By MATTHEW STEVENS
After its first loss of the 2011 season, Mississippi State needed a dominate performance on the mound.
Chris Stratton delivered just that.
The sophomore right-hander from Tupelo extended his scoreless innings streak to 13 2/3 innings in the Bulldogs 5-3 victory over Belmont Saturday at Dudy Noble Field.
Stratton (2-0) didn’t allow a base runner past second base throughout 7 2/3 innings while allowing just four hits and striking out 13 in exactly 100 pitches with 73 of them for strikes.
“He was just dominant today and that’s great to see,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said. “He was a strike thrower and he was good with his curve ball and cutter.”
Stratton, who was named to the All-Southeastern Conference Freshman team last year, has given up just 10 hits in two starts this season while striking out 23 and allowing just one walk in 2011.
“He can really elevate a team’s strike zone just because that breaking ball really does get in the same area as his fastball,” Cohen said.
Stratton had much better command of both his fastball and curveball action Saturday, which allowed him to stay in the game longer than his career-best performance six days ago in a 2-0 win over Lamar. After getting Belmont shortstop Jared Breen out looking, Stratton received a standing ovation from the announced 2,755 in attendance at Dudy Noble Field.
“Last time I really struggled getting the fastball over and that was the focus this week when we were throwing bullpens,” Stratton said.
Mississippi State (6-1) broke the contest open with three runs in the sixth frame that included a two-run home run by senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden that barely got over the glove of Belmont left fielder Derek Hamblen to make it 5-0 and chased Bruins starting pitcher Nate Woods (0-2) to the locker room.
Ogden took Woods’ second pitch of the at-bat and made solid contact but still wasn’t sure if the baseball had landed in Left Field Lounge at Polk-Dement Stadium until he’d rounded first and pumped his fist while touching second base.
“I didn’t hit it well and it looked like he had a pretty good chance of robbing it,” Ogden said. “I think it just missed his glove and so I was pretty happy when I saw that.”
Ogden, who leads this team in home runs and RBIs this season from the seven spot in the lineup, got on base each of the four times he came to the plate Saturday.
“I’ve been feeling good at the plate because I’ve been working on a lot of things,” Ogden said. “We hit the ball well yesterday and hit it right at people. We’re not going to change anything because we’re playing well as a team.”
Unlike Friday night’s disappointing production with runners on, the Bulldogs were 6-for-13 with two outs Saturday and had four two-out RBIs in the contest.
Without Woods in the Bruins (3-4) lineup, Belmont was forced to rely on senior right fielder Tim Edgerton for offensive production. Edgerton was hitting .095 when he came to the park Saturday but had three hits including a towering three-run shot off Mississippi State freshman reliever Victor Diaz in the ninth inning.
Mississippi State will try to win the rubber match of the three-game series today with a 1:30 p.m. scheduled first pitch. Freshman right-hander Evan Mitchell will get his first career start today after throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief last weekend.
“We’re inclined to go left-handed (on the starter) but they just don’t have a left-handed lineup,” Cohen said.