FILE - Mississippi State junior right-handed ace Chris Stratton pitched seven scoreless innings in the Bulldogs 3-1 victory at Alabama Friday night. Photo by: MSU athletics
May 4, 2012 10:17:30 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Mississippi State University walked away with a 3-1 victory Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium over the University of Alabama because their starting pitcher already is what the Crimson Tide faithful hope their ace soon becomes.
MSU (28-17, 11-11 in Southeastern Conference) moved back to the .500 mark in league play for the first time this season, Chris Stratton pitched another seven-inning gem leading the Bulldogs to its seventh win in its last eight games.
"It's a been there, done that type of deals," Stratton said. "I've been here and have a lot of confidence in our catcher (Mitch Slauter) in everything he calls."
Stratton (9-0) became the 12th MSU pitcher in school history to reach 100 strikeouts when he fanned Alabama shortstop Jared Reaves in the 6th inning. The junior from Tupelo, who The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog has learned could likely be selected in the Top 10 overall of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft, finished with six punchouts in seven innings while allowing just seven hits.
"Obviously Strat came in and did a phenomenal job tonight for us but I think the secret is out on him that on Friday night in the SEC they're not going to get to two strikes," Cohen said. "They're going to take weaker swings and put balls in play so he's got to be a little more economical with his pitches."
Stratton was nominated as a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award watch list and has allowed just one run over the last 25 innings on the mound. He becomes the first pitcher to nine victories in the SEC this season.
The Bulldogs played the matchup game in the final inning eventually using three pitchers in the last frame ending with freshman Jonathan Holder rolling the team's 53rd double play ball for the final two outs and his second ever collegiate save.
This past fall semester Holder, who was one of the state's best high school talents out of Gulfport, made the decision to drop being a two-way player and focus on the mound for situations just like Friday evening.
"You talk about a kid that doesn't get sped up. A 19-year-old freshman in the best league in America and does a phenomenal job," Cohen said. "We got to get him a little more opportunities like that. That's exactly what we wanted to do in the ninth."
With one out and the winning run at the plate, Holder was called out of the bullpen by MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson for his 14th relief appearance of the season. In a 3-2 count to Alabama pinch hitter James Tullidge, Holder got a sharp ground ball to shortstop Adam Frazier that led to a perfectly flipped 6-4-3 double play.
"Once I saw (Holder) was coming in, I knew (the double play) was coming," Frazier said. "He's done a real good job with keeping stuff low and getting balls like that."
It was a fifth inning of this contest where the maturity level of the two starting pitchers was crystal clear for the announced attendance of 3, 423.
MSU plated two runs after three straight hits to begin the fifth frame and sophomore Adam Frazier and Slauter picking up RBIs. Once Alabama starting pitcher Turnbull (2-4) got out of his rhythm in the third and fifth innings, the freshman began to rush his motion and get himself in many three-ball counts.
Turnbull, a native of Madison, Miss., ended with 97 pitches over just 5 2/3 innings allowing three runs on seven hits pushing his season earned run average to 4.58.
"We watched so much film on him but I think freshman in those cases in the middle innings can lose a little focus," Cohen said. "However, there's no doubt that kid will be an outstanding pitcher in our league."
Junior righty Kendall Graveman (3-3, 3.04) will be matched with Crimson Tide freshman southpaw Jon Keller (1-4, 4.37) on the mound Saturday for a game that starts at 2:05 p.m. A victory would mark the first time Cohen has taken a series against the Crimson Tide program since accepting the job at MSU.
Mississippi State (28-17, 11-11) 3,
Alabama (17-29, 6-16) 1
W - Chris Stratton (9-0) 7 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K in 102 pitches
L - Spencer Turnbull (2-4) 5.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, BB, 2 K in 97 pitches
S - Jonathan Holder (2) 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K in 6 pitches
MVP & Turning point: Jonathan Holder & 9th inning - Freshamn right-hander got Alabama to roll into a 6-4-3 double play with one out and a runner on first and third in a 3-1 game. It was his first save since Feb. 26 and his 14th appearance of the 2012 season.