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Stratton helps Bulldogs bounce back

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Chris Stratton''s scoreless streak continued Saturday in the Mississippi State baseball team''s 5-3 victory against Belmont. 

 

The sophomore earned his second straight win of the season after giving up four hits and no runs in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out 13 and sat down the Bruins in order in five innings. 

 

Stratton''s 13 strikeouts are the most for the Bulldogs (6-1) since Todd Doolittle had 13 in a Southeastern Conference tournament game in 2005. 

 

Stratton (2-0) said all of his pitches were effective in the 100-pitch outing. 

 

"He can really elevate a team''s strike zone because that breaking ball gets in the same area as his fastball," MSU coach John Cohen said. "It was exciting to watch. We needed that from Chris, and he gave it to us." 

 

Stratton''s strike-walk ratio was stellar just a week after he and Cohen bemoaned his poor efficiency in a 10-strikeout, shutout win against Lamar. 

 

By the fifth inning, Stratton had thrown 49 strikes to 17 balls. 

 

"Last time, I really struggled with getting the fastball in there," Stratton said. "I was really focused this past week when we were throwing bullpens to get it in there for a first strike. 

 

"Defense makes it so easy. I think we have one of the best defenses in the country. I feel so comfortable going up there and making sure it gets put in play." 

 

Stratton rode out on a strikeout, which came on his 100th pitch. His dominance against Belmont''s right-handed lineup meant MSU, has seen its bats cool since last weekend, could play without pressing. 

 

Shortstop Jonathan Ogden (3-for-4, three RBIs) had an RBI single in the fourth to give MSU a 2-0 lead. He hit a two-run home in the sixth to make it 5-0. 

 

A night after working behind Devin Jones in a 2-1 loss Friday, the Bulldogs were fortunate to have Stratton follow it up. 

 

"It''s extremely fun playing behind Stratton," Ogden said. "He''s gonna get ground balls, and he''s gonna get a win for us." 

 

Senior captain Nate Woods took the loss after giving up four earned runs in six innings. He walked three and struck out two. His defense committed three errors and a poorly played a ground ball in the seventh that could have been an error. 

 

The Bruins (3-4) didn''t score until the ninth, when freshman pitcher Victor Diaz gave up a three-run homer to Tim Eggerton. 

 

The Bruins'' fielding issues were evident early when Ogden hit into what would have been a 5-4-3 double play, only to see third baseman Zac Mitchell launch his throw into right field. Cody Freeman and Ogden moved into scoring position for Ryan Collins, who drove in Freeman with a ground ball out up the middle for a 1-0 lead. 

 

The game marked the fourth time in seven games MSU finished without an error. 

 

"I''m happy with first-pitch strikes, and I''m happy with defense in this park," Cohen said. "There was some balls crushed today and didn''t go anywhere. Two of them got out of the yard, but it''s gonna take nine miles an hour out of the south to get balls out of this yard. The thing that''s gotta show up every day is pitching and defense, and I thought we did a nice job of that." 

 

MSU center fielder Jaron Shepherd went 2-for-4 with an RBI. 

 

Eggerton went 3-for-4 with three RBIs for Belmont. 

 

MSU freshman Evan Mitchell (1-0) will start at 1:30 p.m. today. He relieved Tim Statz against Lamar and pitched 3 1/3 innings last Sunday for his first-career win.

 

 

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