FILE - Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton pitched nine innings against Tennessee allowing just one run on four hits while striking out 10. Photo by: MSU athletics
April 20, 2012 2:11:41 AM
STARKVILLE - After a dominating nine-inning performance Thursday night, in a game the Bulldogs desperately needed, Chris Stratton once again gave Mississippi State University more than a solid chance to take the opener of a league series.
Stratton, a junior right-hander, allowed just four hits and one run in a 117-pitch effort that included 10 strikeouts in a 2-1 victory in 11 inning over the University of Tennessee in the ESPNU Southeastern Conference game of the week.
In front of scouts from at least 15 professional baseball teams Thursday night, Stratton had complete command of a 93 mile-per-hour fastball, a 81 mile-per-hour changeup, a hard-breaking curveball and a diving slider normally reserved for strike three.
"It's fun, exciting and a pleasure to catch him knowing he'll hopefully play in the big leagues some day and saying 'hey I caught that guy back when'," MSU junior catcher Mitch Slauter said.
Thursday night marked the sixth time Stratton has gone to the mound in the opening game of a SEC weekend series and has yet to lose a game in league play yet. The Tupelo native has a 2.78 earned run average in SEC play this season and MSU is 3-3 when Stratton takes the mound in those games. The Bulldogs are 3-7 in all other league games.
"You can't say enough things about Chris Stratton with the amount of attention he's gotten and the build up for a game like this tonight," MSU coach John Cohen said. "We had a pre-production meeting with ESPN (Thursday) and it felt like we talked about Chris Stratton for 30 minutes and boy did he live up to it."
In a highly competitive pitchers duel in Starkville, Tennessee starting pitcher Steven Godley nearly matched Stratton in every way allowing just one run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings when the junior was pulled after reaching 100 pitches.
Slauter connected with the bases-loaded on a shallow fly ball to score pinch runner Luis Pollorena to end the game in the 11th frame.
MSU got on the scoreboard first when nine-hole hitter Sam Frost stroked a RBI-single to right field that scored freshman outfielder Tyler Fullerton in the fifth inning. The single for Frost ended a 1-for-25 slump for the junior from Hoover, Ala.
After Tennessee (22-16, 7-9) tied the game in the eighth inning, Bulldogs outfielder C.T. Bradford made the game-saving defensive play as he ranged to his left to make a catch and then in one motion threw out a Tennessee runner to end their threat in the 11th frame.
Bradford has battling a partially separated shoulder for nearly the last two months but made up for his 0-for-4 night at the plate with his throw from shallow centerfield.
"You almost expect C.T. to make that play all the time because he just does it every single time," Cohen said. "Of course the tough part is the tag because the ball is skipping off the surface there."
MSU senior preseason All-American closer Caleb Reed (1-5) got his first victory on the mound since the Bulldogs 4-3 victory at Florida in the 2011 Super Regional series on June 11.
"Our kids are fighting so hard that you want them to have success," Cohen said.
The Bulldogs will try for its second straight series victory at home tonight with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch as they will send junior Kendall Grave man (2-2, 3.25) to the mound and Tennessee will counter with freshman Robbie Kidd (2-0, 3.19).
Mississippi State (22-16, 6-10) 2,
Tennessee (22-16, 7-9) 1 - 11 innings -
W - Caleb Reed (1-5): 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K in 30 pitches
L - Drew Steckenrider (4-3): 3 IP, H R, 2 BB, 2 K in 60 pitches
MVP: Mississippi State RHP Chris Stratton: 9 IP, 4 H, R, 0 BB, 10 K in 117 pitches
Turning point: After Tennessee (22-16, 7-9) tied the game in the eighth inning, Bulldogs outfielder C.T. Bradford made the game-saving defensive play as he ranged to his left to make a catch and then in one motion threw out a Tennessee runner to end their threat in the 11th frame.
Numbers of the day
4 - Number of game-winning RBIs for junior Mitch Slauter this season. The number leads MSU in that statistical category.
88 - Number of strikeouts for MSU junior pitcher Chris Stratton this season. The number tops all hurlers in the Southeastern Conference is just five behind Duke University's Marcus Stroman for the nation's lead.
.349 - The batting average of MSU sophomore third baseman Daryl Norris. The last time MSU had a player lead the team with an average that low was 1995 when Brian Clark registered a team-best .314 mark.
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.
2. Science Fiction's Greatest Controversy BOOK REVIEWS