A set of conference foes are prepared to matchup on the diamond Sunday night as the final two teams to take the field in Omaha for the College World Series. The Mississippi State Bulldogs are the favorites over the Auburn Tigers who have gotten hot at the right time, but in sports, it’s often about which team is hotter rather than which is better. Can the Tigers keep things going as the venue changes to TD Ameritrade Park? Or will the Bulldogs get the better of Auburn in this matchup as they did in a head-to-head series earlier this season.
First pitch for the game between Mississippi State and Auburn is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The matchup will be shown on ESPN2.
You can bet on College World Series odds at BookMaker.eu.
Odds and rankings a side for a moment, these two teams have already met in a three-game series in conference play this season.
Auburn managed to steal the series opener before the Bulldogs came roaring back in commanding fashion, winning the series in Starkville and outscoring the Tigers 40 to 23. It was the offenses that were the story of that series.
While the series shows Mississippi State taking care of business, it also had Auburn stealing the first game. Perhaps more importantly, it happened in mid-March. These teams have changed since then.
To make it to Omaha, the Bulldogs put together a 51-13 season that included a 14-8 record away from home. The hosted the Regionals and Super Regionals but breezed through them winning all five games as the pitching held the opposition to two or fewer runs in all but one of those five.
As for the Tigers, they upset the No.3 overall team in Georgia Tech in the Regionals, winning back-to-back games. From there, they took two of three from another ranked team in No.14 UNC in the Super Regionals with some offensive firepower.
On the season, Auburn is just .500 away from home.
The biggest difference between these two schools here is Ethan Small.
The Brewers’ first-round pick is likely to get the ball for Mississippi State, bringing a 10-2 record and 1.76 ERA to the hill. He’s pitched to a remarkable 0.853 WHIP in 102 innings while striking out a staggering 168 batters.
Honestly, the Tigers don’t have an answer for that. Their ace, Tanner Burns, could get the start, but they’re nursing his sore shoulder and thus won’t push him even if he does start. He went two innings and got the momentum going in the Super Regionals against the Tar Heels. He’d likely go further if not for the big early lead, but still needs to be monitored.
Even when healthy, though, he’s not Small. Burns has a solid 2.73 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, both good, but not as dominating as Small. Burns, however, can matchup up on the strikeout front with 100 in 79 innings of work.
Beyond the starters, the Auburn staff is very much an all-hands-on-deck approach. As such, they’ll be a bit better offer against Mississippi State than they likely will against their next opponent given the time off.
Auburn’s team has a 4.49 ERA and only three arms, Burns, Jack Owens, and Cody Greenhill with a sub-4 ERA.
On the other side of this matchup, the Bulldogs boast a team ERA of 3.47 and a 10.8 K:9 rate. There is a lot of swing and miss on this staff. Closer Cole Gordon has 65 strikeouts in 40.2 innings while notching 11 saves and a 3.76 ERA. Set up man Colby White pitched just 25.2 innings this year but had 47 strikeouts of his own and a 3.16. His stuff is electric, so much so that he ended up drafted in the sixth round by the Rays without being a starter or closer on his college team, quite a feat.
Based on the season long numbers, there’s not really a comparison between these teams at the plate. The Bulldogs have a .317 team average while the Tigers don’t even have a single hitter batting over .300.
On top of the clear difference in contact, Mississippi State also has 15 more home runs and a team OBP that is 41-points higher.
There were understandable concerns about the Auburn offense coming into the tournament, but those have quieted down substantially after a huge offensive explosion against North Carolina in the Super Regionals.
After upsetting Georgia Tech in the regionals, scoring just enough, the Tigers combined for 25 runs in their two wins over the Tar Heels. Granted, in their Super Regionals loss, they failed to score in the other game.
There are some consistency concerns though Auburn’s bats delivered 15 runs in the series finale between the Bulldogs and Tigers earlier this year, albeit in a loss.
Since the start of the tournament, Steve Williams has stepped up in a big way with some big hits late in a game to give the team the go-ahead and winning runs. Against UNC, first baseman Rankin Woley and third baseman Edouard Julien each had two three-hit games.
The offense will need to keep rolling to have a chance in this one. After all, Mississippi State is the better offense on paper.
Center fielder Jake Mangum is the key to the Bulldog offense. The fourth-round pick of the New York Mets had some ups and downs but seems to be back on track and leads the team with 103 hits. He doesn’t offer much pop but will lace a few doubles and get on base. He’s batting .355 and can wreak havoc on the bases with his speed.
Behind Mangum, Justin Foscue and Dustin Skelton offer pop. Both are hitting over .315 with power. Meanwhile, Tanner Allen has a .348 average and is a doubles machine with a team high 64 RBI. Every player on the team with at least 50 at bats has a .280 or better average and OBP north of .350.
The Auburn offense has been surging, look for that to slow down again against a strong Mississippi State pitching staff. Meanwhile, bank on the Bulldogs’ bats to keep chugging along now that it seems Mangum has found his groove again at the top of the order.
Look for Mangum to set the table while a plethora of options could come through to drive him—and others—in.
On the mound, Ethan Small was a first-round pick for a reason and should be able to answer the likes of Steve Williams who, despite some heroics in the Regionals and a homer against him earlier this year, doesn’t seem likely to sustain that success with the time off before this College World Series bout.
Take Mississippi State to grab the win at BookMaker.eu.
MLB Odds: Mississippi State 9, Auburn 4
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