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    Mississippi State Pitches Past LSU

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    2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
    Game 6- Mississippi State 3, LSU 2

    Box Score
    Video Highlights

    HOOVER, Ala. – Mississippi State continued its battle through the nation’s toughest conference baseball tournament draw Wednesday afternoon. The 21st-ranked Baseball Bulldogs emerged victorious again with a 3-2 victory over No. 2 LSU in a second-round Southeastern Conference Tournament game at Regions Park.
                   
    Sixth-seeded MSU (36-21) will now face fourth-seeded Kentucky (42-15) in a third-round matchup Thursday. That contest will start 30 minutes after the completion of the 9:30 a.m. elimination game between ninth-seeded Ole Miss (35-23) and top-seeded LSU (42-15). The MSU-Kentucky contest will be televised regionally by SportSouth and will also available on ESPN3.COM (with some blackout areas in the southeast).
                   
    “These kids are winners,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “They want to win so badly. They will do whatever it takes to win. They are winners. That is why it is fun to be around them every day. They understand what it takes to be successful on this level.”

    The Bulldogs have played the Tigers more than any other opponent in the conference tournament. MSU has now won eight of 15 career meetings, including two straight wins in this venue. Ironically, LSU had won 13 of its last 14 conference tournament games before Wednesday’s defeat.

    In none of those previous tournament meetings did LSU have to battle with MSU pitching ace Chris Stratton. The junior right-hander allowed five hits and two earned runs in six innings of work, while becoming MSU’s first 11-game winner since Bobby Reed won 15 games in 1990.

    Stratton (11-1) threw his 10th and the staff’s 19th quality start of the season. In two appearances versus LSU this season, Stratton has allowed nine hits and three earned runs, with 25 strikeouts in 14.2 innings of work.

    “Chris was so solid,” Cohen said. “We got him out of there at 93 pitches on a warm day. He does so many things so well. His pitching performance sets the tone for the entire afternoon.”

    With his eight strikeouts Wednesday, Stratton is now third all-time at MSU with 275 career punchouts. Stratton passed Matt Ginter, B.J. Wallace and Paul Maholm during Wednesday’s win. This season’s 123 strikeouts ranks sixth in a single season.

    Things would get no easier for the LSU either. The relief duo of Chris Stratton (two innings pitched) and Jonathan Holder (one inning pitcher) retired all nine batters they face. A true freshman Holder matched Reed with his eighth save of the season and has not allowed a run in 25.1 innings of work this season – matching a school-record scoreless streak.

    “You could not go wrong with going to Caleb there in the seventh inning,” Cohen said. “He totally dominates right-handed hitters and LSU was sending six straight righties to the plate. In the ninth inning, you have Jonathan Holder. Right now, no one is hitting Jonathan Holder. “I have never seen any freshman this dialed in. He is on a different level right now.”
                   
    For a second straight tournament game, the Maroon and White scored first with a two-run third inning.
                   
    Wes Rea began the inning with a single to right field. After a foulout on a bunt attempt, Daryl Norris followed with a single, also to right. Adam Frazier and Brent Brownlee followed with back-to-back RBI singles to give the Maroon and White its early advantage.
                   
    LSU finally broke through against Stratton with two scores in the fifth inning. A one-out walk to Tyler Hanover opened the door for the Tigers. After a groundball out for the second out, Austin Nola connected for a single to center, sending Hanover to third. A steal of second by Nola placed both runners in scoring position.
                   
    Mason Katz then came through for LSU with a game-tying two-run single. Katz had struck out five times in six previous at-bats against Stratton. However, the tie score was short-lived as MSU quickly reclaimed the lead minutes later.
                   
    In the MSU sixth inning, Mitch Slauter capped a nine-pitch at-bat with double right center. Demarcus Henderson continued his recent tear with an RBI-single to right center. A red-shirt freshman, Henderson has battled back strong from injury and is 5-for-12 with four RBIs in his three games.
                   
    While the Bulldogs have struggled with a few routine plays in the tournament, those miscues have been offset by some outstanding defensive plays.

    Again Wednesday, the Bulldogs flashed some leather. Center fielder Hunter Renfroe had his 10th outfield assist to turn away the Tigers in the third inning, while left fielder Henderson had a tremendous line drive catch to snuff the Tigers in the seventh inning. Catcher Mitch Slauter also threw out his 12th attempted base stealer to end the LSU fifth inning, keeping the teams deadlocked.
                   
