Mississippi State sophomore Adam Frazier rounding third base during one of the two times the Bulldogs leadoff hitter reached base Wednesday. The 25th-ranked Bulldogs upset No. 2 LSU in day two of SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Photo by: MSU athletics
May 23, 2012 5:26:16 PM
HOOVER, Ala. - The Louisiana State University baseball team knew exactly what they were watching in their losing dugout Wednesday afternoon.
"That team is hot right now," LSU first baseman Matson Katz said. "We'e had that look when we got on a roll and won this tournament two years ago."
The hot streak continued for Mississippi State University during day two of the Southeastern Conference Tournament as the 24th-ranked Bulldogs knocked off No. 2 LSU in a dramatic 3-2 victory at Regions Park.
"It doesn't matter what I think or our coaches think because our players think they are on a roll right now," Cohen said. "I'm not trying to be smart but as long as our kids feel that way, then that's what's important. They feel like they can beat anybody in the country."
In a major contrast of styles, top-seeded LSU was hoping to see a lot of pitchers get some work Wednesday.
In the other dugout, MSU (36-21) was counting on throwing their ace on short rest working to their advantage in a victory.
Before the game began, LSU (42-15) received their trophy for winning an outright SEC championship and then spent nine innings and s seven pitchers later essentially mailing in their opening game performance against a motivated and prepared MSU squad.
The Tigers not only treated their tournament opener with the philosophy of an exhibition game but also made fundamental base running mistakes by getting thrown out on a perfectly thrown centerfield assist to third base by MSU outfielder Hunter Renfroe. LSU also ran themselves out of the fifth inning when Katz was nailed trying to steal second base by MSU catcher Mitch Slauter.
MSU junior right-hander Chris Stratton allowed five hits and two earned runs in six innings of work, while becoming MSU's first 11-game winner since Bobby Reed won 15 games in 1990.
"(Stratton) just doesn't get into patterns," Katz said. "He works both sides of the plate as a hard thrower but with very distinct but deceiving off-speed stuff coming out of his hand. He's got a very bright future in front of him."
Stratton (11-1) threw his 10th and the staff's 19th quality start of the season. In two appearances versus LSU this season, Stratton has allowed nine hits and three earned runs, with 25 strikeouts in 14.2 innings of work.
"We knew going into the game there just wouldn't be any margin for error with Stratton because he's really good," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "We've seen him three years now and that's the fourth time he's pitched against us. I'm about ready for that kid to go into professional baseball so I don't have to see him anymore."
Despite knowing LSU would be aggressive early in counts, Stratton still managed to record eight strikeouts Wednesday putting him third all-time at in MSU history with 275 career punchouts. Stratton passed Matt Ginter, B.J. Wallace and Paul Maholm during Wednesday's win over the Tigers.
After LSU starting pitcher Aaron Nola dominated MSU for two perfect innings with three strikeouts, the 1-2 punch at the top of MSU's order would provide back-to-back RBI singles as Adam Frazier and Brent Brownlee gave the Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead.
As an answer to LSU tying the score at 2, MSU took the final lead of the game in the sixth inning. Slauter capped a nine-pitch at-bat with double right center. Demarcus Henderson continued his recent tear with an RBI-single to right center.
"It was a tough adjustment for me last year when great pitchers in this league would make adjustments to go to off-speed," Henderson said. "I'm not satisfied yet because I know I still have a long way to go."
Henderson has battled back strong from injury to his left hand that he still wears padding to protect himself from but hasn't stopped him from going is 5-for-12 with four RBIs in his last three games. Then he made a dramatic lay-out catch in left field on a dying line drive off the bat by LSU's Jones.
"In some respects I was hoping he'd just back up and let that thing bounce," Cohen said. "He came in and made a very athletic play there. That was the play of the game there."
MSU (36-21) will now face fourth-seeded Kentucky (42-15) in a third-round matchup Thursday.
"The kids are playing with confidence right now that is the key," Cohen said. "The main thing is success. When you win, you feel good about yourself and you can't wait to get to the ballpark the next day."
That contest will start 30 minutes after the completion of the 9:30 a.m. elimination game between ninth-seeded Ole Miss (35-23) and top-seeded LSU (42-15). The MSU-Kentucky contest will be televised regionally by SportSouth and will also available on ESPN3.COM (with some blackout areas in the southeast).
No. 24 Mississippi State (36-21) 3,
No. 2 LSU (42-15) 2
W - Chris Stratton (11-1) 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K in 93 pitches
L - Joe Broussard (4-1) 2.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 0 BB, 3 K in 48 pitches
S - Jonathan Holder (8) IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K in 9 pitches
MVP: MSU freshman outfielder Demarcus Henderson - Yeah....he only went 1-for-4 and had two less than superb at-bats end in strikeouts. But in a game that was won with timely hitting, defense and pitching, Henderson provided two of those elements with the game-winning RBI hit and a spectacular catch in left field that denied LSU its last chance to develop momentum late in the game.
Turning point: 7th inning - Henderson's lay-out catch because if that ball isn't caught and gets hehind the freshman outfielder then it's at least a triple for LSU's Jacoby Jones and could've easily tied the score at 3 late in the contest.
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. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT