The junior right-hander lost his starting role last season, but after a strong offseason and some retooling, he's come back this year with a vengeance. Stratton began in the bullpen, but an injury to Friday starter Ben Bracewell gave him an opening.
Stratton is 7-0 with a 2.54 ERA, leading the SEC in wins and ranking second in strikeouts (67). There are no niggling thoughts of last year's struggles.
"We've prepared a long time for this," Stratton said. "I've pretty much been in every situation you could possibly be in. I feel prepared. I have noticed that the numbers have gotten a little up there, but hopefully this weekend we can lock that down."
Tonight, Stratton makes his fifth start of the year as MSU (21-12, 5-7 SEC) travels to No. 10 South Carolina (24-10, 5-7) to begin a three-game series against the two-time reigning NCAA champion. His opponent: senior left-hander Michael Roth (3-0, 1.98).
In Stratton's first start - the SEC opener at LSU on March 16 - he struck out 17, allowing just one run on four hits in 82/3 innings. He gave up two earned runs in seven innings in each of his next two outings, and last week versus Vanderbilt he allowed three earned runs in six innings.
So in four SEC starts, Stratton has an ERA of 2.51. Coach John Cohen has no worries about Stratton's ability to sustain his success as a starter.
"Certainly Strat's going to have days where he's feeling great and he's pitching well, and there's going to be some days where it's not going to be as good," Cohen said. "But certainly his consistency has been as good as anybody in our league. ...
"This is what we envisioned when he was part of our very first recruiting class at Mississippi State, because we just didn't have any Chris Strattons pitching for us at the time."
Tonight, Stratton faces one of the best pitchers in the SEC and the country. Roth is seventh in the league in ERA. He gave up three runs in 61/3 innings last week against Tennessee, drawing a no-decision as the Vols rallied for a 6-5 win.
It'll be the first time Stratton has faced off with Roth, and he's looking forward to it.
"He doesn't flash the high velocity or anything, he doesn't wow you with anything, but he wins," Stratton said. "He's won two national championships, he's been the leader of that squad. You'd like to emulate what he's doing and win a championship yourself."
Stratton's turnaround has only enhanced an already strong pitching staff. The Bulldogs are third in the league in both ERA (2.93) and strikeouts (304) - Carolina is second in both categories.
Injuries make MSU even younger at the plate and in the field, with the latest training room addition being outfielder and third baseman Demarcus Henderson, who broke a finger Tuesday. He won't be with the team this weekend.
"We have to out-pitch them," Stratton said. "If we don't out-pitch them, we're probably not going to win the weekend."