Diamond Dogs Open NCAA Play Against Offensive-Minded Samford
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It's a battle of the Baseball Bulldogs in Friday's opening game of the 2012 NCAA Tallahassee Regional as Mississippi State's Bulldogs (39-22) face the Samford Bulldogs (39-21) in an 11 a.m. CDT) game at Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium.
MSU enters its 32nd NCAA postseason advancement as the No. 2 seed in the double-elimination regional event hosted by No. 3 national seed Florida State (43-15). Samford, making its first appearance in NCAA regional play, is seeded third in Tallahassee. Another Birmingham-based team, the UAB Blazers (32-28), coached by former MSU assistant coach Brian Shoop, is seeded fourth and takes on regional host Florida State in Friday's 5 p.m. (CDT) nightcap.
Non-prevailing opening round teams meet Saturday in an 11 a.m. (CDT) elimination round game while Friday's winners square off at 6 p.m. (CDT). All of the games of the Tallahassee Regional will be televised online on ESPN3.com.
The radio broadcasts of all of MSU's postseason games, featuring Jim Ellis and Bart Gregory, will be carried on the statewide MSU Baseball Radio Network and available at no cost to online listeners at www.HailState.com/hstvlive. Ellis, in his 34th season in the radio booth with MSU baseball, has broadcast 105 Mississippi State regional and super regional games and 21 of Mississippi State's 23 games in the NCAA College World Series.
Playing six games in six midday games, Mississippi State went on a 5-1 run in the SEC Baseball Tournament last weekend in Hoover, Ala. Bulldog pitching delivered its sixth shutout performance of the campaign in a 3-0 championship-clinching win over Vanderbilt Sunday to earn the SEC's automatic berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. An estimated 10,000-plus Mississippi State fans helped fill Regions Park on championship Sunday.
Junior righty Chris Stratton (11-1, 2.21) from Tupelo, Miss., is expected to draw tourney-opening mound duty for the Bulldogs against Samford. The SEC Pitcher of the Year and semifinalist for both the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award leads the Southeastern Conference in both wins and earned run average and ranks second with 123 strikeouts. Senior right-hander Charles Basford (9-2, 3.95) is expected to open on the mound for Samford. It's the 16th start of the season for Basford, who has registered 54r strikeouts in 98.0.
MSU registered 3-0 marks in winning its last two regionals. State bested Stetson once and twice defeated Florida State in winning the 2007 Tallahassee Regional five years ago at FSU's Dick Howser Stadium. In last year's NCAA Atlanta Regional the Bulldogs ran the table and earned their 10th NCAA regional championship with wins over Southern Miss, Austin Peay and Georgia Tech.
Sophomore shortstop Adam Frazier (.370), named MVP at last week's Southeastern Conference, paces the Bulldogs at the plate. The Bishop, Ga., product enters the Tallahassee Regional riding a career-best and team season-longest 12-game hitting streak. A starter in all 61 games this season, Frazier piled up a tourney-leading 12 hits and hit .523 in six games at the SEC Tournament. Named recently to the 2012 USA Baseball National Collegiate Team, Frazier ranks third in the SEC with 88 hits, most among players entering the Tallahassee Regional.
Samford, coached by former Auburn catcher and assistant coach Casey Dunn, out-scored opponents 40-15 and won all four of its games en route to winning the Southern Conference Tournament held last week in Greenville, S.C.
MSU holds a 30-8 all-time series lead against Samford, with State claiming a 7-6 win when the teams last meet in 2007 at Dudy Noble Field. SU earned its initial NCAA tournament this year berth after topping Georgia Southern in the championship Southern Conference tourney. The offense-dominant SU Bulldogs sport a regional-best .307 team batting average and begin the weekend ranked sixth nationally in runs scored with 425 and home runs with 62. Samford senior outfielder Brandon Miller (.299) leads the nation with 22 home runs and is one of three SEC players with double-digit home run totals.
Friday's tournament-opener against Samford marks the second consecutive NCAA postseason advancement for fourth-year MSU skipper John Cohen, who will be coaching in his fourth NCAA regional tournament in seven years.
TOURNAMENT NOTES: On MSU's tournament roster are three position players (outfielder Brent Brownlee and infielders Adam Frazier and Sam Frost) and eight pitchers (Kendall Graveman, Evan Mitchell, Daryl Norris, Luis Pollorena, Caleb Reed, Nick Routt, Taylor Stark and Chris Stratton) who saw NCAA tournament playing time during MSU's 4-2 postseason run in 2011. Brownlee is the lone position player with starting experience in tournament play, hitting .389 in six starts. Missing the action this year following a season-curtailing shoulder injury is sophomore outfielder C.T. Bradford. The 2011 Freshman All-American earned NCAA Atlanta Regional MVP honors and hit .375 while drawing starts in all six of MSU's postseason games ... Evan Mitchell, Luis Pollorena, Caleb Reed and Nick Routt all earned wins for State in 2011 tourney play, with Routt registering the staff's lone complete-game of the season in the title game of the Atlanta Regional ... Among Samford ties with MSU are pitcher C.K. Irby, whose grandfather Ken Irby was a two-year letterman at Mississippi State (1957-58) and SU radio broadcaster Mike Grace, a former radio personality in Starkville ... MSU begins tournament play ranked second in the nation with 68 double plays turned. Illinois, with its season completed, finished the 2012 campaign with 69.