Two Out Trouble Dooms Tigers In Loss To MSU

20th-ranked Auburn fell 7-6 to Mississippi State Friday night in Starkville.

Starkville, Miss.--Mississippi State got a two-out double from Cody Freeman in the bottom of the ninth inning to score the game winner as the Bulldogs defeated the Auburn Tigers 7-6 Friday night. Down 4-0, Auburn bounced back to take a 5-4 lead but couldn't take advantage of opportunities as they fell to 14-8 overall and 2-2 in SEC play. With the win the Bulldogs improve to 16-6 and 2-2 in league action.

The story of the night was the damage done with two outs. Mississippi State scored all seven runs with two outs in the game and hit 6-14 as a team with two outs on the night. On the flip side Auburn was just 1-10 with two outs and struck out nine times on the night. Coach John Pawlowski said despite a gutty effort from starter Cory Luckie and reliever Zach Blatt, Auburn just didn't get the job done.

"We were in the ballgame and I thought we had a couple of opportunities, especially in that eighth inning," Pawlowski said. "We got a couple of guys on and you have to be able to get guys over and in. We didn't do that. We made a mistake and it cost us the game. That's baseball. The kids fought hard and they'll come back tomorrow and regroup and have another challenge on their hands."

Giving up six runs on eight hits in six innings, Luckie allowed four runs in the second before settling down and pitching well until two more runs scored in the sixth. Blatt pitched the final two and two/thirds innings, allowing just one run on four hits.

At the plate Cullen Wacker was the only Auburn player with multiple hits as he had a double and single. Mississippi State outhit the Tigers 12-8 with Wes Thigpen's three hits, including a two-run homer, leading the way.

Luckie ran into trouble early as the Bulldogs got to the junior lefty in the second inning. Leading off, Fairhope native Darrell Norris singled to get the rally going for the Bulldogs. Another one out single from Jonathan Ogden and a hit batter loaded the bases and MSU would deliver as Jaron Shepherd sent two home with a single and leadoff man Nick Vickerson followed with a double to score two more. Just like that Auburn trailed 4-0.

Auburn answered back in the top of the third as Wacker doubled and quickly moved to third on a passed ball. Struggling with his control all of the sudden, MSU starter Devin Jones hit Creede Simpson to put runners on first and third. He recovered to strike out Justin Hargett but a wild pitch on strike three allowed Wacker to score and Simpson to move to second. Another wild pitch moved him to third where he scored on a groundout to cut the Bulldogs' lead in half.

The Tigers would come all the way back in the fourth as Dan Gamache tripled to lead off and Wes Gilmer singled him home to make it 4-3. That would be all for Jones as Tim Statz came on in relief. Following a fly ball out by Tony Caldwell, he hit Kevin Patterson and allowed an infield single by Wacker to load the bases with just one out. Simpson got the tying run across with a sacrifice fly and another walk, this one to Hargett, loaded the bases but a Fradejas groundout left the bags full and the game tied.

After tying the game in the fourth Auburn would take the lead in the fifth as Casey McElroy singled and moved to second on a wild pitch with one out. Following a Gilmer groundout, Caldwell doubled to left field to score McElroy and put Auburn up 5-4.

Auburn's struggles with two outs would continue in the sixth as Luckie got the first two batters before allowing a single to bring Thigpen to the plate. Already with one hit on the night, the catcher homered down the left field line and just like that Mississippi State was back in front.

Getting ahead 2-1 in the count against left-handed reliever Luis Pollorena to lead off the seventh, Fradejas got all of one and pulled it down the left field line for his first home run of the season. The blast tied the game at six as Auburn continued to put the pressure on the Bulldogs.

In the top of the eighth Patterson doubled off MSU closer Caleb Reed and Wacker followed by earning a walk to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Called on to bunt the runners up, Simpson failed to get the job done as he popped up for the first out of the inning. With left reliever Chad Girodo in, Pawlowski chose to pinch hit for Hargett with Brooks Beisner. The move didn't work as Beisner struck out and Fradejas lined out to center to end the threat and keep the game tied.

With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth Mississippi State got a leadoff single from Thigpen and unlike Auburn, the Bulldogs got the bunt down to move the base runner into scoring position against Blatt. That meant the top of the order was up in the form of Vickerson. Getting a ground ball to Gilmer at third for the second out, Blatt faced Freeman to get out of the inning. Getting a 1-2 pitch up in the zone, Freeman doubled to left field to score the game winner.

Auburn will try to even the series on Saturday at 2 p.m. with junior Will Irvin getting the start on the mound. Irvin is 3-0 with a 3.70 ERA. He will face off against sophomore Chris Stratton (3-1, 2.38) for the Bulldogs.

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