Mississippi State visits The Ray this weekend for a three game series. The Bulldogs won their first conference series this past weekend against Vanderbilt. That series win improved their conference record to 5-7, the same as South Carolina's.
Pitching: The strength of the Bulldogs team is their pitching staff. Their Friday night starter, Chris Stratton, is as good as any in the conference. The junior right hander is 7-0 with a 2.54 ERA. He has struck out 67 batters and only walked 14. Runs will be at a premium with him on the mound. The likely closer is Caleb Reed. Reed is a senior right hander with 7 saves in 14 appearances. If MSU is leading on Friday night in the late innings, you will almost certainly see him.
Kendall Graveman had been pitching on Sunday, but he was moved to Saturday last weekend. The junior right hander is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA. He doesn't usually go as deep into a game as Stratton, and he's not much of a strike out pitcher, but he's been generally effective this year. The third starting role is in flux. Nick Routt, a junior southpaw, had been handling the role, but three straight losses in short outings relegated him to the bullpen. He will still get some playing time this weekend, and he will probably be the one they will call on if long relief is needed.
Batting: The Bulldogs don't have an overwhelming offensive lineup. Lead off batter Adam Frazier leads the team in average with .362. The starting shortstop, he has also walked 26 times, and has attempted 11 stolen bases. Trey Porter leads the team in home runs with 4 and is batting .296. First baseman Wes Rea has driven in 25 runs and is batting .292, but he has also struck out 34 times already. Centerfielder C.T. Bradford may be a familiar name to some Gamecocks. He is batting .274 with a lone home run.
What the Gamecocks need: South Carolina needs a series win. In the past two weekends USC has won both series and continued their climb up the standings. They need to continue that trend. MSU isn't the best team left on the schedule, and the series is at home, so Carolina must take advantage of this opportunity.
It will be interesting to see if Jordan Montgomery and Colby Holmes can replicate their superb outings from last weekend. If they are, and if USC can get a few timely hits, you have to like the Gamecocks' chances this weekend.
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