Joseph McCaskill Leads MSU to Victory

Mississippi State senior left-fielder Joseph McCaskill knocked in five of State's first eight runs to help lead the Bulldogs to a 11-6 series clinching victory over Auburn before a Dudy Noble crowd of 4,263.

"I guess I just got the hits at the right time," said McCaskill of his five-RBI performance. "I came up with people on base. I'm just glad they got on base for me."

Mississippi State, now 30-12 overall and 12-9 in the SEC, jumped on Auburn (28-21, 7-16) starting pitcher Taylor Thompson, now 4-2 on the season, in the first inning with three runs. And it was McCaskill's two-out double to left center that plated all three runs.

After MSU loaded the bases with a fielder's choice, a hits batsman and an error, McCaskill, with two outs and a 1-1 count on him, doubled, knocking in Jet Butler, Edward Easley and Brian LaNinfa to give State an early 3-0 lead.

State expanded their lead with a five-run second.

Connor Powers led off the inning with a single. Mark Goforth grounded to the second baseman who threw to second for what appeared to be a fielder's choice, but the throw was late. Jeffrey Rea then bunted safety, loading the bases. Butler singled to left, scoring Powers and Goforth. After Easley popped out to second, Mitch Moreland doubled to left center, scoring Rea. LaNinfa walked, then McCaskill added RBI four and five with a single to left field that plated Butler and Moreland.

After scoring eight runs in the first two innings, MSU added another run in the bottom of the third on a single by Edward Easley to go ahead 9-0.

Josh Donaldson collected Auburn's first hit of the game off of Bulldog starting pitcher Justin Pigott with a one-out single in the top of the fourth. Joseph Sanders followed him with a single between first and second. Then, with two outs, Ross Smith singled up the middle, knocking in Donaldson to make the score 9-1. Pigott ended the inning with a strikeout of Ryan Jenkins.

State extended the lead back to nine with a two-out double by Brian LaNinfa that knocked in Edward Easley. The double also knocked Thompson out of the game. He wound up allowing 10 runs (6 earned) on 10 hits and 4 walks in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out 4.

Auburn added two more runs in the top of the 6th to pull within seven, 10-3. Joseph Sanders knocked in Josh Donaldson when his fly ball to left was lost in the lights by Bulldog left-fielder Nick Hardy. Brooks then knocked in Sanders with a groundout to third base for the final run of the inning.

Auburn added single runs in the 7th and 8th off of Pigott, while MSU also added a run in the bottom of the 8th.

Pigott, who is now 4-4 on the season, ended his work on the mound at the conclusion of the eight inning. He gave up 5 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and one walk, while striking out a career-high 11 batters.

"My changeup was working for me today," said Pigott. "I think they knew it was coming, but it was moving a lot today and they had trouble putting the bat on it."

Greg Houston came in in the ninth inning to finish the game for the Bulldogs, giving up one run on one hit and two walks, while striking out the side.

Five Bulldog hitters had double digit hits, led by Jeffrey Rea's 3-for-4 night. Edward Easley, Mitch Moreland, Joseph McCaskill and Connor Powers were all 2-for-4. McCaskill, a fifth-year senior who officially graduated Saturday, led the team with a personal best five RBI.

"He's a hitter," said MSU head coach Ron Polk of McCaskill. "He's been here five years. And it's always fun to see guys who have been here five years get an opportunity to play."

Auburn had two hitters with multiple hits - Josh Donaldson was 3-for-4 and Joseph Sanders was 3-for-5 with 2 RBI.

The two teams conclude the series with a 1:30 p.m. Sunday game. MSU is expected to start senior Josh Johnson (2-2, 5.56) while Auburn will counter with sophomore Bryan Woodall (2-2, 4.91).


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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