AUBURN, Ala. (MSU Athletics) – After throttling Auburn with dominant pitching in the first two games of a Southeastern Conference series, the Mississippi State baseball team broke out the bats Sunday afternoon.
MSU collected a season-high 19 hits and finished a three-game sweep of Auburn with 12-1 victory at Plainsman Park. The Bulldogs broke open a tight game by scoring eight times in the seventh inning.
MSU improved to 31-18 overall and 14-10 in league play, while Auburn dropped to 25-23 and 9-15. The Bulldogs enter the final two weeks of the regular season in sole possession of second place in the Western Division, one game out of first place.
“I really felt good about the kids going into the weekend,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “They were so focused. Film, practice, whatever it was. Honestly, that was not the case all year and that is my fault. But I really love where we are right now. I wish we were playing tomorrow because we are really locked in on the task at hand like we need to be.”
For MSU, it is the first sweep over Auburn since 2011 and first sweeps on the Plains since an abbreviated two-game series sweep in 1998. The Bulldogs have actually recorded back-to-back sweeps on the road and have now won eight straight games away from Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs secured their fifth conference series win of the year with dominant pitching. Using eight different pitchers, the Bulldogs held the Tigers to 13 total hits and only one run in the series. Auburn snapped a 24-inning scoreless streak in the seventh inning Sunday when freshman Daniel Robert hit his first career home run.
By that time, the Bulldogs batted 13 players and scored eight times in the top half of the seventh inning to remove all doubt from the contest.
“We have not had a ton of big innings,” Cohen said. “If you study the SEC, no one is having big innings. Today, we really allowed the big inning to happen. You have to be patient and you have to hit line drives. When you have 19 hits, you are fortunate. That means we hit some line drives that didn’t find gloves.
“It was really good to see the kids rewarded because they were taking some really good at-bats today.”
After winning the first two games in the series by 3-0 scores, the Bulldogs built the same lead Sunday with a Gavin Collins home run in the second inning and a sacrifice fly from Wes Rea and RBI-single by Matthew Britton in the fourth inning.
Sophomore right-hander Preston Brown (4-1) parlayed the early offense into the victory. Brown worked five-plus innings, allowing two hits and walking one. Jacob Lindgren worked the Bulldogs out of a tight spot in the sixth inning in relief of Brandon Woodruff, who followed Brown. With the bases loaded, Lindgren got a strikeout and flyout to end that threat.
“Preston threw about 70 pitches and was very effective,” Cohen said. “We just need him to get ahead on more counts. (Lindgren) did what he always does. He got batters out with his breaking ball in a real tight spot. Thank goodness we scored runs and could get him back out of the game since he threw so much Friday.”
In the seventh inning, Brett Pirtle had two RBI-singles; Cody Brown had an RBI-single; Alex Detz had an RBI-double; Britton had a three-run double to right center and C.T. Bradford had a sacrifice fly.
Pirtle, Collins, Reid Humphreys and Britton each had three hits for the Bulldogs. Cody Brown added two hits. Myles Gentry and Ben Bracewell completed the contest on the mound for MSU.
Michael O’Neal (3-5) took the loss for Auburn. Robert had two hits for the Tigers.
MSU returns to Dudy Noble Field for a three-game series with Tennessee this weekend. The Bulldogs and Volunteers meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday (FSN South) and 1:30 p.m. Sunday (CBS Sports Network).