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Mississippi State versus Ole Miss Baseball Preview

The Egg Bowl rivalry heads to the baseball diamond for a three game set in Oxford.

Kelly Price: @HailStatePics

Game Times and Broadcast Info

Game 1

  • First Pitch: Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
  • Radio: MSU Radio Network
  • Television: ESPNU

Game 2

  • First Pitch: Friday, 6:00 p.m.
  • Radio: MSU Radio Network
  • Television: SEC Network

Game 3

  • First Pitch: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
  • Radio: MSU Radio Network
  • Television: SEC Network+

The Mississippi State Baseball season has turned into quite the roller coaster. After traveling to Arkansas and getting swept, the Bulldogs responded with a sweep of their own in Starkville against Tennessee. Arkansas might end up being better than most of us originally thought, and Tennessee might be worse.

So where does that leave the Bulldogs? I honestly don’t know. I think this team is somewhere close to the middle of the pack, but I would lean towards putting them closer to the bottom than I would closer to the top at this point in the season.

The Ole Miss Rebels will enter this series with a similar overall record as Mississippi State and an identical SEC record as the Bulldogs. Winning this series would be huge for both schools, but considering Ole Miss is still ranked in both polls, it would help build Mississippi State’s national profile up quite a bit more.

2017 Ole Miss Offensive Profile

  • Team Batting Average: .245 compared to Mississippi State’s .295
  • Extra Base Hits: 50 compared to Mississippi State’s 73
  • Home Runs: 19 compared to Mississippi State’s 23
  • Runs Scored: 105 (4.4 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 155 (6.5 per game)
  • Slugging Percentage: .362 to Mississippi State’s .445
  • On Base Percentage: .331 to Mississippi State’s .372
  • Strike Outs: 180 (7.4 per game) to Mississippi State’s 200 (8.3 per game)
  • Stolen Bases: 16 on 27 attempts compared to Mississippi State’s 44 on 55 attempts

This match up is going to be very simple. Ole Miss is the far superior pitching team, and Mississippi State is the far superior hitting team. Whichever team’s strength can overcome the other team’s strength will likely win the series.

Ole Miss does not hit the ball very well which is demonstrated by their incredibly low batting average of just .245. This isn’t surprising since most of the lineup is made up of freshmen and sophomores. Ole Miss had the number one recruiting class according to just about every publication in the country this past recruiting cycle, and they are relying heavily on it. The lineup is taking its lumps now, but it could be very dangerous in a year or two.

The biggest thing the Bulldogs will need to avoid is allowing base runners to reach safely in front of their main power threat Colby Bortles. He leads the team in home runs and RBIs. If the Rebels want to score a lot of runs this weekend, they need men on base when Bortles comes to the plate.

The Bulldogs need to keep their hot hitting going from the Tennessee series into the Ole Miss series. This might be a problem sine the Bulldogs haven’t fared well when they have gone up against some of the better pitching staffs this year.

The key for the Bulldogs offensively has been to have base runners on for Brent Rooker, and the Bulldogs have needed to find ways to protect him in the lineup. The talented outfielder leads the SEC in almost every single offensive category, and this has caused Andy Cannizaro to put forth a peculiar lineup.

Jake Mangum has stayed in the leadoff spot, but Brent Rooker has been moved up from the clean up spot to the two hole. It allows Rooker to have a more probable chance of hitting with someone on, and it has given him some protection with Ryan Gridley behind him.

Much of the focus on the offensive woes for the Bulldogs has been in the hitters behind the top 3. Luke Alexander has cooled off but still sports solid numbers. Elijah MacNamee has turned into a solid contributor, while Josh Lovelady and Tanner Poole have picked up the pace as well. We’ll see if they can keep it going against a very good Rebels pitching staff.

2017 Ole Miss Pitching Profile

  • Team ERA: 2.79 compared to Mississippi State’s 4.66
  • Batting Average Against: .207 compared to Mississippi State’s .249
  • Extra Base Hits Allowed: 51 compared to Mississippi State’s 46
  • Home Runs Allowed: 15 compared to Mississippi State’s 12
  • Strike Outs: 247 (10.3 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 239 (9.95 per game)
  • Walks Allowed: 66 (2.75 per game) compared to Mississippi State’s 113 (4.7 per game)

Ole Miss has relied heavily on some young, talented arms. Only one pitcher with more than 10 innings pitched has an ERA over 4.00 for the Rebels. That belongs to Brady Fiegl who currently isn’t in the weekend starting rotation.

Freshmen James MacArthur and Will Ethridge bookend the rotatation. They have pitched very well, but they often give way to the bullpen early. The Bulldogs will need to chase both of them early if they want a chance to win.

The middle of the weekend has been led by David Parkinson who has been phenomenal. His ERA is 1.93 and hitters are only batting for an average of .198. Parkinson has struck out 36 and walked just 10.

When the Rebels lead in the ninth, they turn to Dallas Woolfolk. He has six saves and has been dominant in those appearances.

Konnor Pilkington and Peyton Plumlee have been solid in their rotation spots, the problem has been either run support or the bullpen blowing leads. Both pitchers have ERAs under 3.00 and hitters hit less than .250 against both of them. Despite this, they have a combined record of 5-4.

Coach Henderson and Cannizaro appear to have settled on going with Jake Mangum for a few innings to start the third game and then turn it over to the bullpen. It’s not been spectacular, but with all the injuries to the pitching staff, there doesn’t appear to be many other options.

While the bullpen has struggled, they performed well last weekend against Tennessee. Riley Self, Jacob Barton, Denver McQuary, and Graham Ashcraft have been the most consistent. Ashcraft started Tuesday night against Memphis, but should be available some this weekend.

When the game has gone to the ninth with a lead, the team has most consistently turned to Spencer Price. He’s upped his save total to 5, and has done a nice job closing the opposition down.

Weekend Prediction

Getting a handle on this series is pretty difficult. It boils down to who you have more trust in, the Mississippi State hitters or the Ole Miss pitchers? I’m not sure which we should have more confidence in.

I could be convinced either team will sweep and everything in between. I’m going to go ahead and predict the Bulldogs to lose 2 out of 3. I think the Ole Miss hitters will be completely overmatched by Pilkington. The Bulldogs might only give him a run or two in support, but that might be all he needs. Since it is in Oxford, I think the Rebels win Friday and Saturday. Having said that, there isn’t an outcome in this series which will surprise me.