Starkville, Miss.--Winners in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader and without Casey Mize on the mound and key starters Daniel Robert and Luke Jarvis in the field, the #7 Auburn Tigers (32-14, 14-7) got a combined nine innings of three-run ball out of Andrew Mitchell, Elliott Anderson and Calvin Coker on the mound in a huge 5-3 series-clinching win on Saturday night at over 10th-ranked Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field.
Throw in three hits from little-used outfielder Jeremy Johnson, a two-run homer from former Mississippi State player Dylan Ingram, and stellar play after stellar play from freshman shortstop Will Holland and the Tigers walked off the field with the lead in the SEC West after beating the Bulldogs head-to-head over the weekend.
“It was a long day, but a productive day,” Coach Butch Thompson said. “It’s just the resilience of our guys. I don’t want to coin another phrase right now. We just battled and got beat up some. We threw some punches.
“It’s hard to even remember the first game. I know we gave up three home runs but we had the big inning and just kept battling. What sticks in my mind right now is Andrew Mitchell and a couple of special nights from Elliott Anderson and Calvin Coker.
“Anderson has just come out of nowhere. He threw to a few hitters on Tuesday and I said ‘that looks the part’. Then for Calvin Coker to finish the game after throwing to two hitters in the first game, it’s fitting. I’m glad we had the lead.”
At the plate Johnson had three hits for the Tigers and drove in a run, but for the second time on Saturday it was a big home run by Ingram that gave Auburn a big boost early. Hitting a grand slam in game one, Ingram’s two-run bomb in the fourth inning was part of a five-run frame for the Tigers and that’s all they would need.
“It’s huge,” Ingram said of the two wins. “Losing last night we came in knowing we had to at least win one on the road. You can’t get swept. Coming out with two wins is huge for our team. We really grew from it. Not having Casey, not having Luke, not having Daniel at 100 percent, it really helped our team grow to get this sweep today.”
Dylan Ingram enjoys his trot around the bases following his fourth-inning home run
Mississippi State starter Cole Billingsley faced the minimum through three innings, but as so often happens the second look meant a different Auburn offense. Leading off with a walk, Todd stole second to move into scoring position for Jay Estes and when he walked it put the Tigers in business. Following a wild pitch, Conor Davis singled back up the middle to score both runners and put Auburn in front by two.
That would be all for Billingsley as Trey Jolly replaced him on the mound to face Ingram. Already with a grand slam on the day, Ingram got a 3-2 fastball over the heart of the plate and lined it over the left field wall for his second homer of the day. Josh Anthony walked and moved to second on a ground ball to set the table for ohnson.
Forced into the lineup this weekend and putting together some good at-bats, Johnson smoked a double into the gap in right-center to finish off a five-run inning for the Tigers.
Mississippi State wouldn’t go down quietly in this one as Cody Brown continued his hot hitting with a leadoff double in the bottom of the fourth. Following a strikeout, Mitchell walked Prattville native Josh Lovelady and Brown advanced to third on a wild pitch to put runners on the corners with one out.
Harrison Bragg put the Bulldogs on the board with a single to put runners on first and second for Luke Alexander. Hitting a high chopper to third, Alexander reached when Anthony’s throw was low to Ingram at first. Never slowing down on the play, Lovelady was thrown out trying to score by Ingram at the plate. Mitchell then struck out Tanner Poole to end the inning and keep the lead at four.
Running out of gas in the fifth, Mitchell got leadoff man Jake Mangum to start things but a Brent Rooker double put the Bulldogs in business. Shortstop Ryan Gridley followed with a bunt single to put runners on the corners with one out. Calling on Anderson out of the bullpen, Auburn got just what the doctor ordered with a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Auburn loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh but an Estes fly ball left them full. Going back out in the bottom of the inning Anderson gave up a leadoff single before getting Rooker on a fly ball to right field.
Following a ground ball to Anthony at third to retire the lead runner, back-to-back singles by Brown and Elijah MacNamee made the score 5-2 and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the form of catcher Dustin Skelton. Coming on in relief, Coker got a big strikeout of Mangum to end the frame and keep Auburn in front by three.
Again facing trouble in the eighth inning with a runner on second and two outs, Coker struck out Mangum to keep the lead at three with just three outs remaining for the Tigers. Giving up a solo homer to Rooker in the ninth to cut the lead to 5-3, the junior closed out the game to earn his second save of the season and give Auburn the huge series win.
“To strike out Mangum in the eighth I thought was the ballgame,” Thompson said. “That forced Rooker to come up (to lead off the ninth) and again he showed what he can do. Him not coming up with the tying run in the eighth and having to lead off the ninth down three allowed us to attack him. For Calvin Coker to finish that game after giving up that home run and pitching in the first game and the second game, something he hasn’t done is finish a ballgame.”
Auburn will return to action this weekend with a three-game series against Alabama at Plainsman Park. There are no midweek games because of finals on the Auburn campus.