Friday night's baseball game in Starkville between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Arkansas Razorbacks was billed as a pitchers duel between two of the best the Southeastern Conference had to offer.
MSU’s Chris Stratton lived up to his end of the bargain, holding Arkansas in check for a 11-2 win in the league home opener.
The Bulldogs pounced on the Hogs with two runs in each of the first four frames and with an 8-2 lead, never looked back.
“In this league on a Friday night when you can kind of bunch some things together, you definitely want that,” said Mississippi State head coach John Cohen. “We had some fortunate things happen for us, but we created some walks, had some HBPs, moved some guys and generated some stuff.”
State opened the scoring in the first inning when, with a runner on first, Hunter Renfroe collected his first home run of the season and the first inside the park home run since current MSU graduate assistant Brad Corley hit one in May of 2004.
Renfroe wasn’t done.
In his next trip to the plate, the Bulldogs were leading 4-1 in the third when he hit a towering shot over the famed leftfield lounge with Trey Porter on base, extending the Bulldog lead to 6-1.
“I knew it was gone,” said Renfroe. “I’ve hit enough home runs in my lifetime that I knew it was gone.”
Cohen agreed, the shot was a no-doubter.
“Baseballs don’t leave this ballpark like that very often," Cohen said. "There’s no question about it. Hunter has that kind of power, that kind of athleticism. He needed something like that to happen for him. That’s the reason the inside the park thing was so important for him, it broke him loose and got him going.”
In the fourth, after Arkansas plated a run in the top half of the frame, the Bulldogs answered by having the leadoff batter reach for the fourth consecutive inning, this time it was Demarcus Henderson.
Henderson, who reached on one of two Razorback errors, was followed by an Adam Frazier double to left and a C.T. Bradford hit-by-pitch. Trey Porter picked up a pair of RBI with a single through the right side, pushing State’s lead to 8-2 after four innings of play.
Bradford went 0-for-3 three for the night but helped State in other ways according to Cohen.
“C.T. was not seeing the baseball well, but what does he do?" Cohen asked after the victory. "He gets a walk. He gets a HBP. He patrols the outfield for us. He does so much for our club that doesn’t show up in the scorebook.”
After a pair of scoreless frames, Sam Frost capped the scoring with a base-loaded double to right scoring three and giving State the nine-run cushion heading into the eighth.
As for the reigning SEC and National Pitcher of the Week, Stratton threw seven complete innings allowing two runs on just five Arkansas hits. He struck out nine while walking just two.
“I just tried not to overthrow it and just making the pitches when I needed to,” Stratton said. “We went with a lot more change-ups than we did last Friday. I think I only threw two against LSU so I don’t think they were really ready for it.”
Arkansas ace, D.J. Baxendale picked up the loss after lasting into the fourth and surrendering eight runs on nine hits.
The Friday night win also marked the fourth consecutive error-free outing for the Bulldogs this season as this young club begins to mature.
For the evening, State had four players with multi-hit outings as Frazier and Mitch Slauter had three each while Porter and Renfroe managed a pair each.
Arkansas managed just seven hits and struck out 10 times.
The two SEC foes take the field once again today with a 2 p.m. scheduled first pitch.