"Credit Crosby," Slater said. "He did a nice job. When he needed to make a pitch he mixed well and did a good job with that. I was not dis-pleased with our approach at the plate. Our kids did what we asked them to do. That kid was going to pitch away from us all day. The scouting report had said he was going to throw a little harder than he did. After the first inning we said ‘guys, he's just going to be throwing soft today'. We adjusted to that and swung the bats and hit the ball the other way hard, but the elements are what they are. A lot of those balls are out of here if the wind's not blowing. It was just one of those days."
The concern this season for the Tigers has been Sunday pitching with expected starter Chris Dennis sidelined for the season with an arm injury. In recent weeks junior college transfer Josh Blake has been given the ball and, while he has done a decent job, he's been unable to take the Tigers deep into games. This Sunday Slater was hoping things would be different as sophomore Jared Shore got the ball, but he lasted less than two innings as the Bulldogs built an early lead and made it stand up for the win to give them the series.
Josh Donaldson had two of Auburn's seven hits on the day against the Bulldogs.
Shore made it through the first inning without a problem, but wouldn't get through another inning as the Bulldogs made a lead-off walk pay for the Tigers. It came to Joseph Hunter on four pitches to begin the second and was the beginning of a long inning for Auburn. Following a fly ball to Clete Thomas in right, the Bulldogs got a big hit from Thomas Berkery into left field for a double that easily scored Hunter from first to give MSU the early lead.
Brian LaNinfa followed with a ground ball to Adam Stacey, but he was unable to come up with the ball as runners were on first and second with just one out. Tony Easley followed with a ground ball back to Shore on the mound, but instead of turning two up the middle Shore went to third base for the force. That proved to be big as Bunky Kateon hit a ground-rule double into left field that scored LaNinfa and put the Bulldogs up 2-0. Reliever Grant Cardwell came on to get the Tigers out of the inning trailing by two.
With Auburn struggling to find the mark against Crosby the Bulldogs added to their lead in the third off Cardwell. After getting the first out of the inning Cardwell made solid pitches, but MSU was able to come up with four consecutive singles to put the Tigers in a big hole early on Sunday. The final two by Berkery and LaNinfa drove home runs as the Bulldogs took a commanding 4-0 lead in the rubber game of the series.
That's all Crosby would need in this contest as the Tigers never seriously threatened in the game. It was the fifth complete game thrown against Auburn this season and improved Crosby's record to 5-1 on the season. The loss spoiled a terrific outing by Auburn freshman Cliff Mullins in relief. He pitched the final five innings of the game, allowing just one hit, to give the Tigers a chance. It wasn't to be on this day as Auburn was shut out for the second time on the season.
"I was really proud of Cliff Mullins," Slater said. "What an outstanding job he did. When we scripted this game out we wanted Shore to try to give us at least two and follow him with Cardwell and then Mullins behind him. Mullins just did a tremendous job for us. He threw right at 60 pitches, which is a very efficient outing for him. I was just so proud of the way he pitched."
Bell led the way for the Tigers at the plate with two hits and continues his hot streak in SEC play. Third baseman Josh Donaldson also collected two hits on the day as the Tigers had just seven total hits as a team. Jones and Berkery had two hits each to lead the Bulldogs.
The Tigers return to action Tuesday night at 6 when they travel to Samford to face the Bulldogs in a make-up game from earlier in the season. Next weekend Auburn travels to Kentucky to face the Wildcats in a three-game series.