FILE - Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton (pictured left) accepting the CSpire Ferriss Trophy earlier this month in Jackson. Stratton will get the start Wednesday against top-seed LSU in the 2012 SEC Baseball Tournament. Photo by: MSU athletics
May 23, 2012 4:08:22 AM
HOOVER, Ala. - Mississippi State University baseball coach John Cohen must've got the look his wanted from junior right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton.
Stratton will get the pitching start today as the Bulldogs continue Southeastern Conference Tournament play against top-seeded LSU in game two approximately 30 minutes following the 9:30 a.m. elimination game between the University of Mississippi and the University of Arkansas.
"As I told you before, he's going to have to look us straight in the eye and say 'I feel good and this is something I want to do' because it's not a one-way street," Cohen said. "It's about the young man and doing what in best interest for our club. If he feels good then he'll take the baseball Wednesday."
Stratton (10-1, 2.16), who leads all starting pitchers in earned run average and is second in strikeouts with 115, will get a chance to earn the 24th-ranked Bulldogs (35-21) fifth win in as many games against a ranked opponent. MSU swept the University of Kentucky last weekend and produced a dominating 9-1 victory over 25th-ranked Arkansas Tuesday to open SEC Tournament play.
Cohen and the MSU staff were not interested in risking Stratton's overall health and future problem associated with pitching a 20-year-old on short rest especially after asking him to take the mound one day earlier in the regular season finale against Kentucky. A Thursday night start after a Friday outing is something MSU has had reservations about asking Stratton to do three previous times already this season.
The outing will be the first SEC Tournament start for Stratton in his college career as he pitched the final inning of the elimination game loss last year to Arkansas as the Bulldogs finished the 2011 SEC Tournament with an 0-2 record.
"We're not going to ask Chris to get out of that 6-7 day window of rest on our club," MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said Monday. "We think that he'll be asked to do that soon enough for another organization."
However, the potential of advancing through the top half of the SEC Tournament bracket to face Kentucky for the fourth time in less than a week proved to be too much motivation for a Bulldogs squad trying to possibly backdoor a regional host assignment out of this week of play at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
Stratton struck out an SEC-best 17 batters when he last faced LSU as the junior from Tupelo earned a no-decision on March 16 at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. with the Bulldogs losing that SEC opening game 3-2 in 10 innings.
LSU (41-14) will send freshman right-hander Aaron Nola (6-4, 4.03) to the mound today. Nola, who was the Tigers' Sunday starter in regular season play this season, will likely only be allowed two or three innings before the Tigers go to a revolving door bullpen approach for the remainder of the SEC Tournament opener for them. After winning the Western Division and a bye of out Tuesday's session, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri is saving ace Kevin Gausman (9-1, 2.86) until tomorrow.
"If we were on the NCAA bubble to make a regional appearance then I'd probably have Kevin Gausman pitching in our opening game," Mainieri said Monday. "Outside of that and the idea that you're not going to extend one pitcher into an area he hasn't been before, I think nothing changes in how we approach the game."
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