    The Bulldogs finished with eight hits, including multi-hit games by Frazier and Brent Brownlee. Frazier now has 27 multi-hit games.
                   
    Joe Broussard (4-1), the fourth of seven LSU pitchers, took the loss. Raph Rhymes, the SEC’s leading hitter, was the Tigers’ lone multi-hitter.

    “The kids are playing with confidence right now that is the key,” Cohen said. “We are doing a little better with our situational hitting. The pitching and defense is there. The main thing is success. When you win, you feel good about yourself and you can’t wait to get to the ballpark the next day.”

    2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
    Post-Game Notes
    Regions Park • Hoover, Ala.

    Game 6 • Wednesday, May 23
    (7) Mississippi State 3, (1) LSU 2

    POST-GAME NOTES
    •    Mississippi State broke a 7-7 tie between the two teams in previous SEC Conference Tournament meetings. The Bulldogs also extend their all-time series lead over the Tigers to 203-168-1.
    •    Mississippi State moves to 36-21 on the season and will take on Kentucky tomorrow following the first game of the day, an elimination game between LSU and Ole Miss at 9:30 a.m.
    •    The Bulldogs have now won five straight games.
    •    Junior OF Raph Rhymes of LSU ripped a single to center in his first at-bat and then singled again in the third to increase his SEC-leading hit total to 94. It is his 32nd multi-hit game of the season. Rhymes leads the nation in batting average (.470) and is tied for fourth in the nation in hits.
    •    Sophomore SS Adam Frazier of Mississippi State came through with a RBI single in the third, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Frazier then doubled in the fifth to pick up his fifth hit of the tournament and tie him for the SEC Tournament lead along with Ole Miss’ Matt Snyder. It’s his team leading 27th multi-hit game and 2nd of the tournament. It also gave him his 82nd hit as he ties Anthony Gomez of Vanderbilt for fourth overall in the conference.
    •    Junior P Chris Stratton of Mississippi State passed Kevin Gausman of LSU for the strikeout lead in the conference after notching his fourth strikeout in the second inning. He went on to strike out eight LSU batters and now sits third in the nation.
    •    In all, Stratton pitched six complete innings while giving up two earned runs off five hits. In two starts, Stratton has 25 combined strikeouts over LSU.
    •    Junior 1B Mason Katz’s 2-RBI single in the fifth tied the game and marked his 10th multi-RBI game this season, tying him for second on the team. He also extended his hitting streak to seven games.
    •    Bulldog OF Demarcus Henderson’s RBI single in the sixth was his fourth RBI in his last three games and his 10th RBI of the season.
    •    Mississippi State turned their 62nd double play as a team this season in the sixth inning to break a tie with Washington State for third-most in the nation.
    •    LSU combined to throw six pitchers on the afternoon after freshman Aaron Nola pitched two perfect innings to start the game.
    •    Senior OF Brent Brownlee of Mississippi State came away with two singles and a RBI against LSU for his third multi-hit game of the season.
    •    Senior Caleb Reed of Mississippi State came on in the seventh to make his 27th appearance for the Bulldogs and his 92nd career appearance in the maroon and white.
    •    In the eighth inning, Bulldog 2B Matthew Britton recorded five of the final nine outs, including putting the Tigers down in order in the eighth.
    •    Freshman Jonathan Holder of Mississippi State came on in the ninth and earned his second save of the SEC Tournament. That save brings his total up to eight, matching Reed for the most this season. He pitched one shutout inning including one strikeout.

    Mississippi State Head Coach John Cohen
    Opening statement:
    “We played a very good baseball team today. They won the league and hats off to them for that. It is not an easy accomplishment. I think that people around the country expect the winners of a league to win 22 out of 30 games. Our league is so good top to bottom that winning this league, in my opinion, is a huge accomplishment. I think that LSU had a tremendous year. They pose a lot of promise. They can run. They have a very deep pitching staff. They can really dominate the average play and make the outstanding play. They can short game you as well as hit the ball out of the park. They are a very balanced club.  The difference in the game today was the way we pitched. I thought that Chris Stratton went out there and did a phenomenal job for us. He set the tone for us. He punches out eight and walks two. Even on the walks, I did not think that they were big misses. When you are not missing big I think that you are getting the opportunity to get more strikes and that is what he did for us today. This is the first time he has pitched in the middle of the day in a long time, because he has been our Friday and Thursday night guy. I thought that he handled that really well. I thought that when we got to that point in the game in the seventh there, when we went to Caleb Reed, it really set up nicely because they had six right-handed batters in a row, and Caleb is just dominant against right-handed hitters. Every time Jonathan Holder has gone out there he has done the same thing, dominant job. He can shove the ball in the strike zone with force and aggression. We got just enough hitting, made some really solid defensive plays. They hit some balls really hard and we made really good plays. It is a game of inches, and today they went our way. ”

