Tigers Score Six In The 9th To Beat Bulldogs

Junior Joseph Sanders' three-run homer was the big blow in a six-run ninth inning as the Auburn Tigers came back to beat Mississippi State 9-8 Friday night.

Starkville, Miss.--Trailing 6-3, Auburn (19-9, 5-5) scored six runs in the top of the ninth and held off a furious Mississippi State (15-14, 3-7) rally in the bottom of the inning to defeat the Bulldogs 9-8 Friday night at Dudy Noble Field. Struggling with two outs much of the game, Auburn scored five runs after two were down in the inning to get a huge win. Coach John Pawlowski said it wasn't easy, but he was proud of the guts the team showed in the win.

"I'm just proud of the way they came back," Pawlowski said. "We battled hard all night long and overcame a couple of mistakes. The guys are resilient, resilient and tough. We're going to make some mistakes, but along the way we're hopefully going to try to find a way to get better and win the game. We certainly did that tonight."

Trailing 6-3 heading to the top of the ninth, Auburn started what would become one of the biggest rallies in several years in SEC play. With one out in the inning and facing closer Chad Crosswhite, Ben Jones got things going with a single and Brian Fletcher followed with a ground rule double to bring the tying run to the plate with just one out.

Things looked bleak though as Casey McElroy grounded out to score Jones, but left the Tigers with two outs and still down two. It didn't bother Kevin Patterson though. In perhaps his best career at-bat, Patterson fought off four two-strike pitches before earning a walk to put the tying run on base for second baseman Justin Hargett.

Needing some speed on the bases, Pawlowski put Chez McCann in to run for Patterson at first and it proved to be the right move. Getting a pitch to hit, Hargett pushed it through the left side and past a sliding left fielder. Never slowing down, McCann raced all the way around to score from first and tie the game at six.

Not done yet, Trent Mummey walked to bring third baseman Joseph Sanders to the plate. Auburn's leading RBI man, Sanders got a pitch to handle and drove it out of the park for his 12th home run of the season. The blast gave the Tigers back the lead at 9-6 and Sanders said he was just trying to find a pitch to hit and got what he was looking for.

"The at-bat before that he got the better of me by striking me out on some low curveballs," Sanders said. "I stayed off of them. He threw three of them in a row that stayed down. Then he had to come back on 3-1 and I took it. The next pitch I knew he was going to try to give his best shot. I got a little piece of it and put us on top."

Bringing on Bradley Hendrix to start the inning, Auburn watched as the first two Bulldog hitters singled to bring the tying run to the plate with nobody out. That would be all for Hendrix as closer Austin Hubbard came on and immediately walked the first man he faced to load the bases. The sophomore came back to strike out Russ Sneed, but a one-out single by Scott DeLoach scored Grant Hogue to make it 9-7 Auburn and keep the bases loaded. A ground ball scored run number two, but Hubbard got another ground ball to McElroy at short to end the threat and give the Tigers the victory.

"I told the guys before that with our offense and in college baseball, we're never out of a game," Pawlowski said. "We've got to keep battling and good things happen. Then we put a guy who's been out there, Austin Hubbard. The chips were on the table at that point. He battled and made some quality pitches and got a quality strikeout. He was calm, cool, and collected under fire. He did a great job there for us in the ninth."

Reliever Michael Hurst earned the win, allowing one run in one inning of relief. Starter Grant Dayton got a no-decision, allowing five earned runs on 11 hits in seven innings on the mound. Crosswhite took the loss, giving up six earned runs in two innings of work.

At the plate Sanders, Tony Caldwell and Jones all had three hits for the Tigers with Sanders driving in four runs. Mummey was 2-4 with two walks and scored two runs while Hunter Morris and Hargett also added two hits. For the game Auburn had 18 hits with the Bulldogs collecting 15.

Auburn got the offense started early as the Tigers struck in the top of the first, but missed a golden opportunity for a big inning. With one out Auburn got consecutive singles from Sanders, Morris, Caldwell and Jones to take the first lead 1-0 and leave the bases loaded. Unfortunately that was the end of the rally as Fletcher and McElroy both struck out to end the threat with Auburn leading 1-0.

After a scoreless first by Auburn starter Grant Dayton, the Tigers extended the lead in the second as a two-out single by Mummey brought Sanders to the plate and the junior delivered with a double to right-center. The hit scored the speedy Mummey to put the Tigers up 2-0, but the Bulldogs would answer in the bottom of the inning.

A leadoff walk and back to back singles put Mississippi State in serious business against Dayton and it looked as if he would be in big trouble, but a sacrifice fly that scored Sneed was the only damage the sophomore would surrender as he recovered to sit down the Bulldogs and keep Auburn in front 2-1.

That's how things would remain until the bottom of the fourth until left fielder Luke Adkins deposited a pitch over the wall for a home run. His third home run of the season tied the game at two and the Bulldogs weren't done. In the next inning back to back singles and a stolen base gave Powers the opportunit y he was looking for as his single drove home shortstop Ryan Powers to put MSU in front 3-2.

Auburn missed a golden opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the sixth as Fletcher walked to lead things off and moved to second on a stolen base. With two outs Hargett reached on an infield single and stole second to put two runners into scoring position. Another walk, this one to Mummey, loaded the bases for Sanders, but his fly ball brought the inning to a close.

Just missing out in the sixth, Auburn came back in the seventh to tie the game. A single by Morris led things off and following a Caldwell groundout that moved him to second, he scored on a Jones single to left-center. One out later shortstop McElroy ripped a double over the head of the center fielder. Trying to score from first, Jones was caught at the plate to keep the game tied at three.

Almost as quickly as the Tigers got back into the game, Powers put the Bulldogs back in front. With one out center fielder Hogue singled to give the inning some life and bring the MSU power hitter to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Powers left the yard for home run number six to put the Bulldogs back in front 5-3.

Looking for a spark in the top of the eighth, Auburn sent Patterson to the plate to face reliever Jared Wesson and the big sophomore singled to short to lead things off. Following a line out by Hargett, Patterson moved to second on a wild pitch and then advanced to third on a single by Mummey. Trying to avoid the double play, Mummey stole second to give the Tigers the tying run in scoring position. Facing Crosswhite, Sanders struck out and Morris hit a ground ball to second to end the threat, but Auburn would get its revenge in the ninth to pull out the win.

The two teams return to the field Saturday at 2 p.m. with freshman Jon Luke Jacobs (3-0, 4.78 ERA) on the mound for the Tigers against fellow freshman Nick Routt (3-1, 2.79) for the Bulldogs.


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