Mississippi State junior right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton throws complete game shutout in 4-0 victory over Ole Miss Friday. Photo by: MSU athletics
April 28, 2012 2:08:49 PM
STARKVILLE - The number of scouts lining the back wall at Dudy Noble Field to watch Mississippi State University junior pitcher Chris Stratton may decrease in numbers over the final month of the season.
Over the last two weeks, they've had their estimations confirmed about the right-hander from Tupelo.
In his first complete game effort since his freshman season, Stratton (8-0) dominated a very similar University of Mississippi lineup that knocked him out of the first inning last season in Oxford.
"It's those special moments when you get to coach elite players doing elite things," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said. "It's hard to imagine a lot of pitching performances like that one tonight going on in this country."
It was Stratton's five-hit gem that led the Bulldogs to a convincing 4-0 victory in the series opener Friday night. Now the league leader in victories, Stratton allowed five hits and struck out seven, with only one walk. The Rebels only reached four batters past the minimum.
"I used to be terrible with pitch counts but I've turned the page and am having a lot more fun out there," Stratton said.
It was during a ninth-inning mound visit that convinced Cohen his pitching ace was just fine to finish the rivalry game.
"(Stratton) looked at me and said 'I'm fine' like one of my daughters telling me to get out of her room," Cohen said.
And then Stratton hit 95 miles per hour on a fastball on the radar gun.
"Coach asked me if I had any gas left and I said 'heck yeah I got plenty left'," Stratton said with a smile. "I was finishing this game no matter what."
Ole Miss (27-15, 9-10 in Southeastern Conference) only put eight balls in play out of the infield throughout the two-hour affair and were overmatched by Stratton's ability to throw all four of his pitches in the strike zone consistently.
The Bulldogs (26-16, 9-10 in SEC play) have won five series-opening contests this season. For Stratton, it was his second career complete game with this gem coming on the heels of a complete-game win at Tennessee in 2010. Ironically, Stratton worked nine innings last week against the same Volunteers team but left with no decision in a 2-1, 11-inning victory.
In the series finale last year in Oxford, Stratton failed to get out of the first inning in a 12-4 loss when the Bulldogs were going for the road sweep.
"A new year, better stuff and more confidence," Stratton said.
MSU grabbed a 2-0 lead with two unearned scores in the third inning. After UM starter Bobby Wahl got the first two outs, Frazier made it 35 games with a base hit thanks to a single to left field. An infield error - one of two by UM - extended the at-bat. The Bulldogs took full advantage as Trey Porter and Daryl Norris followed with back-to-back hits. The error scored one run, while Norris' hit scored the other.
Wahl (5-1) got out of the sixth inning on the road in SEC play for the first time this season but struggled with his command all evening to the tune of 110 pitches and only 66 strikes.
"Our goal with Bobby Wahl was to get him to 100 pitches as soon as possible," Cohen said. "Problem is (Ole Miss reliever Aaron) Greenwood is no picnic."
The Bulldogs ran the lead to 3-0 on an RBI-single by Mitch Slauter in the fifth inning. In the seventh inning, a leadoff error again set the tone. Brent Brownlee helped his club cash in with an RBI-double.
The series resumes at 2 p.m. Saturday. SportSouth will have the regional telecast.
Mississippi State (26-16, 9-10) 4,
Ole Miss (27-15, 9-10) 0
W - Chris Stratton (8-0) CG, 5 H, 0 R, BB, 7 K in 104 pitches
L - Bobby Wahl (5-1) 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, ER, 2 BB, 7 K in 110 pitches
MVP: Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton
Turning point: 5th and 6th innings - Chris Stratton combines for 11 pitches in 1-2-3 innings in those two frames.
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