May 15, 2010 11:11:00 PM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- Senior Day was dashed Saturday and at the precipice of a league win. Mississippi State imploded in a 13-7 extra-innings loss to Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State relief pitcher C.C. Watson walked in a run, gave up a two-run double and an RBI single in the 10th inning after the Bulldogs gave up two runs with a 5-3 lead in the ninth.
As gray clouds moved in and swirling winds kicked up dirt, Mississippi State ( 21-30, 5-21 Southeastern Conference) gave up eight runs in a disastrous 10th inning.
The Bulldogs used five relief pitchers in the final two innings of the disturbing loss.
MSU coach John Cohen, who has seen his team have multi-run leads in close to half its losses, refused to rue Saturday''s defeat as the tipping point in a trying second season as the Bulldogs coach.
"They''re all equally excruciating," Cohen said. "The rule of thumb in our league is, ''nobody lets freshmen beat them.'' On your club, you don''t let freshmen win or lose a game for you. We have no choice and that''s as simple as I can make it. Our freshmen win or lose games for us."
Yet another lead was squandered after the Bulldogs let a 5-1 lead escape their grasp Friday.
MSU had an errorless game in the field and starting pitcher Chris Stratton threw 143 pitches and went eight innings, giving the Bulldogs their best outing from a starting pitcher since Tyler Whitney gave up one earned run in seven innings in the series opener against Ole Miss.
Stratton gave up four earned runs on nine hits and struck out eight batters.
Stratton left to a standing ovation and was replaced by Devin Jones, who faced two batters before MSU opted to replace him with Ben Bracewell, who quickly got into a bases loaded jam.
Bracewell''s spotty location yielded two Vanderbilt runs as a wild-pitch ended up on the protective netting behind home plate and Joe Loftus was beaned to bring in a run.
The 5-5 deadlock was escaped without further damage when Sam Frost charged a ground ball and got an out at first.
The 10th inning, however, crumbled through the arms of freshmen Bracewell, C.C. Watson and Matt Lane and evoked the hindsight thoughts of lifting Stratton in the ninth after he''d walked the first batter he faced.
Stratton said there was no conversation with Cohen or pitching coach Butch Thompson about not starting the final frame after he told the coaching staff he felt fine.
When asked how his arm felt after 143 pitches during the ninth, Stratton replied "It was ninth."
"I gave it all I had, I left everything out there," Stratton said. "(We) almost got there. We never stopped competing and that''s all you can ask for. Everybody''s out there competing and you can''t ask for anything else. Bracewell''s arm, he''s been competing all year trying to keep healthy. I''m just proud of the way he came in and tried to do his job."
Vanderbilt (38-13, 14-10), on the other hand, took advantage of Stratton''s departure in the 10th with a two-run double by Andrew Giobi and a three-run double double by Mike Yastrzemski.
The ninth inning, though, left Cohen dejected at the inability to challenge the strike zone. But as the skipper, he was aware of his bullpen options and thought Bracewell, whose worked through an elbow injury this season, gave the team the best option when Jones struggled.
"It''s difficult with the way (Bracewell''s) arm is right now, but we feel like he''s the one guy with the four saves who''s been out there when the game''s one the line," Cohen said. "For the most part, he''s thrown the most strikes out of any of our freshmen. So when Devin didn''t challenge the strike zone as much as we wanted to, we thought ''hey, a ball might leave the yard, we might give up a double here but certainly Ben Bracewell''s going to keep it in the strike zone.'' And that''s not what happened."
Seniors Russ Sneed. Ryan Duffy and Jet Butler were responsible for the Bulldogs'' first three runs as the latter opened the scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. Duffy opened the fourth inning with a first-pitch solo home run and Butler immediately followed with an RBI double.
Jaron Shepherd had a two-run double in the fifth to give MSU a 5-1 lead before Stratton gave up a two-run shot to Giobi in the sixth.
Duffy led MSU with two hits on three plate appearances, while Johnathan Ogden had a two-run homer in the 10th to soften the score line.
Vandy third baseman Jason Esposito went 5 for 5 with an RBI.
MSU returns to the field for today''s 1:30 p.m. start of the final home game at Dudy Noble Field this year. Cohen was unsure of who would start the game for MSU.