How Sweep It Is, Tigers Take Third From MSU

Auburn swept Mississippi State for the first time since 1987 as the Tigers move to within one game of the Western Division lead.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn completed its first three-game sweep of Mississippi State since 1987 with an 11-8 victory over the Bulldogs Sunday at Plainsman Park.

Brian Fletcher homered twice and catcher Ryan Jenkins added three hits and two RBI as Auburn (33-15, 15-9) moved into a tie for second place in the SEC West with Ole Miss, one game behind Arkansas after the Razorbacks won two of three at Ole Miss.

On the mound starter Grant Dayton improved to 6-2 this season as he allowed four earned runs on eight hits in five and one/third innings. Four Auburn relievers combined to allow three runs in the final three and two/thirds innings with Cole Nelson and Austin Hubbard closing out the Bulldogs to preserve the win.

"We knew Mississippi State wasn't going away," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "They are a very good offensive club. They tested our arms. Grant Dayton didn't have his best stuff today, but if you look at the bottom line he got us into the sixth inning again. It was certainly a good win for us."

At the plate the Tigers again pounded Mississippi State pitching as four different players had at least two hits. Fletcher's two home runs give him 16 on the season and designated hitter Kevin Patterson added one as well to make it an even dozen on the weekend for Tiger hitters. Fletcher said the goal for the weekend was to take care of business and they did just that.

"We're on a pace right now competing to win the West," Fletcher said. "Sweeping this weekend was huge for us because Ole Miss and Arkansas were battling it out and every win counts. The guys are going to keep fighting. The third one was huge for us. Hopefully, we can carry it into Tennessee."

Auburn is currently tied with the Rebels for fourth place in the overall SEC standings with Florida and South Carolina tied for first place at 17-7 overall and Arkansas in third. Behind those five teams Vanderbilt (12-10) is currently in sixth after winning two of three at LSU (12-12) to bump the Bengal Tigers back to seventh. Tennessee currently is in eighth at 11-13 with Alabama (10-14) in ninth.

The magic number for the SEC Tournament is now two for the Tigers as two Auburn wins, two Alabama losses, or one of each seals the trip to Hoover for Pawlowski's club.

Although he gutted it out, Dayton faced some trouble right away as he walked leadoff man Nick Vickerson and back-to-back singles from Luke Adkins and Conner Powers quickly put the Bulldogs up 1-0 with still nobody out. That would be all for Mississippi State though as the junior recovered without any more damage to end the threat.

That's how things would remain until the bottom of the second when Auburn finally got its offense untracked against freshman pitcher Luke Bole. Singles by Hunter Morris and Patterson gave the Tigers runners on first and third with nobody out. With Casey McElroy at the plate Bole untracked a wild pitch to score Morris and tie the game. A walk to McElroy put runners on first and second for Dan Gamache, but his bunt attempt wasn't good enough to move Patterson to third base.

With one out and runners still on first and second Jenkins came to the plate looking to continue his hot streak. He did just that as he pounded a double off the monster in left field to easily score McElroy and put the Tigers in front 2-1. Following Justin Hargett getting hit by a pitch, right fielder Justin Fradejas scored Gamache on a fly ball to right field to give Dayton a two-run lead to work with.

Mississippi State quickly got the two runs back in the top of the third as outfielder Jaron Shepherd homered for the first time this season on a two-run shot. With the game tied at three the Tigers' offense went back to work in the bottom of the third. Leading off against reliever Caleb Reed, Fletcher got a pitch to drive the opposite way and just cleared the right field wall for a solo shot. That put Auburn back in front 4-3, but the Tigers were just getting started.

Walks to Morris and McElroy kept the inning going for the Tigers, eventually getting Jenkins back to the plate with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Once again the senior came though, this time with a single to center field. Morris easily scored on the hit for Jenkins' second RBI of the game.

Jenkins finished the weekend 7-12 with three doubles, one home run, six RBI and three runs scored.

Now with a 5-3 lead, Dayton gave one back in the fourth on a double by Adkins that scored Powers all the way from first to again make it a one-run game. Just like they had done all day the Tigers got the run right back in the bottom of the inning thanks to one swing of the bat from Fletcher. Getting a pitch out over the plate, the junior hit it over the scoreboard for his second home run of the game. It was the seventh time in his career that Fletcher has homered twice in a game.

Holding a 6-4 advantage, Auburn's offense kept the good times going in the fifth. Patterson started it with one of the longest home runs of the season for the Tigers to right field. Estimated at close to 500 feet, it was his 14th of the year and gave Auburn a 7-4 lead. A two-out double by Jenkins kept the rally going as Justin Hargett followed with a triple into right-center. Now up 8-4 Fradejas walked to bring Mummey to the plate with runners on the corners. Getting caught in a rundown, Fradejas kept it up just long enough for Hargett to score from third and put the Tigers in front 9-4.

Refusing to go away, Mississippi State got a solo home run from Jonathan Ogden with one out in the top of the sixth to bring Dayton's day to an end. With Sean Ray now in the game Vickerson singled to center field to bring Adkins to the plate. An Auburn killer all weekend, he continued his tear with a home run to right field to bring the Bulldogs back to within two at 9-7. Entering the weekend with just four home runs, it was his third in three games.

The Bulldogs again showed their teeth in the seventh as a one-out walk to Shepherd brought Ray's day to an end with Michael Hurst coming on in relief for the Tigers. That moved didn't pay dividends for Auburn as back to back singles by Ryan Duffy and Ryan Collins scored Shepherd and left runners on second and third after Collins took second on a throw to third. Following a sacrifice fly that wasn't deep enough to score the runner from third, Nelson came on to face Jet Butler to try to keep Auburn in front. Getting ahead 0-2, Nelson caught Butler looking for strike three to end the threat and keep Auburn in front 9-8.

In the eighth Nelson got the first two hitters before a two-out double by Connor Powers brought Russ Sneed to the plate with the chance to tie the game or give the Bulldogs the lead. Instead Nelson got him looking on an 0-2 breaking ball to end the eighth.

Auburn added a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth on a Morris single and a bases loaded walk to McElroy, and they proved to be huge as the Bulldogs would load the bases against Hubbard in the top of the ninth with nobody out. Reaching deep within, the senior got the next three hitters to preserve the victory and earn his seventh save of the season.

The Tigers return to action on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at South Alabama before returning home next weekend to face the red hot Tennessee Volunteers at Plainsman Park.

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