KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Chris Stratton of Tupelo and Caleb Reed combined on a splendid Sunday afternoon pitching performance as Mississippi State completed a three-game Southeastern Conference baseball series sweep of Tennessee with a 5-2 victory at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Stratton (5-5) worked the first 5.2 innings to garner the win. Reed completed the contest to secure his ninth save of the season. The duo allowed eight hits and two earned runs, with two walks and 13 strikeouts. The 13 punchouts were the most for the MSU pitching staff in a conference game this season.
“Chris Stratton did exactly what we needed him to do today – he threw strikes,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “This was the Chris Stratton that we’ve come to know and love. It is good to get him back in form. Caleb Reed was a flat-out warrior on the mound for us in relief again. He pitched his heart out for us today.”
All three MSU starting pitchers worked past the fifth inning this weekend. All three also earned victories. The Bulldogs never trailed in the series. For MSU, it was their first-ever three-game series sweep on the Tennessee campus. It was also MSU’s first three-game conference road sweep since the Maroon and White took all three at Alabama in 2004.
The victory moved MSU to 29-18 overall and 11-13 in league play. Tennessee falls to 22-23 and 5-19. The Volunteers have lost eight straight this season and five straight to the Bulldogs. MSU is now tied with Auburn and Ole Miss for third place in the Western Division standings and seventh in the overall league standings.
“This could not have come at a better time for us,” Cohen said. “We’ve won five in a row heading into a very important stretch of the season. We’ve got to keep on a roll.”
The Bulldogs opened the scoring with three runs in the third inning Sunday afternoon. Cody Freeman began things with a one-out single. Jarrod Parks followed with a single, placing runners on the corners. A walk to Nick Vickerson loaded the bases. A two-out walk to Jaron Shepherd forced in the game’s first run. Jonathan Ogden followed with a two-run single.
The Volunteers scored in the fifth inning. Chris Fritts and Davis Morgan started things with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt, Fritts scored on a groundout by Andrew Toles.
An inning later, UT chased Stratton and closed within 3-2. Khayyan Norfork began the inning with a leadoff single. After a strikeout, Stratton issued a walk and hit a batter to load the bases. After another strikeout, the Bulldogs turned to Reed out of the pen.
A bases-loaded walk to Morgan forced in a run. However, Reed bounced back with a strikeout to snuff that threat.
In the seventh inning, the Bulldogs plated a pair of critical insurance scores. Cody Freeman and Parks began things with back-to-back singles. A walk to Vickerson again loaded the bases. Shepherd followed with a run-producing hit. Another bases-loaded walk to Ryan Collins forced in the game’s final run.
From there, Reed took the contest home. The Vols did reach the leadoff runner in their final three at-bats; however, UT could not build on any of those threats.
The Bulldogs finished with eight hits. Freeman and Parks each had multiple hits. Parks extended his hit streak to 20 games. The Bulldog third baseman has hit safely in 22 of his 23 starts in conference play this season
The Volunteers finished with eight hits. Norfork and Morgan each had two hits.
UT starter Rob Catapano (2-5) lasted 4.2 innings and took the loss. Catapano allowed four hits and three runs (all earned), with five walks and one strikeout.
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