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MSU pitchers have dominating starts

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- John Cohen couldn''t have imagined a better start to the season by his pitching staff. 

 

After posting consecutive shutouts in its first two games of the season, the Mississippi State baseball team capped Saturday''s doubleheader with a 10-1 win against the University of Akron. 

 

Sophomores Chad Girodo and Luis Pollorena (win) combined to pitch seven-plus innings, surrendering one earned run on four hits. 

 

Saturday''s nightcap followed a gem by Chris Stratton in a 2-0 win against Lamar in Game 1 and Devin Jones'' one-hit, 67-pitch showing against Akron on Friday. 

 

The performance weren''t a bad way to start, considering MSU''s troubles on the mound last season. 

 

"We came out here and played great," Stratton said. "It was a great atmosphere, and I''m glad our pitchers could really set the tone. We put up some runs, too, so it was good." 

 

MSU opened the season with 22 2/3 scoreless innings and back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1994. 

 

The Bulldogs have used three first-year pitchers, including two freshmen, in their first three games this season. MSU''s young arms haven''t allowed a hit in the six innings they''ve thrown. 

 

The Bulldogs (3-0) will ride another new arm, junior college transfer Tim Statz, at 2:30 p.m. today against Lamar (0-2). 

 

Though MSU''s pitchers have opened the season on a roll, Cohen is cautiously optimistic. 

 

"Again, it''s 56 games and we''re three into it," Cohen said. "Your measuring stick is the Southeastern Conference, and that''s a very high level. I think everybody goes through the same thing in our league early on." 

 

Still, the Bulldogs are encouraged by a start that has seen them score 23 runs and concede just one. 

 

MSU had 17 hits against Akron on Saturday, led by Daryl Norris'' five RBIs. The freshman, who pitched two shutout innings Friday, started at first base and went 3-for-5. 

 

Norris had an RBI single in the first inning and an RBI double in the second before clearing the bases with a triple in the sixth to give MSU a 10-1 lead. 

 

Norris, who batted cleanup, got great production ahead of him from Nick Vickerson, Brent Brownlee, and Jarrod Parks, all of whom combined for six hits. 

 

"I was just following on these guys in front of me," Norris said, "just have these guys to show me how to do it and make good swing after good swing. It feels good to come out there, get my first start and play well." 

 

Akron''s Zach Yike was charged with all 10 of the runs. He allowed 13 hits and didn''t record a strikeout. 

 

Vickerson and Parks each had RBIs in the second to help MSU take a 6-0 lead. 

 

For Girodo, the run support was welcomed. 

 

"Getting two right off the bat, it''s just easy for the pitcher to go out there and kind of coast," he said. 

 

The Bulldogs enjoyed their third-straight errorless game after leading the SEC in errors last season. 

 

n MSU 2, Lamar 0: The Bulldogs opened play Saturday with a another shutout. 

 

Stratton (1-0) gave up six hits in six innings. He broke his single-game best of nine strikeouts with 10. Caleb Reed picked up the save, allowing two hits in three innings. 

 

Stratton got into a bases-loaded jam in fourth but struck out Pablo Salinas and Joey Latulippe to end the inning. 

 

"His velocity is very good," Cohen said. "He sat at 90-91 (mph), threw a couple of 94s. Not that that''s the most important thing in the world, but it means his arm is fresh." 

 

Parks went 2-for-3 and had an RBI double in the fifth, while Nick Vickerson had an RBI double in the third. 

 

Stratton was pleased to pick up a win in his first start, though he wasn''t satisfied with his pitch efficiency, and bemoaned how long it took him to close innings. 

 

However, after averaging 14 seconds in between pitches he was pleased to have great tempo in his first outing. 

 

"Tempo is a big thing, especially with these bats," Stratton said. "Just making sure (hitters) don''t have the time to think about much and just getting in there and getting out. 

 

"I credit my catcher, Wes Thigpen, who is one of the best catchers I''ve ever thrown to. He''s a great coach and gave me the right pitches to throw." 

 

Cohen said Stratton didn''t want to come out of the game after the sixth inning, which is a good indicator of how strong his arm felt after 105 pitches. 

 

Cohen was excited to see Reed build on his preseason form, as he has raved about the junior''s drastic turnaround from last season. 

 

"I was telling Butch, I never really thought Caleb Reed would be able to spin the baseball the way he has for the last six-eight months," Cohen said. "He''s gonna be very difficult for right-handed hitters to deal with. The depth of his slider and the movement of his fastball is very good." 

 

 

 

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