STARKVILLE – For eight innings Saturday afternoon, it appeared Mississippi State was about to break a 10-game losing slide inside Southeastern Conference play. But then a common theme reared its ugly head and a common result soon followed.
Vanderbilt took advantage of wild pitching from the Bulldogs’ bullpen to rally from a 5-3 deficit in the top of the ninth inning. One inning later, the Commodores exploded for an eight-spot en route to a 13-7 victory to spoil’s MSU’s Senior Day at Dudy Noble Field.
MSU fell to 21-30 overall and 5-21 in the SEC, tying a school record for most league defeats in a season.
“We just have freshmen pitching that can’t attack the strike zone,” said MSU head coach John Cohen. “And it’s killing us. These freshmen are going to be good and I sound like a broken record saying that. When you’re one strike away from winning…it’s disappointing.
“It sounds like an excuse but it won’t be an excuse any more when these guys are not freshmen. They will be good and the positive thing is they all are getting experience.”
The Bulldogs got a strong outing from freshman righthander Chris Stratton. The Tupelo native pitched eight-plus innings and allowed four runs on eight hits, Stratton struck out eight and walked five, and exited the game with a 5-3 lead in the ninth inning.
“Almost there,” said Stratton. “We never stopped competing and that’s all you can ask for. I gave it all I had and left it all out there.
“Everybody’s out there competing and you can’t ask for anything else.”
Just like Friday night’s series opener, MSU built a 5-1 advantage and held that lead going into the top of the sixth inning. Vanderbilt cut the lead to 5-3 thanks to Andrew Giobbi’s two-run homer, one of the few mistakes Stratton made on the day.
In the ninth inning, the Commodores rallied with a pair of runs despite getting just one hit in the frame. MSU reliever Ben Bracewell uncorked a wild pitch to allow one run to score. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, Bracewell hit Vanderbilt’s Joe Loftus on a 1-2 pitch to force in the tying run.
Vanderbilt (38-13, 14-10) sent 12 men to the plate in the tenth inning and plated eight runs on five hits.
“Bracewell is really our best opportunity,” said Cohen. “He’s the one guy who’s been out there the most with the game on the line. For the most part, he’s thrown the most strikes of all the freshmen. But that’s not what happened and it’s disappointing. But again, he’s going to be a good one.”
MSU reliever Caleb Reed (1-6), one of three MSU relievers in the 10th inning, took the loss. Reed allowed two runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Vanderbilt’s Russell Brewer (2-2) got the win despite surrendering two runs on two hits in 11/3 innings.
Bulldog seniors Connor Powers, Russ Sneed and Ryan Duffy each had two hits while Cody Freeman also collected a pair of hits. Duffy hit his ninth home run of the season with a solo shot in the fourth inning. MSU junior shortstop Jonathan Ogden also homered for the Bulldogs with a two-run shot in the 10th inning.
Paul Jones/Special to the Journal