Bulldogs take the series from Auburn
AUBURN, Ala. - A dominating offensive performance was on show Saturday at Plainsman Park, as No. 4 Mississippi State pounded out a season-best 21 hits to take a 16-6 win against Auburn and clinch its eighth SEC series of the season Saturday.
MSU improved to 36-14-1 overall and 17-9 in league play. Auburn fell to 22-29 and 8-18. The Bulldogs enter the final four games of the regular season in sole possession of second place in the Western Division standings and within two games of the overall lead in the standings.
MSU clinched its eighth conference series win on the season and has captured eight of its first nine league series for the first time since 1988. The Bulldogs finish the regular season by winning all five road series in the league, a feat accomplished only one other time in MSU history (1997).
"Really proud of Austin (Sexton)," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We had a couple of plays that we didn't make behind him but he kept battling and didn't get down. When you build a big lead early, it can be hard. Even though he was not at his best, he really battled there."
The Bulldogs struck quickly with eight runs in the second inning. After the Tigers closed within 10-6, the Bulldogs put the contest away with three runs in the eighth and ninth innings. The Bulldogs finished with 13 extra-base hits, including eight doubles (most in a game since 2010), two triples and three home runs.
"Offensively, we had some guys with some really great afternoons at the plate," Cohen said. "We had a couple of opportunities where we didn't cash in and you are disappointed in that, but we had so many others where we did. The key was getting into their bullpen early. We thought if we could do that, we could have some success."
Sexton (6-2) worked 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and six runs (three earned), with eight strikeouts and a walk. Daniel Brown finished the contest on the mound for the Bulldogs.
In the second inning, Jacob Robson started things with a single. Ryan Gridley then reached on an error. Elih Marrero followed with an RBI-groundout. John Holland had an RBI-triple and Jake Mangum had an RBI-double.
Jack Kruger and Nathaniel Lowe followed with back-to-back hits, with Lowe bringing home Mangum. Gavin Collins then hit a three-run home run to left field and Brent Rooker hit the first of his two home runs to dead center.
Collins extended his career-high hitting streak to 13-straight games and has now reached base safely in a career-high 16-straight contests.
In the fifth inning, Rooker hit a solo home run, while in the sixth inning, Lowe had an RBI-single.
A three-run home by Blake Logan brought the Tigers back within 10-5 in the sixth inning. The Tigers then tacked on another run in the seventh inning.
In the eighth inning, the Bulldogs got three straight doubles from Mangum, Kruger and Lowe. After a flyout, Rooker followed with an RBI-double. In the ninth inning, singles by Gridley and Marrero got things started. John Holland followed with an RBI-double. After a single by Mangum, Kruger had a sacrifice fly. Cole Gordon then capped the scoring with an RBI-triple.
Mangum and Lowe each had four hits for the Bulldogs, while Rooker and Kruger each had three hits. Holland had two hits. Collins, Lowe and Rooker each had three RBIs. For Rooker, it was home runs Nos. 6 and 7, while Collins has now hit a team-best nine.
This is the third time this season that the Bulldogs have had every starter earn at least one hit in a ballgame. The 21 total hits are the most by an MSU squad since tallying 21 against Portland on Feb. 15, 2013.
Auburn finished with eight hits. Logan had two hits and three RBIs.
The series concludes with a 1 p.m. start Sunday (SEC Network +). MSU will be looking for its second straight conference series sweep and second straight sweep at Auburn.