AUBURN, Ala. - No. 12 Auburn rallied from a five-run deficit through five innings to defeat No. 4 Mississippi State, 6-5, in the series opener at Dudy Noble Field Friday night.
After cutting the lead to one with a pair of runs in the sixth and seventh frames, the Tigers tied the game when Edouard Julien hit a RBI double to right-center field. Kason Howell came to the plate three batters later and delivered a two-out, two-strike base hit to score Julien and put Auburn ahead.
"Their fifth run was a line drive that Kason is running in on and he's got to catch," Thompson said. "But the resiliency of a young player, for him to get the two-strike hit, which was the winning run, after that play happened, it just keeps telling us and our fans and our team that we keep hanging in there and battling away."
The win marked Auburn's (20-2, 4-0 SEC) 15th straight, which is tied for the third longest winning streak in program history. The five-run comeback - Auburn's third straight comeback win - also marked the team's largest comeback in conference play since 2016.
"Our guys just hung in there," head coach Butch Thompson said. "I give them a ton of credit. Our bats were tough. We didn't make some routine plays early, but we at least hung in there."
Elliott Anderson (4-0, 0.46) earned the win after recording the final two outs of the seventh inning, while Cody Greenhill pitched 2.0 near-perfect innings to pick up his team-best fourth save of the season.
Mississippi State (20-3, 2-2 SEC) jumped out to 4-0 lead in the first inning and added an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth before the Tigers started the late-inning rally.
Steven Williams and Rankin Woley got the offense going with back-to-back home runs to start the sixth inning. The back-to-back homers were the first for the Tigers since Josh Anthony and Will Holland in last year's Raleigh Regional.
Howell singled to lead off the seventh, and Judd Ward put two in scoring position with a double to deep left. Auburn scratched both runners across on RBI groundouts to the shortstop from Matt Scheffler and Holland to draw the Tigers within one.
Woley led off the eighth with his team-leading 29 hit of the season to put the tying run on base for Auburn. Julien then launched a 2-2 pitch deep in the alley in right-center to plate Woley and tie the game. Two batters later, Howell shortened up with two strikes and drove a pitch past the diving Mississippi State first baseman to plate Julien and give the Tigers the lead.
"The team just showed amazing resilience and competitiveness tonight at the plate," Howell said. "We didn't have our best stuff the first part of that game. Steven and Rankin had two bombs that gave us some life. That last at-bat, I got to two strikes pretty quickly, chocked up, tried to stick with my approach, poke the ball the other way and it worked out for me."
After Tanner Burns gutted out 5.0 innings on the mound to start the game, a trio of relievers held the Bulldogs scoreless while allowing just two hits for the remainder of the contest.
Kyle Gray entered in relief of Burns in the sixth and pitched 1.1 innings before being lifted for Anderson, who got out of the seventh inning by recording a pair of outs and improved his career record in an Auburn uniform to 10-0. Greenhill entered from the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and shut the Bulldogs down over the final two frames, allowing one hit with a pair of strikeouts.
Offensively, Woley and Howell led the way with two hits apiece. Scheffler drove in a run for the fifth straight game, and Julien drove in his seventh run in the last four games.
The Tigers will go for the series tomorrow at 2 p.m. CT. Auburn will send left-hander Carson Skipper (3-0, 2.86) to the bump opposite Mississippi State right-hander JT Ginn (5-0, 2.59).