Johnson Mows Down Tigers In Series Opener

Starkville, Miss.-–Mississippi State starting pitcher Allen Johnson was too good on Friday night as he allowed just one run on five hits in eight innings as the 24th-ranked Bulldogs (19-7, 5-4) defeated the 16th-ranked Auburn Tigers 4-1 at Dudy Noble Field.

Johnson improves to 2-3 on the season while Auburn (21-12, 5-5) starter Arnold Hughey falls to 3-3 with the loss.

Despite a solid outing by Hughey, allowing just four runs on seven hits in six and one/third innings, and reliever John Madden for Auburn, the game was dominated by Johnson for the Bulldogs. In eight innings the senior allowed just one run on six hits in eight complete innings. Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said that missed opportunities against a pitcher like Johnson make it tough to come away with the win on the road.

"He mixed his pitches well," Slater said of Johnson. "I thought he did a real nice job of mixing his pitches, especially to our best hitters. He did a real nice job to Clete (Clete Thomas) and to Karl (Karl Amonite), even though Karl did get the one bolt for us. He did a nice job of mixing the breaking ball, the two-seamer and the four-seamer. He kept us off balance pretty good tonight. Then he did a good job tonight of keeping our runners off base. The key to us is getting our running guys on base so we can create offense.

"Arnold was outstanding," Slater added. "He was still feeling good even though he walked the kid (in the seventh). He was still feeling strong, which is an encouraging sign at the 100 pitch mark because he still felt good. He still had good velocity, but at that stage of the game we needed to bring Madden in there to keep us in the game and he did a good job as always."

Karl Amonite hit his sixth home run of the season Friday night.

The game was a pitcher's duel for the first five innings as Hughey and Johnson allowed just one run each. Mississippi State got on the board first as Brad Jones singled to lead off the inning and eventually scored on a groundout to put the Bulldogs ahead early. Auburn answered thanks to the long ball as Karl Amonite homered to lead off the fourth inning, his sixth of the season. With the game tied both pitchers settled into a rhythm as things would remain the same until the Bulldogs broke through for a pair of runs in the sixth.

Leading off the inning Thomas Berkery doubled into the left field corner to put the pressure on Hughey and the Tigers. It seemed to work as Hughey walked Brad Corley on four pitches to give MSU two runners on with nobody out. After bunting both runners over, a ground ball to Tyler Johnstone at second base scored Berkery to give Mississippi State the 2-1 advantage. An error by Josh Donaldson at third base on a ground ball by Ed Easley allowed Corley to score from third just moments later as the Bulldogs took a 3-1 advantage through six innings.

Auburn had a chance to get back in the game against Johnson in the top of the seventh inning, but once again couldn't come up with the timely hit. Catcher Josh Bell led off the inning with a sharp single to left field against Johnson, just the fourth hit of the night for Auburn. Freshman Russell Dixon followed with a single of his own to give Auburn a runner in scoring position for just the second time in the game.

Playing the percentages, the Tigers bunted Jeff Boutwell and he got the job done, moving the runners to second and third with just one out. Unfortunately it wasn't to be on this night as Josh Donaldson struck out swinging and Adam Stacey hit a ground ball to the shortstop to end the inning and the Auburn threat. The Bulldogs used the momentum to add some insurance in the bottom of the inning.

With Hughey still in the game Mobile native Bunky Kateon roped a double over the head of Bruce Edwards into center field. Jeff Butts then walked to put the pressure on the Tigers. After a sacrifice bunt moved both up a base, a fly ball from Berkery to Clete Thomas in right field scored Kateon and gave the Bulldogs a commanding 4-1 advantage heading to the eighth inning. From there reliever Brett Cleveland made the lead hold up for the win.

Box Score

The two teams will play the second game of the series Saturday afternoon at three o'clock as junior Josh Sullivan (5-2, 3.04 ERA) takes the mound against right-hander Todd Doolittle (3-2, 3.34) for the Bulldogs. Game time for the contest is 3 p.m. and it can be seen live on FoxSportsNet South.

"Sullivan has been good," Slater said. "Our kids are fun to watch play. They get after it from pitch one until the ninth inning. Mississippi State was better than us tonight. That's why they won the ballgame 4-1, but our guys will come out tomorrow and be ready to go. I'm sure of it."


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