Matt Mercer has an ERA of 1.74 and a record of 1-1. In 10.1 innings, he’s struck out 12 and walked just three while opponents have hit a minuscule .167 against him. Cole Stringer has been almost as good. His ERA is 2.45, but batters are hitting .293 against him 11 innings. Stringer has surrendered hits, so the Bulldogs will need to make sure they get base runners on. Neither pitcher has done a good job going deep into games, but much of that has been by design.

Most of the bullpen pitchers have yet to give up an earned run. The long relief pitcher James Acuna has carried most of the load. He’s pitched in 5.2 innings and cleaned up any messes that have needed cleaning. The closer is Kenyon Yovan. He’s allowed just one hit in both save opportunities.

Konnor Pilkington will get the start Friday, and he bounced back really well in his start against Indiana State last Friday. Pilkington went 8 innings and didn’t give up a single run on the night. He brought his ERA down to 3.18 while striking out 13 hitters on the season and walking just one. Opposing hitters are hitting just .195 against him.

Peyton Plumlee has had two really nice starts to begin the season, and he will get the call on Saturday. He’s only given up one earned run in 14 innings for an ERA of 0.64. Plumlee has struck out 12 and only walked two. Hitters are only hitting .146 against Plumlee.

The Sunday starter won’t be announced until later on. Graham Ashcraft could get the start but Andy Cannizaro said they may bring him out of the bullpen. If Pilkington and Plumlee can go deep into the game on Saturday or Sunday, he might still get the start. If he has to come in the game before Sunday, then don’t count on it. Riley Self could be an option, as could Ryan Cyr. The problem with Cyr is he has yet to have a good start. We’ll know more after the Bulldogs pitch on Friday and Saturday.

The bullpen has been State’s biggest issue. Ryan Rigby will likely not be available, or at least limited, this weekend due to a recurring groin injury. Blake Smith has been injured as well, and won’t be available. It might explain the slow start to 2017.

If the Bulldogs don’t have to go more than three or four deep in their bullpen in a series, the bullpen should be fine. It’s when they have to keep reaching into the well that things get scary. And with Rigby being at best limited, it’ll be imperative for the starters to go as deep as possible this weekend.

Weekend Prediction

Which weakness will take advantage of the other the most and which strength will be able to keep the other team’s strength in check are the questions surrounding this series. I’m picking the Bulldogs to win two games to one.

I have more confidence that Pilkington and Plumlee will be able to go deep in the game and shut down a meager Oregon lineup than I do in Oregon’s talented arms to shut down a very potent State lineup. My confidence in this pick is not very high. At worst, the Bulldogs need to come out of this series with at least one win, but I do believe State can win two.