Mississippi State sophomore Hunter Renfroe hit two home runs in the Bulldogs 11-2 victory over Arkansas Friday night. Photo by: MSU athletics
March 23, 2012 10:38:35 PM
STARKVILLE -- Sophomore Hunter Renfroe has been talked about in the scouting circles for years by professional talent evaluators and showcased a portion of his ability Friday night.
The former 31st-round selection by the Boston Red Sox in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft belted a pair of two-run home runs, the first two of his career, powering Mississippi State (16-7, 2-2 in Southeastern Conference) to an 8-2 win over No. 3 Arkansas (20-3, 3-1 SEC) in the Bulldogs' home opener in league play. The victory marked the Bulldogs' second win in four games against a top 10-ranked opponent.
After hitting a ball to deep centerfield, Renfroe raced around the bases with an inside the park blast in the first inning off Arkansas ace pitcher D.J. Baxendale (5-1).
"Balls don't leave this ball park like that very often," Cohen said. "Hunter has that kind of power and that kind of athleticism. His potential is probably unlike any I've ever coached."
The shot off Renfore's bat was badly misplayed by Razorbacks sophomore outfielder Jacob Morris and as the redshirt sophomore banged against the wall, Renfroe was already rounding second base and easily completed the first inside-the-park home run from an MSU player since Brad Corley completed the trick eight years ago.
"I looked at (MSU third base coach Lane Burroughs) point to home plate as I'm rounding second and thought you are crazy," Renfroe said. "Obviously he knew more about what was going on behind me in the outfield."
Two innings later he extended the MSU lead to 6-1 with a second two-run shot off a belt-high fastball that sailed into the Left Field Lounge.
"I had hit enough home runs in my lifetime that I knew that one was gone," Renfroe said.
Junior right-hander Chris Stratton (5-0), making his first Dudy Noble Field start this season, limited the defending SEC West champion Razorbacks to two runs on five hits while striking out nine over seven innings.
"I telling (MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson) that on a Friday night that's a solid effort," Cohen said. "We would've taken that effort any year I've been here from anybody on our pitching staff. Now it's getting to a point where our expectations are so high."
In front of at least 10 scouts from different Major League Baseball clubs, Stratton was able to control the Razorbacks lineup that came into Starkville hitting .292 as a team with off-speed stuff including a hard-sinking changeup that produced seven ground ball outs.
"Try to keep the ball down and that's all you really can do here," Stratton said. "I left some balls up and dominos started to fall but was able to contain it and pitch a good game."
State scored two runs in each of the first four frames and added three runs in the seventh, two of those coming on a bases-loaded double by Sam Frost.
Tim Carver drove in the first Arkansas run in the third inning with an infield groundout while Sam Bates doubled in the a run.
Baxendale, the first of four Arkansas pitchers in the game, allowed a career-high eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits during his three-plus inning start in absorbing his first loss of the 2012 season.
Friday marked the most runs MSU has put up since March 4 when they defeated Lipscomb 16-6 at Dudy Noble Field.
"In this league on a Friday night, when you can bunch some stuff together - you definitely want that," Cohen said.
For the first time in nearly a month, sophomore outfielder C.T. Bradford returned from the disabled list after suffering a separated shoulder on March 7 in a 10-6 victory against Penn State University.
Bradford's return to the second spot of the MSU lineup produced a 0-for-3 effort at the plate with a walk in the Bulldogs 11-2 victory over No. 3 Arkansas. The sophomore, who was named the most valuable player of the 2011 NCAA Atlanta Regional, was able to make a pair of catches in centerfield.
"C.T. was not seeing the baseball well but what does he do - he gets a walk, a hit by pitch, controls the outfield for us (and) communicates," MSU coach John Cohen said. "He does so much for our club that doesn't show up in a scorecard."
State and Arkansas continue their weekend series Saturday at 2 p.m. Sunday's 12 p.m. series finale will be televised by SportSouth.
Mississippi State (16-7, 2-2) 11,
No. 3 Arkansas (20-3, 3-1) 2
W - Chris Stratton (5-0) 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 9 K in 107 pitches
L - DJ Baxendale (5-1) 3 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 7 ER, BB, 2 K in 75 pitches
Most Valuable Player: Mississippi State sophomore Hunter Renfroe (2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 R, BB)
Turning Point: 1st-4th innings - State scored two runs in each of the first four frames mostly off the ineffectiveness of Arkansas ace pitcher DJ Baxendale.
Next game: Saturday, 2 p.m. vs. No. 3 Arkansas
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.
3. Works in Wood exhibit opens today in West Point ENTERTAINMENT