The Crimson Tide travel to Starkville this weekend to play the 15th ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs in the opening weekend of SEC play. The Tide should be well rested as they had a doubleheader with Alabama A&M rained out on Tuesday. 'Bama is looking to get off to a fast start in conference play.
Unlike the traveling Tide, the Bulldogs have played all 19 of their games at home in the friendly confines of Dudy Noble Field. The 'Dogs have forged a 15-4 record and have had two games rained out thus far. State will finally travel next weekend when they go to Lexington to play the Kentucky Wildcats.
Friday UA, Taylor Guilbeau 2-1 2.67 ERA vs MSU, Preston Brown 3-1, 1.93 ERA
Saturday, UA, Will Carter 1-1 4.35 ERA vs MSU, Austin Sexton 2-0, 2.61 ERA
Sunday, UA, Geoffrey Bramblett 3-1 3.22 ERA vs MSU, Vance Tatum 2-0, 1.99 ERA
The Tide is sticking with their same early season rotation and needs the starters to give them at least six good innings to shorten the game and get into the hands of Ray Castillo and Thomas Burrows on the back end. MSU coach John Cohen is known to use multiple pitchers per game depending on match-ups and is a master at it. Ten 'Dog pitchers have appeared in at least four games already this season.
Offensively what jumps out about the Bulldogs is their 113 walks and 32 hit by pitches and only 114 strikeouts. That ratio is excellent and leads to a very high on base percentage (.428 as a team). Six regulars have walked more than they have struck out. Jacob Robson leads the way with a .396 batting average with 18 walks and 11 stolen bases. Seth Heck has a .384 average followed by Cody Brown at .372. Tuscaloosa native, Hillcrest High graduate, and Shelton State product Jake Vickerson is hitting .361. Big Wes Rea checks in at .342 and is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 11. Ryan Gidley also has 11 runs driven in and is hitting .339. Brent Rooker has driven in 11 in only 32 at bats and has a .250 batting average. As a team the Bulldogs are hitting .297 and have stolen 23 bases in 31 attempts.
Trevor Fitts is the closer and has four saves with a 0.75 ERA. Fitts is set up by Zac Houston, 2.08 ERA, Daniel Brown, 2.08 ERA, and Ross Mitchell, 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA. Mitchell typically pitches multiple innings and has been a thorn in the Tide's side in past seasons. The team has a 2.83 ERA and an outstanding walk (67) to strikeout (170) ratio in 172 innings pitched.
Offensively for the Tide, Casey "Casey Baseball" Hughston continues to lead the way, batting an even .500 (30-60) on the season with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 21 runs driven in, 50 total bases, a .833 slugging percentage, a .515 on base percentage and seven stole bases in seven attempts. Mikey White is having an outstanding early season, hitting .370 with eight doubles, four triples, 12 RBIs and 18 runs scored, all while only making one error at shortstop. Kyle Overstreet checks in with a .288 mark and is second on the team with 16 RBIs. Center fielder Georgie Salem leads the team with nine stole bases, and has not made an error in 78 straight games. Riley Colburn received the first three starts of his career this past weekend and responded by going 4-9 and reaching base seven times. He likely has earned the left field job, and lead off spot for the time being. Chance Vincent had his best weekend of the season, also going 4-9 to raise his average to .216. Vincent is fourth on the team with eight runs driven in. 'Bama is hitting .281 as a team with a .351 on base percentage and a .414 slugging percentage, with 38 doubles, seven triples and five home runs, and has 21 stolen bases in 26 attempts.
The bullpen for Alabama is lead by Castillo and Burrows. Castillo has been outstanding with a 1-0 record and two saves with 0.66 ERA in six appearances. Over 13.2 innings the junior right hander has allowed only seven hits with two walks and 15 strikeouts. Burrows has two hard luck losses and a 0-2 record with a 2.70 ERA in his seven trips to the mound. The sophomore lefty has pitched 10 innings, allowing nine hits, three runs, with six walks and 16 strikeouts. Jake Hubbard has thrown the ball well out of the bullpen, and also has started two games. Hubbard is 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA in 12 innings, allowing 11 hits while walking four and striking out 13. Mitch Greer has yet to allow a run in his five appearances. J.C. WIlhite has a save and a 3.86 ERA in his four games pitched. Jay Shaw is a big piece of the puzzle for the Tide out of the 'pen, and is just now recovering from an early season concussion. Freshmen Alex Watkins, Jake Walters and Zac Rogers may also be called on for duty.
'Bama has a team ERA of 3.79 in 133 innings pitched, with 61 walks and 124 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .226 off of the Tide. Catcher Will Haynie has thrown out eight out of 17 runners attempting to steal this season. The Tide has only committed 13 errors and is fielding at a .978 clip, which is very good.
The three game series will help set the tone for SEC play, and the Tide needs to get off to a good start. If Guilbeau and Bramblett continue to pitch as well as they have to begin the season, and can get the Tide to Castillo and Burrows, the teams chances of series win will increase dramatically. Carter needs to get deeper into the game then he has in his last couple of starts, to allow 'Bama a chance to win.
Update: Friday's opener is rained out in Starkville tonight. Doubleheader Saturday starts at 1 p.m. Saturday's second game will be approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1. Sunday's finale will be at 1:30 p.m. All times are CST and all games can be streamed on SEC Network Plus, and followed on twitter @rogerpatmyers,
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