Comeback Falls Short For Tigers Against Bulldogs

A late rally fell just short for Auburn as it lost the series opener against Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--Most teams are most comfortable at home, but that appears to not be the case with the Auburn Tigers this year as they lost for the fifth time in seven home SEC games this season, falling 6-4 to Mississippi State Friday night in the opening game of the series. The Bulldogs (25-14, 7-9) scored all six runs in the first three innings and held off a late Auburn (27-13, 8-8) rally to get the win.

MSU starting pitcher Alan Johnson was the story on the night, giving up six hits and four runs in six and two/thirds innings of work. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth and kept Auburn from ever really getting into the game until it was too late. Auburn starter Mike Felix took the loss, going just two and one/third inning. He allowed five runs on six hits to fall to 4-3 this season. Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said early on the Tigers allowed Johnson to get into a rhythm and that was the difference in the game.

"He got them enough zeroes to make it hard on us," Renfroe said. "We had a couple of chances early when he gave us a runner and we had a single, but he just got out of that. We weren't able to scratch one across early.

"When you can't get into the game it's kind of rough on you," Renfroe added. "You kind of let the guy get into the rocking chair, throwing any pitch he wants on any count. It takes a while to get after it. I'm proud of the guys for the way they battled back."

Thanks to some outstanding pitching by relievers Chris Dennis and John Madden, Auburn was able to hang around and make a run at Mississippi State. In his finest outing of the season Dennis allowed just four hits and no runs in four and two/thirds innings. Madden came on to pitch the eighth and ninth innings and gave up just one hit. It wouldn't be enough though as MSU pulled out the victory.

Chris Dennis was outstanding on Friday night in a loss.

The Bulldogs wasted little time taking advantage of some very shaky Auburn defense early on. In the first Jeffrey Rea singled to left field to bring shortstop Steve Gendron to the plate. Before he would get a chance to swing Felix caught Rea leaning at first. Unfortunately for Auburn Derek Sain's throw to Chuck Jeroloman off the target, allowing Rea to be safe at second. A veteran who has seen it all, Gendron battled through a 10-pitch at-bat before ripping a single up the middle to score Rea.

Auburn's defensive lapses were far from over in the first as Felix attempted to pick off Gendron at first base and threw the ball off the wall and into right field. The error moved the runner to third with still nobody out and red-hot Brad Corley coming to bat. Hitting .357 on the season, Corley came through again with a single to left to score Gendron. After advancing to second on a passed ball, Corley was stranded as Felix got the last three hitters of the inning.

After going ahead 3-0 in the second with a solo home run by Tyler Scarbrough, his first of the season, the Bulldogs pushed the lead out in the third. With Johnson cruising on the mound Mississippi State came back for more and put an end to a short day for Felix.

Leading off the inning Gendron drew a walk from Felix to bring Corley to the plate. The big right fielder singled to center field to put runners on first and second before a Craig Tatum ground ball to Maitland forced Gendron for the first out of the inning. First baseman Brad Jones singled to center field to score Corley to make it 4-0 Bulldogs. That would be all for Felix as Dennis came on to put out the fire, but before that would happen MSU would add two more to make it 6-0 on a sacrifice fly followed by a Scarborough double.

Chuck Jeroloman hit his sixth home run of the season to bring Auburn to within two against the Bulldogs.

The Tigers finally got on the board against Johnson in the sixth inning after Sain got the Tigers' first hit of the game in the fifth. With one out in the inning Tug Hulett singled to left and Josh Bell singled up the middle to give Auburn a shot at a big inning. Clete Thomas flew out to center field for the second out in the sixth, bringing catcher Mike Hnytka to the plate. The replacement for Sullivan, Hnytka quickly got down 0-2 before fighting back to a full count. Getting a fastball, he drilled a double into right-center to score both Hulett and Bell and cut the Bulldog lead to four.

With Dennis in control the Tigers got offensive once again in the seventh. On for a banged-up Ben Maitland at third, Kyle Mayo led off the inning with a sharp single to center field. Back-to-back fly balls to center fielder Joseph Hunter brought Jeroloman to the plate with two outs. Struggling since injuring his hand on Sunday at Oxford, Miss., the junior waited on a hanging breaking ball and lofted it high over the monster in left field for his sixth home run of the season. Auburn had a chance to tie the game in the ninth inning with pinch-hitter J.T. Williamson on first after a walk, but Gamble popped out to end the game.

The series continues on Saturday at 3 p.m. when junior Arnold Hughey takes the mound for the Tigers against Todd Doolittle for MSU.

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