Tuesday, May 21, 2013

MIZZOU MATCHUP: No. 16 Mississippi State Bulldogs

Head Coach: John Cohen (126-111 in 5th season as Alabama Head Coach)

Hoover Metropolitan Stadium – Hoover, AL
Tuesday @ 8 PM CT (CSS, ESPN3)

Missouri (18-31, 11-20 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (40-16, 16-14 SEC)

After the weekend series against Kentucky, Missouri found a way to get into the SEC Tournament as a 12 seed, the lowest seed to make the tournament, and have drawn the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first round. This game is an elimination game, so if the Tigers lose, that will be it for their season. The Bulldogs took the series last weekend against South Carolina convincingly, and expect to roll past Mizzou. They have a 2-0 neutral site record, and an impressive 40-16 mark overall.

Projected Lineup
SS Adam Frazier (L) .338
3B Alex Detz (L) .311
RF Hunter Renfroe (R) .362
2B Brett Pirtle (S) .309
1B Wes Rea (R) .277
CF C.T. Bradford (L) .308
LF Demarcus Henderson (R) .273
C Nick Ammirati (S) .276
DH Derrick Armstrong (R) .250

Position Players
This may be the best 1-9 lineup that the Tigers have faced all year. In the three-hole resides Hunter Renfroe. In my column a couple weeks ago I highlighted him as the SEC leader in isolated power, as one of the best all around hitters in the conference. He is first in the SEC in slugging percentage (.691), and has drawn almost as many walks (33) as he has struck out (34). His OBP of .459 is also good for the team lead. Five of their starters are hitting above .300, which brings the team batting average to .295; good enough for third in the SEC (Vanderbilt leads at .319). Their run production absolutely obliterates their opponents, outscoring them 342-189 which is just a sample of their offensive domination. For the season, there is no major offensive category that the Bulldogs are inferior to their opponents.

Projected Pitching Matchups
LHP Rob Zastryzny (2-9, 3.64 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Fitts (0-0, 1.65 ERA)

The highlight of the Bulldog pitching staff is their bullpen. It is chalked full of guys with ERAs under 2.00, with the capability of striking out a lot of hitters. Tiger hitters will will be facing somewhat of an unknown as Bulldogs coach John Cohen is planning to start a sophomore pitcher with only 21 innings in his entire career at Mississippi State . He has appeared in 12 games this season, with a total of 16 innings pitched, so he probably is not being counted on to go very long as a starter.  In effect, Mizzou may be facing a Johnny Wholestaff situation in this game, with the Bulldogs relying on that deep bullpen against what they obviously consider to be an inferior opponent.

Matchup Wrap-up
The only way I see Missouri winning this game is if they can adjust to a revolving door of pitchers coming in for short stints on the mound.  If they can get to Fitts early and put some quick runs on the board will give Rob Z the confidence of pitching with the lead. This lineup could be the best Mizzou has faced this season, and they will have to put together a complete game to take down the favorited Mississippi State Bulldogs.

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