    Demarcus Henderson (Fr., Left fielder)
    On his diving catch and base hit…
    “I have had that opportunity a couple of times earlier in the year. Who knows if that ball hits the wall what can happen, but I felt pretty confident in myself that I could make the catch. I struggled early in the day. You can’t let one or two at bats get your head down you have to keep battling for your team.”

    Chris Stratton (Jr., Pitcher)
    On LSU’s hitters…
    “Today they were really going after me. That is something everyone is going to do, try to get hits before I can get deep in the count and strike them out. They were going to be really aggressive early, and I knew that. So I threw some out of the zone, and they chased them. We had a good plan before we went in the game.”

    Jonathan Holder (Fr., Pitcher)
    On his pitching plan in the ninth inning…
    “I was thinking I was going to pump the zone and mix up the pitches. In and out, fast balls and curve balls. Caleb has great control over his fastball and can really throw that slider hard. It’s good for me after that because my off speed is a bigger break and not as hard.”

    LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri
    Opening statement:
    “It was a good ballgame, a very well-pitched game. We knew going into the game that there wasn’t going to be a lot of margin of error going up against (Chris) Stratton. He’s really good. We’ve seen him three years now, and I think that was the fourth time he’s pitched against us. I’m about ready for that kid to go into professional baseball so we don’t have to see him anymore. He’s really outstanding, and he’s going to make a good pro. I thought we battled him in some regards. Obviously, Raph (Rhymes) had a couple of really good at-bats against him. He really stuck his nose in there and fought the kid, and it was two really good players going against each other. Mason (Katz) bounced back after a couple of tough at-bats. What a clutch hit that was to tie the ballgame up on a 3-2 pitch. He stayed right in there and drilled it to left to tie the game up for us, so I really liked our chances at that point. Unfortunately we just couldn’t hold them. Had we held them in that inning, I really liked what we had set up with Chris Cotton and (Nick) Goody out of the pen. I thought at some point we’d scratch a run across. Unfortunately, with the ball hit to deep right center by (Mitch) Slauter, we just couldn’t quite get to it. (Demarcus) Henderson with the two-strike count, instead of throwing the ball in the dirt, we left it up a little bit, and to his credit, he got a base hit on it. We just couldn’t muster anything against their bullpen after that. The kids played hard. They just came up a little bit short today. I tip my hat to Mississippi State. They played a really good, solid game. (Henderson) made a beautiful catch and just kept the rally from getting started for us. Who knows, if he doesn’t make that catch, it could be an inside the park home run with (JaCoby) Jones’ speed. It wasn’t meant to be today, so we’re just going to have to regroup and be ready to go for tomorrow morning. It’ll be an early start, but we have a pretty good pitcher going for us, and playing Ole Miss is always a lot of fun.”

    Mason Katz (Jr., First base)
    On if he could feel the momentum changing after LSU tied the game…
    “Absolutely. We’ve done that all year. If we haven’t gotten on top early, somebody will come through at some point. Usually for the most part, our pitchers hold everybody down. Nothing on Joe (Broussard). It’s not his fault. He pitched a great game. He came in in relief and did a phenomenal job. It was just that one pitch that just kind of got away from him. That team’s hot right now. We know what it’s like to play a team that’s hot. Last year we got really hot at the end and played real well. Two years ago, we came in as the eight-seed and were hot, and we ended up winning the tournament. We know what it’s like. We’ve lost the first game before, so we’re going to battle back and wipe this one off and come back tomorrow.”

    Raph Rhymes (Jr., Left field)
    On what Stratton did to limit LSU offensively…
    “I think him just being able to control both pitches. He’s going to be able to throw the fastball and the slider for a strike. You can’t go up there just thinking one pitch. He’s pretty difficult.”