Junior right-hander Chris Stratton (2-0) picked up his second straight win in relief on a Friday night by completing six innings of one-hit work while striking out eight batters in just 73 total pitches. Photo by: Courtesy of MSU athletics
February 24, 2012 10:48:00 PM
STARKVILLE - Even though John Cohen is known for doing it, even the Mississippi State University fourth-year baseball coach had to resist the obvious bunt call.
As 6-foot-6, 290-pound first baseman Wes Rea walked to the plate in the ninth inning of a scoreless tie, Cohen knew the plan of action had to be a bit different.
"Wes has tremendous baseball instincts for a guy that's never played at this level," Cohen said Friday night. "I told him I wanted him with bunt body language when he walks to the plate but it's hard to bunt a guy that 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds."
The call of hit-and-run with sophomore C.T. Bradford at first base produced the game's only run as Rea ended the festivities with a walk-off double off the left field wall to allow the Bulldogs (3-1) to survive a 1-0 victory over he University of Kansas.
"They'd been beating me up all night (with a fastball) so Coach Cohen put this hit-and-run on to free me up with my long swing," Rea said "It was great coaching on his part because they were convinced I was bunting."
Junior right-hander Chris Stratton (2-0) picked up his second straight win in relief on a Friday night by completing six innings of one-hit work while striking out eight batters in just 73 total pitches.
"They really like the inside pitch so the approach was to keep pounding the strike zone away tonight," Stratton said. "Slider was on tonight and it was fun to pitch with that working."
Stratton, who ended last year with a 5.21 earned run average, had a 92-95 mile-per-hour fastball working with a hard slider to fool hitters from both sides of the batter's box.
"He's stuff is real and big league stuff," Cohen said.
Stratton even had to laugh at himself after Kansas leadoff hitter Connor McKay smacked a line drive off the right thigh of MSU's 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-handed hurler. After a mound visit and an opportunity to collect himself with a few warm-up pitches, Stratton stayed in the game and allowed just two KU base runners the rest of the evening.
"He's really turned the corner in so many different ways," Cohen said. "In the dugout he looked me dead in the eye and said 'Coach two years ago I'd been out of the game right there because I didn't have any muscle in my legs at all'. Just the fact the guy has a sense of humor shows his maturity in many ways."
Kansas (4-1) right-handed starting pitcher Wes Benjamin, who was drafted in the 48th round by the New York Yankees in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of East St. Charles (Ill.) High School took the hard-luck no decision after stifling the MSU lineup for 6 1/3 innings allowing just four scattered hits.
Benjamin also fielded his position to help shut down Bulldog rallies in the game. In the second, after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, the freshman lefty threw a base runner out at third on a sacrifice bunt attempt. While in the fourth, he knocked down a lined shot following a leadoff hit to turn a 1-6-3 double play.
The victory for the Bulldogs marks the third one-run or extra-inning contest they've face already during the 2012 campaign.
"I think in this ballpark we're going to have a lot of that," Cohen said. "Really we scheduled this with that in mind. In our league these are the kind of games you're going to have."
In Friday's opener at Dudy Noble Field, Kansas routed Mississippi Valley State, 9-2.
Mississippi State (3-1) 1,
Kansas (4-1) 0
W - Chris Stratton (2-0) 6 IP, H, 0 R,BB, 8 K
L - Tanner Poppe (0-1) 1.1 IP, H, ER, BB, K
Most Valuable Player: Mississippi State sophomore RHP Chris Stratton - Junior right-hander Chris Stratton (2-0) picked up his second straight win in relief on a Friday night by completing six innings of one-hit work while striking out eight batters in just 73 total pitches.
"Maybe I kind of like it," Stratton joked about the relief role. "We just competed (and) they made great plays behind me all night."
Turning Point: 9th inning - C.T. Bradford drew a full-count walk to open the ninth inning. Rea then ripped the first pitch he saw to the base of the outfield wall to give Mississippi State another home victory.
Next game: Saturday, Noon vs. Mississippi Valley State
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
5. He Out-Ponzied Ponzi BOOK REVIEWS