#17 Auburn @ Mississippi State
- THU: 7-6 L
- FRI: 5-9 L
- SAT: 3-2 W
Saturday morning, I woke up and prepared myself to have this be a midseason recap, because I didn’t want to unfold the first 2 games. Auburn lost both in the two ways you can lose a baseball game, close and have it slip away at the end and a blow out that you claw back into, but are never close enough to be a real threat. It was agonizing. Auburn should have gone into Saturday with another rubber game and Joseph Gonzalez toeing the rubber for the Tigers. Now they had to have another dominant performance on the mound and have the bats wake up to even salvage a game and not get swept against a State squad that had struggled before Auburn showed up.
All Gonzalez did was exactly what he did last 3 outings. This week, he went 8 innings giving up 2 runs on 7 hits and striking out 6. No walks on the day, which was massive. The only blemish on the day for Gonzo was those 2 runs in the 2nd inning. Other than that, he was able to work around trouble and keep the pitch count low, paving the way for another impressive outing. On the offensive side, Auburn was able to get base runners as State walked 7 Auburn batters, but getting those runners in proved to be tougher than one would hope as the Tigers left 15 on base on Sunday alone. Auburn finally broke through in the 7th with a tying two runs off the bat of Kason Howell and Cam Hill. Then in the 8th, Auburn would pinch hit for Mike Bello and Brooks Carlson would come up huge with a double to score Bobby Peirce to give the Tigers the lead. The game wouldn’t be over however as Blake Burkhalter would give up a lead off walk before getting the next 2 outs. Then this happened.
A season changing play. If Auburn doesn’t pull that out, they are 7-8 in the conference and have been swept by a team that would have been out of Hoover by the standings. Instead, they did what they HAD to do. They got a road win. Sure, a series win on the road is much better looking however, the name of the game is just don’t get swept on the road and win your home series. That’s the foundation for a solid Tournament resume. Auburn has done that so far. Now they would do well to make back up that Thursday game somewhere in the conference…and hopefully that is this upcoming weekend.
HITTING PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEKEND
This week was sort of an off week for the offense. I don’t know if it was The Dude or State pitchers just had a fire lit under then by Coach Foxhall but they were solid all weekend for the most part. In my eyes, Kason Howell was the guy for the Tigers this weekend. After a 1 for 5 start on Friday, Kason went 5 for 10 with 2 RBIs and 2 Runs scored that included a double and a stolen base. Talk about a glue guy that I personally will be crushed that he is done at the end of this season, Kason has been a day 1 starter since walking on to campus and has taken the mantel from the Anfernee Grier and Jonah Todds to make CF a lock down position for Auburn. He’s the leader of this team and when Auburn needs him the most, he’s always there. Solid weekend sir.
PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEKEND
How can it not be Gonzo. The defending Co-SEC Pitcher of the Week only met the week after going CG against Vandy with 8 innings of 2 run ball against the defending National Champs when the Tigers had to have the win. Along in this game, honorable mention goes to Blake Burkhalter for bouncing back from a miserable Thursday night finish to get 2 quick outs before Bryson Ware would make the game saving play for the final out.
The Tigers play 5 games this week, but all at home. First up is Alabama State on Tuesday at 6 pm. Following that are the Fighting Owls of Kennesaw State in a make up from March 15th. After one whole day off, Auburn plays host to the South Carolina Gamecocks for a Fri-Sun series that Auburn desperately has to have. Following that, Auburn travels to Tennessee, and then hosts Arkansas and Alabama. Not fun at all. Games are going to get much tougher to get soon. The Tigers need to stockpile now.