By Greg Sullivan/Special to the Journal
NASHVILLE – Mississippi State got a solid outing out of Tupelo native Chris Stratton on Saturday, but for the second straight day there was no run support to be found from the Bulldogs’ lineup.
After 107 straight games where they scored at least one run, the MSU bats were shut out 4-0 Saturday for the second shutout in two days at Vanderbilt.
The teams will meet again today at 1 p.m. when Mississippi State (14-6, 0-2 SEC) will look to salvage at least one win from the No. 2 Commodores (19-1, 2-0) in the three-game conference opening series at Hawkins Field.
“Everything was working pretty well, but they can really hit,” said sophomore Stratton, who suffered his first loss of the season. “We were trying to compete. We just couldn’t get it done today.”
Stratton said he thinks the Bulldogs’ offense is on the brink of breaking out of their slump. They had only three hits Saturday, but were robbed on back-to-back plays in the sixth inning when Vanderbilt shortstop Anthony Gomez displayed outstanding defensive range to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard. Those were just two of many outstanding defensive plays turned in by the Commodores in Saturday’s game.
“I think we’re right there,” Stratton said. “We just need to hit that tipping point and get things rolling.”
The Bulldogs’ offense seemed on the brink of breaking through in the sixth, said third baseman Jarrod Parks, who was the first of two batters to have a hit taken away by a Gomez play.
“That’s two hits and that’s a big inning,” Parks said. “But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Parks had two singles, finishing with two of the Bulldogs’ three hits.
Curt Casali drove in two Vandy runs in the second inning with a single to right field off Stratton to give the Commodores an early 2-0 lead.
After Stratton shut down Vanderbilt over the next four innings, Tony Kemp drove in a run off Stratton with an RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh. Kemp came around to score on an Anthony Gomez sacrifice fly to extend the Vandy lead to 4-0.
Stratton (3-1) gave up four runs and in 62/3 innings. Vanderbilt lefty Grayson Garvin (3-1), meanwhile, was dominant, allowing only two hits in seven innings.
“They pitch better than anybody else in the country,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. “You get in these situations where every ball you barrel up is an out. It really starts becoming difficult. We didn’t barrel up that many balls, but every one of them is an out. They made some spectacular plays on defense.”
Mississippi State has not announced its starter for today’s game, but Cohen said it will likely be one of two freshmen lefties, either Ross Mitchell (no apperances) or C.T. Bradford (0-0, 0.00 in 22/3 innings of relief), going for the Bulldogs. They will face Vandy’s Taylor Hill (1-0, 3.13).