Who: LSU at Mississippi State
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Dudy Noble Field, Starkville, Miss.
Radio: WDGL-FM 98.1; WWL-AM, 870
Rankings: LSU is ranked No. 10 by Baseball America, Mississippi State is ranked No. 11 by Baseball America
Friday’s likely starters
LSU – Sr. LHP Jared Poché (8-3, 3.16 ERA, 79.2 IP, 25 BB, 50 K)
MSU – Fr. RHP Denver McQuary (2-2, 3.89 ERA, 39.1 IP, 32 BB, 31 K)
What to watch for: Senior left-hander Jared Poché has been solid in each of his last three starts, all of which have resulted in LSU wins. In those starts, coming against Alabama, South Carolina and Auburn, Poché has yielded six earned runs in 19.1 innings (a 2.79 ERA). He’s had to navigate some tricky situations, most often when he has had trouble finding the strike zone, but Poché has made a career out of somehow escaping jams. The only thing that should give LSU a little cause for concern is that Poché has really had a hard time on the road this season. In four road starts, he’s 1-2 and has allowed 19 earned runs in 16 innings, allowing a whopping 29 hits. Adding to that concern is that Mississippi State entered the weekend hitting .330 against left-handers (75-227) in SEC play. Then again, in Poché’s only other start at Dudy Noble Field (in 2015), he allowed just two runs in nine strong innings.
On the Bulldogs: Mississippi State’s top four hitters have been lethal for opposing pitchers. Ryan Gridley, Brent Rooker, Jake Mangum and Cody Brown entered this weekend hitting .344 as a group and have combined to hit 66 percent of Mississippi State’s home runs (31 of 47) and drive in more than 50 percent of Mississippi State’s runs this season. Those percentages obviously mean the Bulldogs have not gotten as much production from the rest of their lineup this season. The bottom five hitters in the order for Thursday night’s opener had combined for a .255 batting average. Friday night’s starting pitcher Denver McQuary is making his sixth start of the season. Opponents are hitting just .215 against him, but McQuary has not helped himself with a high number of free passes. He’s issued almost a walk per inning this season.