April 9, 2011 11:19:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- For the second straight day, a team''s leading pitcher in the Mississippi State-Florida series was chased far earlier than expected.
On Friday, the University of Florida''s Hudson Randall entered the game with a 0.51 ERA but lasted two innings and gave up six earned runs.
On Saturday, MSU right-hander Chris Stratton endured his worst start of the season, giving up seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and putting MSU in an early eight-run hole.
MSU never recovered, dropping the second game of the Super Bulldog Weekend series 18-0.
The one-day swing in momentum was as drastic as MSU coach John Cohen could have imagined after his team earned a 7-5 victory in game one. The Bulldogs (21-10, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) suffered their worst loss since a 22-4 loss to Tennessee in 1998.
"We did not handle the short turnaround well," Cohen said. "We just didn''t come out and throw strikes today. You can''t compete in this league if you don''t throw strikes. We know Stratton''s better than that; he just didn''t command the strike zone well enough to give us a chance."
Stratton''s career-worst start lasted just 51 pitches, and all the damage came in the second inning after he set down the Gators (25-7, 8-3) in order in the first.
Stratton walked three, hit another, and gave up an RBI single before pitching coach Butch Thompson lifted him in favor of Chad Girodo, who inherited three baserunners.
"He worked behind the count and his command wasn''t great, just like Hudson yesterday," Florida coach Kevin O''Sullivan said. "That happens to good pitchers. It''s just part of the game."
Girodo didn''t fare much better, giving up a grand slam to Mike Zunino on his first pitch and hitting the second batter he faced.
For Stratton, the seven earned runs were the must he has conceded since giving up eight to Alabama last season. It was also his shortest outing in a MSU uniform.
Cohen said Stratton was cutting off his pitches early instead of following through with his delivery.
Stratton said he felt fine during warmups in the bullpen.
"I had all the confidence in the world," Stratton said. "I put this one me. I just couldn''t get it done."
For the second straight game, the Bulldogs failed to have their starting pitcher go past the third inning following Devin Jones'' four-run, eight-hit outing Friday night.
While MSU relievers were stellar Friday -- they gave up just one run and four hits in six innings -- the Bulldogs weren''t as fortunate Saturday.
Girodo, Evan Mitchell, Victor Diaz, Andrew Busby, and Kendall Graveman were responsible for 11 runs and 15 hits.
Busby gave up four earned runs is just a third of an inning. Girodo was the only one of the group to pitch in Friday''s win.
"Florida did a nice job of not swinging at pitches out of the zone, and we threw a bunch of pitches out of the zone," Cohen said. "We had huge misses today, and you cannot even discuss an umpire''s zone with your players when you''re missing that big. You don''t deserve to get one marginal call if you''re gonna miss that big. We had some huge misses today from everybody involved."
Outside of Cody Freeman''s 3-for-4 day, the Bulldogs struggled against starter Brian Johnson (5-1), who gave up six hits and struck out three in six innings. The Bulldogs left 11 runners on base.
Florida had five players record two or more hits, led by Zunino, who went 3-for-4 with a grand slam and five RBIs.
The Bulldogs will start left-hander Nick Routt at noon today in the series finale at Dudy Noble Field. After going deep into his bullpen in back-to-back games, Cohen said Stratton''s limited innings could play a role today.
"We''d like to get five or six innings out of (Routt), but you''ve got (Luis) Pollorena behind him," Cohen said. "We have some other options there. You can get Caleb Reed for an inning or two, possibly, since he didn''t pitch today. We''re in a better bullpen position tomorrow than we were for today. That''s why we were hoping Stratt would get us deeper into this ballgame."
MSU eclipsed the 10,000 mark in attendance for the 25th time at Dudy Noble Stadium with an actual figure of 10,332. The paid attendance figure of 11,201 is the 12th largest in Dudy Noble Field history.
On Friday, a crowd of 7,123 watched the Bulldogs'' victory. MSU scored four times in the home half of the first inning and didn''t trail the rest of the way.
C.T. Bradford had three hits to lead the Bulldogs. Cody Freeman (solo home run), Jarrod Parks, Trey Johnson, and Jonathan Ogden each had multiple hits for MSU.
Stark (2-0) went two innings to get the win. Caleb Reed faced seven batters, while working the final two innings to log his fifth save of the season.