Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton was awarded the Ferriss Trophy today at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The award goes annually to the state's top college baseball player.
Stratton, a junior from Tupelo, is the third Bulldog to win the Ferriss Trophy in the nine years it's been awarded, and the first in five years. Thomas Berkery won it in 2006, and Ed Easley won it in '07. So that makes Stratton the first winner under fourth-year coach John Cohen.
"It's a lot to be here, and to get that award is something you strive for," Stratton said. "You try to be the best anywhere you can be. If you're the best in Mississippi, that's a step forward."
Stratton is 9-1 with a 2.22 ERA and 107 strikeouts. He leads the SEC in wins, his ERA is tied for third, and he's second in strikeouts. He suffered his first loss of the season on Friday at Florida, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits in 7.0 innings.
After two up-and-down years, Stratton finally found that next level this season. After starting the year in the bullpen, Stratton moved back into a weekend starter's role after Friday night starter Ben Bracewell went down with an elbow injury.
"The hitters haven't changed any, they're just as good, it's just I feel like my stuff has gotten to a level where it needs to be," Stratton said.
One key to Stratton's improvement is a more aggressive pitching style and an attitude of ownership when he's on the hill.
"That mentality has really served him well," Cohen said. "He's been able to focus, but there's also been that little edge to that focus that's kind of taken him beyond."
The other finalists were Ole Miss junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough and Delta State junior pitcher Colton Mitchell. Yarbrough is second in the league with a .405 batting average, and he's got 16 doubles and 40 RBIs. He's made only one error in the field. Mitchell, a left-hander, is 8-0 with a 2.99 ERA, and he tossed a perfect game this season against New Orleans.
The award is named after Boo Ferriss, who played at MSU and then with the Boston Red Sox before going on to an illustrious coaching career at Delta State. Museum director Rick Cleveland said today's turnout was the largest in the award's brief history.
The finalists and the winner were selected by a 24-member panel.
Previous Ferriss winners:
• 2004: Stephen Head, Ole Miss
• 2005: Brian Pettway, Ole Miss
• 2006: Thomas Berkery, MSU
• 2007: Ed Easley, MSU
• 2008: Scott Bittle, Ole Miss
• 2009: Craig Westcott, Belhaven
• 2010: Drew Pomeranz, Ole Miss
• 2011: Tyler Koelling, Southern Miss