By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – LSU has had its fill of Chris Stratton.
The Mississippi State right-hander had another fine outing against the second-ranked Tigers on Wednesday, tossing six strong innings as the No. 24 Bulldogs took a 3-2 win in the second round of the SEC Tournament at Regions Park.
Stratton (11-1), a junior right-hander from Tupelo, gave up two runs on five hits, struck out eight and walked two to pick up the win. The win gave MSU, which is the seventh seed in this tourney, a matchup today with four-seed Kentucky.
The game will start about 1 p.m.
In four career appearances against LSU, Stratton is 2-1 with a 1.90 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 232/3 innings. He had 17 strikeouts against the Tigers on March 16.
“I’m about ready for that kid to go into professional baseball so I don’t have to see him any more,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who may get his wish. Stratton is projected as a first-round pick in this year’s Major League Draft.
He had plenty of help Wednesday from MSU’s defense and bullpen, and Demarcus Henderson’s RBI single in the sixth inning gave State (36-21) its winning margin. After two scoreless innings from Caleb Reed, freshman Jonathan Holder tossed a perfect ninth for his eighth save of the season and second in as many days.
Holder has thrown 251/3 scoreless innings this year, tying the school record set by Bobby Reed in 1988.
“Obviously I’ve got the adrenaline flowing, and I’ve kind of learned to overcome that with more focus and just pump the (strike) zone,” Holder said.
LSU (42-15) tied the game in the fifth inning when Mason Katz delivered a two-out, two-run single to left field. But the Bulldogs responded.
Mitch Slauter smacked a one-out double in the sixth, and he came home when Henderson got an 0-2 pitch up in the zone and laced it to center field.
“I struggled a little earlier in the day, but you can’t let one at-bat or two at-bats get your head down,” said Henderson, who struck out three times. “You’ve got to keep battling for your team.”
LSU had five hits, two of them by Raph Rhymes, the SEC’s leading hitter. He reached on an error to open the sixth, and it looked like LSU might be able to build off its two-run fifth. But Stratton got a double play and later struck out Arby Fields with a man on second base, ending the threat.
“His stuff is so good that a lot of times you don’t have a whole lot of time to make decisions, and he gets swings on big misses at times,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
Adam Frazier and Brent Brownlee had two hits apiece for State, and their back-to-back RBI singles in the third made it a 2-0 game.
Reliever Joe Broussard (4-1) took the loss for LSU, which used seven pitchers.