Bulldogs Begin Final SEC Week Third Overall and Seeing Championship Scenarios

Konnor Pilkington tossed six scoreless innings with plenty offensive support as Mississippi State completed their road-series sweep of Auburn with a 10-3 Sunday victory.

Bulldog batters again hit Tiger pitching hard, with thirteen base hits. This included home runs from Reid Humphreys, Jack Kruger, and Nathaniel Lowe, as Mississippi State slugged seven longballs in the series.

“You want to score first,” Coach John Cohen said on post-game radio. “We pressured them and the ball leaving the ballpark for us really got us going.”

It was a shorter extra-base hit that put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard in their third inning, as Lowe doubled-in Jake Mangum. Humphreys made it 2-0 with a monster shot in the fourth frame, and Kruger opened the Bulldog fifth with his solo shot. A sacrifice fly by Brent Rooker gave a 4-0 lead.

Humphreys got a cheaper RBI in the seventh with a bases-loaded walk, before two more Dogs scored on an Auburn fielding error. Lowe added his two-run homer in the eighth.

Freshman lefthander Pilkington (3-1) worked six complete innings to get the SEC victory. He struck out four with a couple of walks and three hits before exiting with a shutout.

“The key on Sundays is always throwing strikes,” Cohen said. “Konnor did a serviceable job, he made them put balls in play and we made plays defensively.”

Auburn broke it up in their half of the seventh at the expense of reliever Ryan Rigby, who limited his damage to the one run in 2.0 innings. Humphreys was given the ninth with the huge lead. He did load up the bases and allow a couple of runs on a ground ball and base hit.

Lowe was 3-of-4 with three RBI and three runs scored, while Kruger was 3-of-6 with two RBI and two runs. Gavin Collins extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a 2-of-5 Sunday. OF Jacob Robson was the only Bulldog starter not to hit safely but he did score and steal a base. Mangum had a pair of steals.

The 2-3-4 Bulldog batters combined for eight hits and five of the RBI. “It seemed every hit they got was a big one,” said Cohen. The coach did second-guess himself giving Lowe one last at-bat when he had a perfect game going. But, “Everybody on the bench knew he was a triple away from the cycle. But you have a better chance of winning at blackjack in Las Vegas!”

State has rolled consecutive SEC sweeps for the first time since 2003.

Now on an eight-win streak, the Bulldogs are 37-14-1 overall and 18-9 SEC. They maintained their hold on second place in the West, and if Texas A&M (18-8) falls at South Carolina there will be an official tie atop the Division. A&M does have the head-to-head tiebreak on the Bulldogs.

Also, regardless of how the Gamecocks (16-9) finish today with A&M, it will still be Mississippi State in third place overall SEC going into the final week of this regular season. At the very least that puts the Bulldogs in good shape to secure a first-round bye at next week’s SEC Tournament

State hosts struggling Arkansas this coming weekend, while A&M hosts Ole Miss in the other key West series. Overall, the Florida at LSU series will also be tracked as the 2016 championship chase goes to an intense finish.

With the Bulldogs right there scrambling for just enough of an opening to jump in front. “Our kids want to compete for a SEC Championship,” Cohen said. “And they’re doing everything they can to make that a reality.”


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