Mississippi State and Virginia are rather similar from a starting pitching standpoint. Neither team has overly dominant starting pitchers, but both clubs have starters that know how to pitch.
Starting with the Bulldogs, that rotation is led by right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman. Graveman will get just a hair over 90, but the big thing with him is his pitchability, command and mixing of pitches. Graveman pounds the strike zone and has a 2.94 ERA in 98 innings of work.
Left-handed pitchers Luis Pollorena and Jacob Lindgren finish out the weekend rotation. Both Pollorena and Lindgren are 90-plus throwing lefties, but like Graveman, the key to their performances are command, with Pollorena struggling with it at times.
Pollorena has a 4.32 ERA in 77 innings, along with 59 strikeouts and 35 walks, while Lindgren, who could be a very solid prospect next summer, has a 4.18 ERA in 56 innings of work.
For the Cavaliers, Scott Silverstein spearheads the weekend rotation. Silverstein is a 90-plus throwing arm and has a 2.86 ERA in 88 innings of work. He also has struck out 69 and walked 25, while teams are hitting him at a .261 clip.
Meanwhile, keep an eye Nick Howard and Brandon Waddell. Howard has a 3.38 ERA in 61 1/3 innings of work, while Waddell is one of the better freshman arms in the country. Waddell can touch 90 with his fastball, but also utilizes a good changeup. Waddell has a 3.80 ERA in 85 1/3 innings of work, along with 81 strikeouts and 21 walks.
The bullpens are the strengths of these two clubs entering the weekend.
The Cavaliers, before the season, opted to put talented left-handed pitcher Kyle Crockett in the bullpen instead of the starting rotation, and that move certainly has paid off. Crockett, who has a 90-plus FB, reminds you of Danny Hultzen from a motion standpoint, and has a 1.68 ERA and 12 saves in 53 2/3 innings of work.
The Cavaliers have plenty of other arms to watch, too. For instance, David Rosenberg earned a win last weekend against Elon and has a 1.19 ERA in 30 1/3 innings of work, Josh Sborz has a 1.84 ERA in 49 innings, and Austin Young, another rising arm, has a 2.25 ERA in 32 innings.
Also keep an eye on veteran right-handed pitcher Whit Mayberry. Mayberry has appeared in 22 games and has a 2.45 ERA in 51 1/3 innings of work.
For Mississippi State, pitching coach Butch Thompson has absolutely no problem mixing and matching the entire contest. The State bullpen obviously is led by husky and hard-nosed closer Jonathan Holder, who tops out at 93-94 with his fastball along with a filthy breaking ball.
Chad Girodo has been a workhorse for the Bulldogs this season and was terrific last weekend. He has a 1.10 ERA in 41 innings of work, while Ross Mitchell has a 1.41 ERA in 83 innings, Ben Bracewell has a 1.48 ERA in 20 innings, Trevor Fitts has a 2.28 ERA in 23 2/3 innings and Myles Gentry has risen to the occasion in some huge spots this spring, and has a 3.69 ERA in 31 2/3 innings of work, along with a .200 opponent batting average.
Mississippi State had one of the nation's elite pitching staffs last season, but didn't have the offense to get to the College World Series. This season, the Bulldogs still have a solid pitching staff, only this time, the offense is significantly better than last year's club.
The Bulldogs enter the weekend hitting .293 as a club with first-round pick Hunter Renfroe leading the charge. Renfroe is an elite defender with a huge arm in the outfield, but he's also an elite hitter, taking a huge step forward at the plate this season. Renfroe is hitting .352 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs.
Shortstop Adam Frazier has a good bounce in his step and is hitting .344 with 33 RBIs, while designated hitter Alex Detz and second baseman Brett Pirtle have been consistent, with Pirtle rising up the past few weeks. Pirtle is hitting .310 with two homers and 31 RBIs.
C.T. Bradford and Sam Frost also are worth watching this weekend, while first baseman Wes Rea is a potential game-changer for MSU. Rea is only hitting .276 on the season, but has impressive power with six homers and 35 RBIs.
As for the Cavaliers, Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor thought his club might be solid at the plate this spring, but I'm not sure even he expected the club to be this productive, entering the weekend with an impressive .313 batting average.
Mike Papi has been a big-time hitter for the Cavaliers this spring. Papi is a pure hitter for the Hoos. In addition to hitting .393 with six homers and 55 RBIs, he has a good eye at the plate, too, with 43 walks and only 22 strikeouts this season. Papi has an incredible .527 OBP.
Shortstop Brandon Cogswell won't start this weekend because of a broken finger, but should see some action according to O'Connor. Cogswell is hitting .346 with 22 RBIs, while Joe McCarthy has earned rave reviews from opposing coaches and is hitting .333 with four homers and 50 RBIs.
Others to keep an eye on include two-way player Nick Howard, athletic Brandon Downs, versatile outfielder Derek Fisher and Reed Gragnani.
Howard is hitting .318 with nine homers and 58 RBIs, Fisher is hitting .306 with seven homers and 47 RBIs and Gragnani, a veteran, is hitting .301 with three homers and 48 RBIs. I'd also keep an eye on Jared King, who enters the weekend with a .287 average.
As you can see, the Cavaliers have a lot of depth from an offensive standpoint.
The Cavaliers were very stable with Brandon Cogswell at shortstop, but with he still out with an injury (at least in the field), Virginia once again will have to shift things with Nick Howard moving from third base to shortstop.
As with Mississippi State, the Cavaliers have a very athletic outfield with Brandon Downs leading the charge, while State has a very good outfield with Demarcus Henderson and Hunter Renfroe leading the way. Renfroe also has a plus arm from the outfield.
In the infield, I give Mississippi State the edge. Shortstop Adam Frazier has a nice bounce in his step with fantastic instincts, while second baseman Brett Pirtle has played exceptionally well over the past few weeks.
We typically know what to expect from Mississippi State, but it'll be interesting to see what the Cavaliers do defensively this weekend.