"I challenged our team today that if we want to compete in this league we have to play defense," Coach John Pawlowski says. "That first game we played today, that was our best defensive effort.
"Michael O'Neal does what he usually does and gives us a chance," he adds. "Terrance Dedrick, it was a little hairy situation in the ninth but he stayed composed. That's the guy we wanted out there in that situation."
Game one of the series from Thursday night was suspended by rain in the 7th inning with Auburn trailing 6-3 and that's how it finished on Friday as Mississippi State closer Jonathan Holder struck out seven of the eight batters he faced to secure the win for the Bulldogs. The rubber game of the series will take place on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Auburn got the offense started in the first inning of game two as Cullen Wacker singled with two outs to bring Garrett Cooper to the plate. Hitting a slow dribbler out in front of home plate, Cooper ran hard to first base and forced a quick throw by Mississippi State starter Kendall Graveman that sailed high and into right field. Wacker moved to third on the error and scored moments later on a Savage single to put Auburn in front.
In the third it was again Wacker to get things started as his two-out single started up the Auburn offense. Moving to second on a wild pitch, Wacker advanced to third on an infield single by Cooper to bring Savage to the plate once again with a runner in scoring position. Turning on a pitch, he hit a sharp ground ball off the glove of shortstop Adam Frazier for his second RBI single of the game.
Cruising on the mound through the first four innings, O'Neal got more help from his offense in the fifth as Ryan Tella singled to open the fifth. Up next, Jordan Ebert singled to right field and an error by Hunter Renfroe allowed the runners to move to second and third with nobody out and the heart of the order coming to the plate.
Continuing his big weekend at the plate, Wacker lifted a fly ball to right field to easily score Tella and move Ebert up to third base with just one out. Now leading 3-0 and with a chance to add to the lead, Auburn instead left the freshman stranded as Cooper and Savage struck out to end the threat.
O'Neal ran into his first big trouble in the sixth inning as one-out walks to Alex Detz and Hunter Renfroe put runners on base for Brett Pirtle. Adding to his problems, O'Neal hit the second baseman to load the bases for big Wes Rea. Homering in last night's game, the big first baseman hit a ground ball right to Ebert at second base. The freshman started the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
In the seventh Mississippi State again threatened. After getting a double play to erase the first baserunner of the inning, O'Neal got a ground ball that appeared to end the inning but an error on Cooper at first base kept the Bulldogs alive. Another single put runners on first and second with two outs for Frazier and the shortstop hit a slow roller to Mitchell Self at shortstop. Flipping to Ebert covering second base, Self's throw wasn't in time to get the third out. However, the freshman threw to the plate to cut down C.T. Bradford to end the inning.
Coming on in the eighth inning, Dedrick faced a jam in the ninth as Bradford doubled to start the inning with the Bulldogs needing three to tie and four to win. Allowing a single to score the runner from third with one out, the junior recovered to close things out for the Tigers and secure the win.
Auburn will send junior Will Kendall to the mound on Saturday at 4 p.m. as the Tigers look to win their third-straight SEC series.