Auburn's Offense Falters Again In 3-0 Loss

Auburn fell 3-0 to Mississippi State as the Tigers were shut out for the second consecutive night.

Auburn, Ala.--When you look up the word soft-tossing lefty in the dictionary a photo of Mississippi State pitcher Ross Mitchell is what you see. On Saturday night that was easily enough to shut down Auburn's anemic offense as he threw a complete-game on 132 pitches and allowed just four hits in a 3-0 Bulldog win over the Tigers. With the loss Coach Sunny Golloway's team falls to 25-22 overall and 9-14 in SEC play and is now in big danger of not making the SEC Tournament.

The lack of offense continues to be the death blow for the Tigers as they were shut out in back-to-back games in SEC play for the first time since 1982. With the nine scoreless innings they have now gone 23 consecutive innings without scoring a run, breaking their previous season high of 22 in the series at Ole Miss.

"Offensively, we did a poor job against Mitchell," Golloway said. "He did what he was supposed to do. He kind of floats in in there. Our guys are burying their back foot in the back of the box and we made a change starting with (Dan) Glevenyak (6th inning) to get up in the box. That's the way you can beat him. If we had that approach from the get-go it's a different outcome.

"Poor planning by us," he added. "We had the scouting report. We didn't have a very good offensive approach. I have already talked to our coaching staff that we've got to be better at having a better approach against certain guys."

In two games this weekend Auburn's offense has a total of nine hits and is 0-9 with runners in scoring position. Needing to get that turned around in a hurry and likely needing five wins it their last seven SEC games to make the NCAA Tournament, Golloway said he's not sure where to turn right now. With an offense that has scored less than five runs in 18 of 23 conference games, he said the production just isn't there.

"I don't understand it," Golloway said. "I have never coached a team that couldn't score runs in college baseball. For us to have back-to-back shutouts is just; our number is five or less. It's pitching and defense, hold them to five or less and we're going to win. You can throw that out the window with this offense. It's frustrating to say the least, but we've got to come back tomorrow and have a good attitude."

Looking for answers on offense, Golloway again made changes to his lineup on Saturday night, this time inserting sophomore Dylan Smith into the leadoff spot. A third baseman/first baseman by trade, Smith was 0-10 for his career heading into the game and Golloway said he wanted to give him a shot. Going 0-2 to start the game, he was replaced by freshman Blake Logan in the sixth inning.

"We've had Daniel Robert there and we wanted to give Dylan Smith a shot," Golloway said. "He's been running into some balls and hasn't been ready, coming back from an injury in the fall. We felt like we've watched his swings and he's been ready late. He didn't match up good. He was in the back of the box taking big swings against a guy that is topping out at 81 MPH and throwing most of his pitches in the 70's. That's a bad match-up."

On the mound freshman Keegan Thompson pitched well enough to win, allowing just three runs on five hits in seven innings of work while striking out four. Everything came in one fateful inning Golloway said they would all like to have back.

Mississippi State (30-18, 13-10) got all the offense it would need in the third inning thanks to plenty of help from the Tigers. Walking just 18 batters in 77 ? innings entering Saturday's contest, Thompson lost his command and walked both Jake Vickerson and Derrick Armstrong to open the third. Recovering to strike out former high school teammate Matthew Britton, Thompson left a pitch up to Friday night's hero C.T. Bradford and he deposited it into right field for a single to put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard.

Damek Tomscha gets one of Auburn's four hits on the night

Facing Alex Detz, the freshman got a ground ball to Damon Haecker at short that looked like it would end the inning but his flip to Brett Binning was bobbled. That allowed Detz to reach first on the fielder's choice and Armstrong to score from third to make it 2-0. It proved to be huge as Brett Pirtle followed with a double to right field and when Anfernee Grier's relay throw to Binning short-hopped him going towards second base and bounced away, it allowed Detz scored all the way from first.

"He really wasn't bad that inning," Golloway said. "I know there was the double down the line and the two walks. He was frustrated a little bit with the zone and I tried to calm him down on that. I really thought he did a good job of pitching out of it. We've got first and third with the run in, we've got to turn the double play. We turn the double play and he gets out of the inning with just one run in. We bobble the ball at second base and don't get it turned.

"Our guys understand risk versus reward," he added. "That's the time you've got to let it fly. You've to do everything you can and turn that double play. It was tailor-made. Then I thought we made another mistake when we don't line up for four. I don't know why we're lining up two. It's a conceded double down the line."

Trailing 3-0 the Tigers were never able to mount a serious threat against the crafty left-hander. The only scoring chance came in the sixth inning when Dan Glevenyak led off with a double. Following a pair of pop-ups, Damek Tomscha walked to bring Blake Austin to the plate. When a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position it was a golden opportunity for the struggling Auburn offense, but his pop-up was snared by the Mississippi State catcher to end the threat.

The Tigers made one last run at Mitchell and the Bulldogs in the ninth inning, loading the bases when Tomscha was hit by a pitch and back-to-back two-out singles from Jordan Ebert and Grier. With two outs and a chance to get in the game Auburn was counting on J.J. Shaffer to get the job done. Replacing Ryan Tella in center field after the senior was hit on the hand by a pitch, Shaffer hit a weak ground ball back to Mitchell to end the game and secure the series for the Bulldogs.

Auburn will send senior Michael O'Neal to the mound on Sunday at 1 p.m. looking to salvage the final game of the series.

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