Of course Monday is also the first day of June's Major League draft. And wherever Stratton is, here in Tallahassee or back in Starkville or home in Tupelo, he can expect his name to come up in the opening day. After an eleven-win season Stratton, the SEC's Pitcher of the Year and a junior, is a consensus first-round projection.
"I'm not worried about that right now," Stratton said today. "We've got a game tomorrow, we have to come back and compete tomorrow, that's the most important thing right now."
Counting this game, Stratton now has 127 strikeouts this junior season for the seventh-best year in program history. His 279 strikeouts in three seasons rank third-most on the career list behind only Eric DuBose and Jeff Brantley.
But if this was his last Bulldog outing, Stratton finished on a lower note. The three home runs allowed were most in his career, and came at the end of a season where he had allowed just four total longballs—never more than one a game—in 102 innings of work.
"I just got way too up in the pitch count at the end and left some balls up and they left the yard," Stratton said of his most uncharacteristic 2012 day. "They're a good hitting team."
LONG, AND GONE: Coach John Cohen saw something else in those shots which didn't square with Stratton's season showings: he wasn't finishing guys off. "The biggest issue for us on the mound today was when we were ahead we gave up two home runs when we were 0-2, which is not normal.
"We set a pretty high standard in that area with Chris, he's done a phenomenal job of that this year. We had two 0-2 home runs, we had a 0-1, and a 3-2. So three of our home runs were with two strikes."
‘Our' as in ‘theirs' because of course Mississippi State hit nothing out of Dick Howser Stadium, not even fouled out of the park. 1B Wes Rea did make two nice bids; one was run down on the track in front of centerfield, the other put Samford's rightfielder into the wall. The difference was Rea elevated his fly balls where Samford drove things.
But not getting homers is nothing new for these Bulldogs, who have just 21 in 62 games this season. Rea hit the last one, a three-run shot in the SEC Tournament opener against Arkansas. And that was one of just three homers hit by Dogs in all of May. The current 21 longballs are fewest for a MSU team since 1980, though this is a deceptive statistic given the 2011 change in bats. A better comparison is the 30 hit last season.
Given the capacious dimensions of Dudy Noble Field, this was not going to be a big-fly ball club anyway. Still there was some State hope, among fans at least, that playing in cozier confines and against non-conference pitching might produce some cheap shots. But as Slauter said, nobody changed their plate-approach from temptation.
"We talked about it before the game. We don't feel we were hypnotized by it, by any means. Like coach said, we just didn't see it well today and when you don't see it well you're not going to put the barrel where you want it."
The four homers hit by Samford was the most surrendered by State since Florida knocked out five in last year's super regional romp at Gainesville. Even with Friday's onslaught, Bulldog pitching has only given up 17 shots this season.
STILL STREAKING: It took his last at-bat to do it, but SS Adam Frazier extended his hitting streak to 13 games. After a check-swing groundout, and two fly balls to leftfield, the sophomore led off State's eighth inning with a single to centerfield.
Frazier has hit safely in 52 of 62 games this season. Today did take two points off his average, which is now .374. But his 89 safeties are the most by a Bulldog in the last six seasons.
Frazier is the only Bulldog to start all 62 games this season.
MSU-ELLANEOUS: This was the 110th NCAA Tournament game for Mississippi State, but only the fourth shutout. Bulldog teams had scored in their last 34 post-season contests, and were last blanked in the 2000 Starkville Regional by Notre Dame (7-0)… This was not the first time Samford has shut out State. The Birmingham Bulldogs did it in 2004, in Starkville… Still this game put Mississippi State on the wrong side of history; it was Samford's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament… State has not gone 0-2 in a NCAA first-round regional since 1993. The site? Tallahassee…
RHP Jonathan Holder did not have to throw in relief Friday, so his unsullied season ERA remains at 0.00… RHP Caleb Reed made his 95th career appearance, and remains #3 on the program list… State has been shut out three times this season, twice by non-conference foes. Central Arkansas posted a 2-0 win at Starkville.