June 1, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Four home runs, including three that provided a four-run eighth inning, coupled with a strong performance by pitcher Charles Basford guided Samford to a 5-0 win over Mississippi State in the opening game of the NCAA Regional in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon at Dick Howser Stadium at Mike Martin Field.
The opening-round win for Samford (40-21) advances it to the winner’s bracket where it will meet either No. 3 national seed and regional host Florida State or UAB on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. ET in a game that will air on ESPN2. Today’s win marks Samford’s first 40-win season in school history.
It was the second time Samford recorded four or more home runs in a contest this season, falling short of its season-high five round-trippers versus Alabama A&M on Feb. 21. Sophomore C.K. Irby led the Bulldogs with a 3-for-4 performance that included a two-run home run to centerfield in the eighth inning to advance Samford’s lead to 4-0. Irby’s home run chased Mississippi State starter and First-Team Louisville Slugger All-American Chris Stratton out of the game after he allowed four runs on six hits with four strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. As a starter, Stratton’s four runs given up were tied for his second-most season.
Samford redshirt junior Christiaan Durdaller followed with another insurance run as he cranked a full-count pitch over the left field wall, giving Samford back-to-back round trippers in the eighth inning. Durdaller’s blast was his fifth of the season and Mississippi State reliever Caleb Reed’s first batter faced.
Also getting into the home run act were senior All-Southern Conference performer Brandon Miller and fellow all-conference teammate Saxton Butler.
Basford (10-2), who played high school baseball at Tallahassee Lincoln, was aggressive all afternoon and allowed no runs on five hits with five walks and four strikeouts in eight frames. Basford pitched into the seventh inning for the 11th time in 16 starts and came within an inning of throwing his third complete game of the year.
“First thing, what a pretty good homecoming for a local right here (Tallahassee native Charles Basford),” Samford head coach Casey Dunn said. “It obviously was a great outing by Charles. It set the tone for everything we did. Brandon (Miller) got the home run early, and then we finally got some balls to fall. We got some balls up in the air and hit them out. It’s a pretty good first day to open the tournament – that’s for sure.”
“To be honest, probably the crowd,” Basford said when asked what excited him more between pitching in front of his hometown and facing his dream school. “We knew if we could go out there and play our game, it was going to be great for us. With the crowd and all of the hometown people at the game it was definitely a big motivator for me.”
In the top of the second inning, right fielder Miller took advantage of an 0-2 offering from Mississippi State’s Stratton and hammered his nation-leading 23rd home run of the season to left field. The solo shot was estimated at 440 feet and put Samford on the scoreboard with a 1-0 lead. Irby followed with a one-out single to right field, but Stratton came back to induce consecutive flyouts to right field to end the frame.
“I thought Samford did a great job today,” Mississippi State John Cohen said. “The game reminded me a lot of the ball game we played a couple of weeks ago against Central Arkansas. We didn’t score in that gamer, either. We didn’t recognize pitches today and I don’t know if it was a focus issue or what; we just did a very poor job of recognizing pitches. I felt like there were some sequences – it was typical thing when you are not recognizing it good – then you do and you hit it hard and it’s a double play or it’s a line out to the shortstop.”
Samford escaped a bases-loaded jam to come away unscathed in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Mississippi State’s Demarcus Henderson drew a walk and advanced to second base on a single by Mitch Slauter. After Wes Rea struck out swinging, Sam Frost was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Daryl Norris. Norris ended the inning on a pop-up to first base to keep Mississippi State scoreless.
Slauter ended up leading Mississippi State (39-23) with a 2-for-4 performance, while Rea provided MSU with its only extra-base hit of the day on a double to left field.
Another threat was made by the Samford offense in the top of the fourth, as Miller walked and Irby followed with his second single of the day to centerfield. Durdaller was unable to add to Samford’s slim lead as he grounded out to third base.
Two Samford runners were stranded in the top of the fifth inning when Butler struck out swinging to preserve a 1-0 advantage. With two outs, Zeth Stone walked on a 3-1 pitch and advanced to third base on Tommy Corbin’s opposite-field single down the right field line to put runners on the corners. Stratton battled back to record his third strikeout of the game as Butler chased a high fastball. Butler would make up for his previous at-bat with a solo home run to left field in the eighth inning.
Mississippi State’s Slauter began the bottom of the seventh with an infield single to third base, the first time MSU’s leadoff batter reached base. Any momentum from the base hit was impeded when Slauter was caught trying to advance to second base with one out, as Samford catcher Brad Moss corralled a ball in the dirt and threw out Slauter easily at second base. Norris then struck out swinging on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning, which proved to be Mississippi State’s last big chance for crossing the plate.
Samford has now homered 66 times this season, with today’s game marking the seventh time it has recorded three or more home runs in a contest. Mississippi State had only allowed 13 home runs entering the opening-round contest.