The Tigers have done it again! They've knocked off the leader in the SEC for the second weekend in a row and won yet another SEC series - and another one without one of their ace pitchers ever touching the mound - in defeating Mississippi State in two out of three. With that, Auburn is now tied for the SEC lead themselves! War. Damn. Eagle!
Game 1: 2-5 Mississippi State
The Bulldogs came away with the win in Game 1 as Auburn's bats just couldn't really figure out MSU's pitchers. Konnor Pilkington took the mound in Game 1 and threw 7 innings, allowing 4 hits and 1 earned run. They put two different relievers in to close it out with Riley Self getting the save.
Auburn's two runs came in the 4th and 5th inning as they were trying to battle back from Mississippi State's early lead. Jonah Todd scored the first run on a Josh Anthony sac fly. He scored the second run, as well, thanks to a throwing error with the bases loaded on a Dylan Ingram hit.
The Tigers had base runners in this one thanks to some walks, but they only garnered 4 hits on the day. It wasn't enough to overcome Mississippi State's 5 runs. There were some interesting times in this one as Keegan Thompson was booed loudly by the home fans when he hit two batters in one inning - three in the game. It's insane to think he would hit the second batter on purpose, though, since that put a runner on base with Brent Rooker - possibly the best hitter in the conference - up next.
Regardless, Auburn dropped its first opening game of a series so far this season in Friday night's contest. That's a crazy stat in and of itself.
Game 2: 17-8 Auburn
The Tigers got on the board first in Game 2 with a Will Holland sac fly that scored Josh Anthony in the 2nd inning. MSU came back with 2 runs to take the lead 2-1. They added another in the 3rd for a 3-1 lead. Then, the Tigers blew the doors off.
Through a series of events ending with a Dylan Ingram grand slam, Auburn put up 7 runs in the top of the 4th inning. They added another on another Will Holland sac fly in the 5th before MSU came back with 4 runs to cut Auburn's lead to 9-7. A Josh Anthony double scored Ingram in the 6th, and then in the 8th Auburn added even more thanks to a Will Holland walk with bases loaded and a Jonah Todd base-clearing triple. Todd then came home himself on a wild pitch.
The Tigers didn't really need any insurance, but they added more runs in the 9th to reach the final margin of 17-8. It was the most runs scored by Auburn in a game this season and marks the 2nd weekend in a row that the Tigers have put up 15+ on a team considered the top in the SEC.
Auburn's bats were coming alive just when they needed them to the most. Davis Daniel pitched the first 4.1 innings of this game, allowing 7 runs on 6 hits. It wasn't his best outing. Cole Lipscomb came on in relief and pitched the final 4.2, allowing only 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 and walking none.
Game 3: 5-3 Auburn
With Game 3 being a doubleheader, Andrew Mitchell started the game on the mound for the Tigers and Casey Mize took another weekend off. He pitched a pretty strong 4.1 innings with only 1 run on 7 hits while striking out 3. Meanwhile, Auburn used another big 4th inning to build a good lead on the home team.
Connor Davis got the fun started with a 2-RBI single up the middle. After hitting a grand slam in the first game, Dylan Ingram then fired off a 2-run homer in the same inning as his earlier dinger. Finally, Jeremy Johnson picked up his 2nd RBI on the day to close out the scoring in the 4th with a double that scored Josh Anthony.
Those 5 runs were all Auburn would get, though. Mississippi State got one back in the bottom half of the inning. They added another in in the bottom of the 7th to cut the lead to 5-2. It could have been much worse, though, as Auburn was able to pitch out of a jam with Elliot Anderson and Calvin Coker on the mound in relief of Andrew Mitchell late in the game.
Things got a bit hairy in the 9th. Brent Rooker - probably the best hitter in the SEC - opened the inning with a lead-off home run to cut the lead to 5-3. That was all Mississippi State could rally for, though, as Coker sat down the next three batters thanks to some fine defensive work - including one of many great plays by Will Holland on the night - to end the game and clinch the series for the Tigers.
The Tigers' next series is a home tilt against hated rival Alabama. The Tide are one of the worst teams in the conference - a spot they were predicted to share with Auburn going into the season - which should set Auburn up nicely on the road to hopefully hosting a Regional. Of course, bad Alabama baseball teams have been known to trip up Auburn before, so let's not get too excited.
Still, there was a lot to like about this series. The issues we've known about are still there, but the Tigers' bats are really heating up at just the right time. If the starting pitching of all three normal weekend starters comes together at the same time with the Tigers' bats, then there's no one in the country that this team can't play with.
Only a road series against LSU and a homestand against Ole Miss will remain after next weekend's Alabama series. Auburn is almost assured of a NCAA spot no matter how those two series go. Winning all three of the remaining series, though, could mean that Auburn is in play to stay home through a trip to Nebraska.