Mississippi State players react in the dugout near the end of Friday's 5-0 loss to Samford in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears, AP)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. â€“ It was a situation in the Tallahassee Regional on Friday that a set of Bulldogs were sure to win.
Mississippi State didn't find itself as the lucky ones.
The No. 2 seeded MSU Bulldogs lost to No. 3 seed Samford 5-0 at Dick Howser Stadium, Mike Martin Field in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was Samford's first ever regional victory.
"I thought Samford did a great job (Friday)," State head coach John Cohen said, whose team fell to 39-23 for the season. "The game reminded me a lot of a ballgame we played a couple of weeks ago against Central Arkansas. We didn't score in that game either. We didn't recognize pitches (Friday). I don't know if it was a focus issue."
Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Chris Stratton took the mound for the Bulldogs from the Magnolia State.
He found his first bit of trouble when he hung an 0-2 breaking pitch to Samford's Brandon Miller who hit it over the left field wall for the first run of the game.
"We went fastball away, fastball away and he fouled them both off," Stratton said of his pitch sequence to Miller. "We went fastball up and in and he fouled it off. We just needed to get down and bury the breaking ball. I just left it up. That's what happened."
That was Miller's NCAA Division I-leading 23rd home run of the season.
"(Stratton) was pitching pretty good (Friday)," Miller said. "Definitely hitting his spots, throwing up on his pitches and making us chase. He has got good pitches. We just managed to hit his mistakes."
The game held at 1-0 until the top of the eighth. With one out, Samford's Saxon Butler homered to left field to make it 2-0.
Designated hitter C.K. Irby hit a two-run home run to center field to make it 4-0. That was the end of Stratton's day.
"Chris was good (Friday)," MSU catcher Mitch Slauter said. "He had good stuff and he was down in the zone. He just made a couple of bad pitches and they took advantage of them when they could."
Stratton pitched 7.2 innings, gave up six hits, four runs, walked four batters and struck out four guys.
"I thought Chris pitched good," Cohen said. "You obviously have to score to support your pitching staff. It is very, very hard when you put that much pressure on your pitching staff to not be able to give up any runs."
It may be the last time Stratton pitches in a Mississippi State uniform, but Stratton was not worried about the Major League Draft. He was concerned for his team.
"I'm not worried about that right now," Stratton said. "We got to come back and compete (today). That is the most important thing right now."
Preseason All-American Caleb Reed was brought in with two outs in the eighth inning. Christiaan Durdaller hit a solo home run on a 3-2 count off of Reed to make it 5-0.
"For all the questions, who you face, how small is you ballpark and those kind of things we have been asked, four balls got out of here pretty quick (Friday) against a pretty good guy," Samford head coach Casey Dunn said, whose team improved to 40-21 for the season.
The MSU Bulldogs struggled at the plate only managing five hits.
Samford threw Tallahassee native Charles Basford. He gave up only five hits in eight innings of work. He walked four batters and struck out four.
Basford wanted to play ball at Mississippi State.
"Going out of high school, I knew it was a very good baseball program," Basford said. "At the time, (Ron) Polk was there. I knew he was one of the best coaches around. That was more of a dream school."
MSU loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning but Norris popped up to first to end the threat.
"(Basford) threw strikes," Slauter said. "He went at hitters. He gave you his best stuff. He competed. That is the best thing he did all day. He did a good job of competing against us."
The seventh inning brought another opportunity for MSU. Slauter led the inning off with an infield single. They decided to let Wes Rea swing away and he made a bid to make it 2-1 but he came up just short in right and Miller recorded the out.
Slauter was gunned down when he tried to move up on a ball in the dirt and Norris struck out swinging to end the inning.
"We just struggled getting things going all day long," Slauter said. "You get a leadoff guy on and you hit into some unfortunate things. Things just didn't fall our way (Friday)."
Samford plays Florida State, which defeated Alabama-Birmingham 2-1, in a winner's bracket game tonight, while MSU faces UAB at 11 a.m. today. Mississippi State is set to start Kendall Graveman (4-4, 2.92) against the Blazers.
"Our kids are disappointed," Cohen said. "The tournament goes on. We will have another opponent (today) and we will have another opportunity to compete. Our kids are looking forward to that challenge."
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