Tigers Even Series With 10-6 Win Over MSU

Will Kendall

Auburn improved to 5-3 in SEC play with a 10-6 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.—Leading 6-0 early and holding a commanding 10-3 lead in the ninth inning, the Auburn Tigers (16-11, 5-3 SEC) got a strikeout by sophomore relief pitcher Dillon Ortman to hold off a Mississippi State rally and put the finishing touches on a 10-6 win. Sophomore Will Kendall (4-0) got the victory on the mound for the Tigers, allowing two earned runs on four hits in six and one/third innings.

"The SEC is an incredible conference," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. "You give teams an inch and you can find them right back in the ballgame. Dillon Ortman made a big pitch at the end of the game to finish this thing off. It came down to the last hitter or two.

"The bottom line is the win," he added. "That's what I told our team. It got a little ugly and a little hairy, but it's a bottom line business. They found a way to win today and now we get to go to Sunday with an opportunity to win."

At the plate Auburn had four players with two hits as Jay Gonzalez, Garrett Cooper, Cullen Wacker and Zach Alvord all had a big day at the plate as part of a 12-hit attack. Sophomore catcher Blake Austin added a three-run home run and Kody Ortman had a hit and three walks from the DH role to make for a well-rounded offensive day.

"I challenged our offense today," Pawlowski said. "I told them we were better than what we've been doing. We have to be a little more opportunistic and challenge them a little bit. The things that make us go as an offense are the things we need to bring to the table every day. We scored some runs early, got a nice lead, and did some good things offensively."

Blake Austin is greeted by Kody Ortman and Zach ary Alvord following his home run

The problem came in the field as Alvord and Creede Simpson both had errors and several more miscues could have easily resulted in more than the two errors on the board for the Tigers. Pawlowski said it's troubling to see the mistakes from his team.

"Every time you either don't win or see some flaws show up it's always a concern," Pawlowski said. "We'll address those and try to get better, and we will get better."

Struggling in SEC play before getting two hits on Friday night, Gonzalez continued his hot play at the plate with a single to lead off the game for the Tigers. Following a Simpson fly ball, Gonzalez stole second to move into scoring position. A walk to Ryan Tella put runners on first and second, but Cooper's strikeout made it two outs with Wacker at the plate. Getting some help from the Bulldogs, pitcher Nick Routt uncorked a wild pitch to the plate. Catcher Mitch Slauter compounded the problems with a wild throw to third. That allowed Gonzalez to score for the early Auburn lead.

Jay Gonzalez has four hits in two games this weekend

In the second Alvord singled up the middle to once again put the leadoff man on for Auburn. Inserting Ortman in the DH role for Saturday proved to be a good move for the Tigers as his hit-and-run single to right field put runners on the corners with no outs for the Tigers. A walk to Blake Austin moments later loaded the bases for shortstop Dan Glevenyak.

Unable to get anything going offensively for the last month, Glevenyak hit into a double play to erase Austin, but Alvord scored on the play for the 2-0 Auburn lead. Now with two outs and a runner on third the Tigers needed some two-out magic and Gonzalez provided just that with a single up the middle to score Ortman for the three-run lead.

With Kendall in good shape on the mound Auburn came back for more in the third and got plenty of help from Mississippi State in the process. Leading off the inning Tella reached on an error by first baseman Wes Rea and when Routt followed that up with a walk to Cooper it was the end of the day for him.

Reliever Evan Mitchell came on for the Bulldogs to face Wacker and the Auburn left fielder's single to right field quickly made it 4-0. An Alvord sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position before a wild pitch scored Cooper for the five-run advantage. An Austin ground ball finished off the scoring for Auburn in the third as Kendall was staked to a 6-0 lead.

That's how things would remain until the seventh inning when mistakes proved costly the Tigers once again. Reaching every time he had been to the plate this weekend, MSU's Adam Frazier continued that with a walk to lead off the inning. Kendall committed a balk to move the runner to second, but it appeared he had out one when Slauter hit a slow chopper towards Simpson at second base. However the ball went under the glove of the Auburn senior for an error to score the run.

The problems were just getting started for the Tigers as Kendall walked Trey Porter to bring Hunter Renfroe to the plate. Hitting a one-hopper to Alvord at third, Renfroe reached when the sophomore held the ball too long. The infield hit was compounded with Rea at the plate as the big first baseman hit a line drive that Alvord misjudged at third base. The hit scored made it 6-3 just like that with Kendall done for the day. Wade came on to keep the lead at three for Auburn by retiring the next two Bulldog hitters.

With the lead down to just three Auburn needed some insurance runs and got just that in the bottom of the seventh. Facing Chad Girodo with one out, Cooper laced a double to left field and Wacker followed with a double of his own to make it 7-3 Auburn. Looking for more the Tigers put Wacker in motion on a hit-and-run, but the senior was caught stealing for the second out of the inning.

Unfazed Auburn kept the pressure on as Alvord doubled to left-center and Ortman walked to bring Austin to the plate. The Tigers' everyday catcher early in the season, Austin got a pitch he could handle and drove it over the green monster in left field for a three-run homer. It was his first of the season and gave Auburn a commanding 10-3 lead.

The Tigers didn't make it easy on themselves in the ninth as Mississippi State scored three runs and loaded the bases to bring the tying run to the plate in Renfroe. Facing Ortman, Renfroe went down on strikes to make the final 10-6 Tigers.

Auburn will go for its third consecutive series win to open SEC play on Sunday when the Tigers will send freshman Daniel Koger (1-1, 1.67 ERA) to the mound against Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.45) for the Bulldogs. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park.

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