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MSU squanders quality start by Stratton


David Miller



STARKVILLE -- What started as a pitching duel turned into an error-plagued game that cost Mississippi State a chance for a Southeastern Conference win Saturday afternoon. 


Mistakes piled up in the late innings to cost Mississippi State in an 8-5 loss to Arkansas at Dudy Noble Field.  


The mistakes marred a quality start by Mississippi State freshman pitcher Chris Stratton. 


Arkansas (25-6, 8-3 SEC) claimed the win to set a up a chance for a series sweep at 1:30 


The Razorbacks got a solid start from pitcher Brett Eibner, who opened the game by striking out the side in the first two innings. He recorded 10 strikeouts in five innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits, but reliever Jeremy Heatley got the win. 


While Arkansas took advantage of MSU''s mistakes, the Bulldogs (16-15, 3-8) left four runners on base in the first two innings and had base running mistakes that led to costly outs in the third and fifth innings,  


In the third Russ Sneed''s ill-fated attempt to steal third ended in disaster and in the fifth Ryan Duffy''s overrun of third base ended the inning.  


Mississippi State coach John Cohen also lamented a missed double play ball by freshman Sam Frost at second base. 


"We had two really big base running blunders where kids are just trying to force something to happen because they just want so desperately to win and they try to do something extraordinary instead of doing something average," Cohen said. "We spend more time on base running than anybody in the country. 


"Russ runs into the first out at third base there and he thinks he''s got a crack in the armor -- I think for the moment he forgets he''s had two hip surgeries. We work hard on all these phases, but it''s just not showing up for a lot of different reasons." 


Still, through another typical Stratton start, the Bulldogs were locked in a scoreless game for four innings and held a 2-1 lead heading into the top of the seventh.  


Stratton, disappointed to see another quality start end up in a loss, went six innings and gave up one earned run on seven hits. He struck out five. 


"Our team didn''t win, that''s all that matters," Stratton said. "We''ve got to find a way to put up some Ws. Doesn''t matter what happens. I thought I got myself out of some tough jams. We need to eliminate those so I can keep my pitch count down and go longer into games." 


Stratton (3-4) finished with 106 pitches .  


Cohen was unsure of who would get today''s start in the series finale, though he said he''s leaning toward Trey Johnson, who pitched two innings of shutout ball to go with four strikeouts last Sunday at South Carolina. 


The selection headaches aren''t just for starting pitchers, however, as Cohen again harped on the injuries the team''s dealing with and the affect the training room table is having on Mississippi State''s play. 


"These are the types of games, and I''m not trying to sound like anybody familiar, but not having Brent Brownlee for really the season, not having (Jarrod) Parks for the season, not having Frankie Rawdow for the season, and not having (Nick) Routt -- these are the games that really hurt us," Cohen said. "We only have three substitutes we can enter in a ball game. We''re really playing guys out of position out of necessity and that''s where some of the errors are coming from." 


Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on Zack Cox''s RBI single before Mississippi State equalized through Sneed, who legged out a Connor Powers hit and beat the errant throw home.  


Mississippi State took a 2-1 lead when Ryan Duffy drove in Powers, but in a scene that typified the Bulldogs'' day, Duffy was tagged out at third by overrunning the base and stumbling to get back.  


The Bulldogs made four errors. 


Stratton left the game in the seventh after beaning Collin Kuhn to open the frame. He left behind one base runner, but relievers Chad Girodo and Kendall Graveman struggled to effectively close out the inning.  


Girodo faced three batters, and Frost''s wayward throw for a routine force out at second squandered a needed out and left two runners on with no outs.  


Arkansas'' Andy Wilkins singled in a run two batters later before MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson opted to bring Graveman in the game.  


Monk Kreder then slapped a two-run single for a 4-2 Arkansas lead before Graveman walked in another run.  


MSU went to Greg Houston to end the inning, and he did so by forcing a double play. 


Sneed hit a solo home run in the seventh to bring Mississippi State within 6-3, but Arkansas chased Houston and tagged Luke Bole for an RBI single and a sacrifice fly score to carry an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth.  


The Bulldogs got a two-run homer from Nick Vickerson off DJ Baxendale, but Mississippi State was finished with a pop fly to end the game. 


Sneed led MSU at the plate, going 3 for 4 with an RBI. Both Duffy and Ryan Collins each went 3 for 5.  


Cox, Kreder, Tim Carver and Travis Sample had two hits for Arkansas. 




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