March 28, 2010 12:28:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- A rocky fourth inning and a lack of pop at the plate sent Mississippi State to its fourth Southeastern Conference loss after a late comeback bid fell short Saturday in a 7-4 setback to Georgia.
Mississippi State (13-10, 1-4 SEC) gave up a five-run fourth inning and struggled to string together timely hits, but didn''t cunt on freshman starter Chris Stratton making it to just the fourth inning.
Stratton (2-3) was the losing pitcher, giving up four earned runs on three hits in three innings. He struck out eight batters, but Georgia (9-14, 1-4) took advantage of his location issues and scored two runs off walks in the fourth inning.
The first three batters he faced in the fourth, Stratton had given up a single, walked a batter and hit another. That was after striking out six and giving up just two hits in the first three innings.
Stratton faced seven batters in the fourth before being replaced by Corey Collins, who saw Sam Frost lose the handle on a ground ball to second base before giving up an RBI single to Levi Hyams.
"I guess I got a little tired, but I''m not sure," Stratton said. "We don''t do tired around here, but we just need to fix it.
"[Georgia batters] were very patient. They took pitches until they got strikes and it worked out for them."
The fourth inning damage put Mississippi State behind 5-1, making it the second consecutive game the Bulldogs gave up a 5-run plus inning.
MSU coach John Cohen said that while Stratton''s strikeout clip was effective, it took more energy out of him having to throw more pitches to earn outs in that fashion. Ultimately, it was Stratton''s delivery that wore down in the fourth inning.
"The toughest thing in baseball is to hold on to your delivery a hundred times in a row," Cohen said. "It takes strength, poise, maturity, but as I''ve mentioned before, Stratton''s going to be a great one. He just had a bad outing. You can''t expect an incredible outing out of a freshman."
Georgia pitcher Justin Grimm got the win, pitching six innings and giving up two earned runs on five hits. He struck out four.
Russ Sneed led MSU at the dish with an RBI and two hits on three plate appearances.
Trailing 6-1 after a Johnathan Taylor RBI single, Mississippi State battled back with a three-run sixth inning as Ryan Collins and Cody Freeman each recorded RBI singles before Sneed scored on a wild pitch.
But with the tying run at the plate, Jaron Shepherd struck out to end the inning and Mississippi State''s last real threat at overtaking Georgia.
Devin Jones pitched a flawless eighth inning to get Mississippi State to the bottom of the ninth down 7-4 with the bottom of the order due up.
Pinch hitter Jet Butler, who delivered a pinch-hit home run in a mid-week win against Memphis, drove a double off the left field wall to give MSU two runners in scoring position with Johnathan Ogden at the plate and no outs.
Georgia relief pitcher Cooper Moseley walked Ogden to load the bases before Sam Frost sealed his hitless day with a short fly for the first out of the inning.
Back to the top of the ordre with two outs to work with, Nick Vickerson and Luke Adkins each struck out to end the game.
Having bemoaned the lack of timely hits this season, Cohen again pointed to the team''s offense and the three runners left on as sources of frustration.
"We had a chance to come back and obviously, when it counts, we don''t have great at-bats," Cohen said. "There''s a whole recipe that it takes for great at-bats and wanting to be the guy. It takes courage, number one, and it takes a skill level. We''re not displaying that right now as a team when it matters. It''s frustrating."
Chad Girodo (1-1, 5.09 ERA) will start today''s final game of the series against Georgia, with Ben Bracewell and Caleb Reed available out of the bullpen.