The Bulldogs won a third straight Southeastern Conference series opener with a 7-4 win over Vanderbilt Friday night at Dudy Noble Field. MSU ushered in the Easter holiday weekend with Chris Stratton's seventh pitching win of the season and ace closer Caleb Reed's seventh save.
MSU improved to 19-11 overall and 4-6 in conference play, while Vanderbilt fell to 12-18 and 3-7. The Bulldogs snapped a six-game losing streak to the Commodores here at home. With victories over Arkansas, Auburn and now Vanderbilt, MSU makes it three straight series-opening wins for the first time since beating Kentucky, Arkansas and LSU on successive weekends in 2007.
"Chris was excellent tonight," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "The biggest play may have been on a bunt attempt. Chris makes an incredible athletic move to make the catch. Caleb then comes through and totally shuts them down."
The Bulldogs built an early 6-1 lead with two runs in the first inning and four more scores in the third inning. Stratton carried that hefty lead until the sixth inning when the Commodores struck for three scores.
Reed faced two batters past the minimum while throwing three innings of shutout relief.
In the third inning, Mitch Slauter reached as a hit batsman. C.T. Bradford followed with a base hit, which chased VU starter Kevin Ziomek. New pitcher Drew VerHagen was reached for back-to-back run-producing hits by Wes Rea and Daryl Norris.
Norris, the Bulldog designated hitter, returned to the lineup for the first time since March 7. His return included a pair of hits and an RBI.
"It feels good to finally be getting everybody back," MSU senior outfielder Brent Brownlee said. "These are our guys and we need them out there for us to be at our best."
Sam Frost followed with a two-run double - his second double of the game - and suddenly the Maroon and White held a 6-1 lead.
Things stayed that way until Vanderbilt struck for three runs in the sixth inning. An RBI-double by Spencer Navin and two-run single by Riley Reynolds were the big blows in that inning.
"Thing were going well until that inning," Stratton said. "I made some pitches that I should not have. The team battled hard behind me though and we pulled through for a big win."
Brownlee brought home a critical insurance score with an RBI-single in the seventh inning.
Stratton (7-0) allowed six hits and four runs (three earned), with six strikeouts and one walk. Reed allowed two hits, while facing 11 batters and throwing 35 pitches.
Ziomek (2-5) took the loss in two-plus innings of work. The Commodores threw four total pitches, while allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs.
Frazier, Rea, Norris and Frost each had multiple hits for the Bulldogs.
Vanderbilt received two hits apiece from Tony Kemp and Anthony Gomez.
The series resumes at 2 p.m. Saturday.