Although he would up giving up five runs in the 6th inning of the 1st game of the 5A championship series against West Jones High School Thursday night, for the first five innings of the game Stafford was dominating on the mound, giving up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 10.
New Hope had a long four-run inning in the top of the 6th and Stafford seemed to have lost his rhythm and velo in the bottom of the inning, going from a consistent 85-88 miles per hour during the first five innings to 82-84 with an occasional 85/86 in the bottom of the 6th.
However, he showed enough pitching savvy and stuff in the first five innings to make you believe that he has a chance to pitch on the collegiate level even though he was mainly recruited as an outfielder by the Bulldog coaching staff.
"(The Mississippi State coaches) haven't really said much about me coming in and pitching but if I can come in and show them what I can do I may be able to throw an inning or two or be a matchup guy," said Stafford, who in addition to his fastball throws a curveball that he commands well and will throw at any time during the count. "They have plenty of arms but maybe I could do something like that. But they primarily recruited me as an outfielder."
He explained what the State coaches like about him as an outfielder/hitter.
"They like my speed and my contact ability (at the plate) and especially my defensive skills due to my range in the outfield and my good jumps on balls," said Stafford.
He also has a Bulldog mentality on the field.
"I was pitching with a strain muscle in my back (against West Jones)," said Stafford. "I had it last week when I pitched against Oxford. I strained it before that game. I have been taking medicine to try and take care of the pain because I wanted to get out there and pitch and help my team."
While Stafford is still enjoying his last game or two playing for New Hope, he's extremely excited about his future baseball career with Mississippi State.
"It was awesome (receiving the chance to play for Mississippi State)," said Stafford, who was recruited by MSU coaches Butch Thompson and Nick Mingione. "It was like a dream come through. My mom works there and we have season tickets to all of the sporting events. It's something that I have always wanted to do. And to have this opportunity is a true blessing.
"I wanted to commit on the spot but my family and I wanted to talk about it first. But we knew all along that I was going to eventually commit. So, I did it the following Monday."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.