June 1, 2012

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Miller, Samford come out swinging, bury Mississippi State

By Andrew Krause



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Brandon Miller (right) starred at the plate and in the field Friday as third-seeded Samford upset No. 2 Mississippi State 5-0 in the first game of the Tallahassee Regional.


In the top of the second, Miller (1 for 2, 2 BB) deposited an 0-2 pitch from Mississippi State ace Chris Stratton into the parking lot surrounding Dick Howser Stadium to give SU (40-21) an early 1-0 lead and emotional lift.


“It was right there,” Miller said of the 0-2 breaking ball. “It was a confidence booster for us to strike first. That’s what Coach Dunn wanted us to do—go out there and strike first.”


Miller’s second inning blast was his NCAA-leading 23rd of the season.


After Miller’s blast, Stratton settled in, and he and Samford’s Charles Basford matched zeroes into the eighth inning. While Stratton is considered to be a likely first-round draft pick in the upcoming MLB Draft, it was Basford (10-2) who managed to continually baffle MSU hitters and leave unscathed. 


“The biggest thing was he just stayed down in the zone,” Samford head coach Casey Dunn said. “He did a great job of being consistent. He got a lot of weak swings because he was down in the zone.”  


The seventh and eighth innings turned out to be extremely important, as Mississippi State finally started to threaten. With MSU (39-23) still trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh and with a runner on first, Wes Rea hit a high fly ball to right field that looked like it would carom off of the fence, until Miller leapt, snagged it, and nearly doubled off the runner at first.


“I thought it was hit pretty well,” Miller said. “I got to the wall, found it, and managed to just time it right and catch it.”


In the top of the eighth, Samford exploded for four runs via three homers to force Stratton (11-2, 7.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) out of the game.


“They just did a good job of getting pitches,” Stratton said. “They reminded me of Kentucky, the way they could go down and get it. They had a good plan and they executed it really well.”


The home runs by Saxon Butler (1 for 5), C.K. Irby (3 for 4, 2 RBI), and Christiaan Durdaller (1 for 4) put the game out of reach and put any doubts about the legitimacy of the Samford offense to rest.


“For all the questions [we get] about who you play, how small is your ballpark, and those kinds of things we’ve been asked, those balls got out of here pretty quick,” Dunn said. “This is a good offensive club and when we take advantage of mistakes, we have a chance to score some runs.”


Basford (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) pitched a scoreless eighth and after surrendering a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, he was replaced by Irby, who retired the side in order.


MSU catcher Mitch Slauter, who accounted for two of his team’s five base hits, was complimentary of Basford (left).


“He went at hitters,” said Slauter, who went 2 for 4. “He did a real good job of competing against us.”


“I thought Samford did a great job today,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We did not recognize pitches today. I don’t know if it was a focus issue or what. Obviously our kids are disappointed, but we have another opportunity to compete tomorrow.”


Samford will play the winner of the Florida State-UAB matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday, while Mississippi State will play the loser of that game in an elimination game at noon.


(photos courtesy of Samford Media Relations Office)