Auburn, Ala – Auburn (23-16-1, 7-11 SEC) was back in action this weekend at Plainsman Park against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (23-17, 15-9 SEC). In a series that was a constant back and forth battle, Auburn would get the last laugh, taking the final game which secured the series victory.
Tommy Vail took to the mound for Auburn in the opening game. Coming off a solid outing against Alabama, Vail would follow that up with yet another impressive start, only giving up three hits while striking out 10 batters in five innings of action.
"We're pitching a little better. It started last weekend," Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. "This gives us a chance. If we can pitch competitively, that defense is ready to play. We pitched with better sequences and took the sting out of the swing."
Chris Stanfield put a stamp on the game with the winning run. After hitting a single, Stanfield advanced to second base after a wild throw and eventually third after a wild throw was made attempting to catch the outfielder out. Stanfield would be able to tag up from third after a lineout to left center field, scoring what was the game winning run in the 2-1 game.
"I'm just happy to get the win," Stanfield said. "I saw it go up in the air and saw his back to me. I said, 'Let me take a chance' and it ended up working out. I was just trying to take the game into my own hands. It was a close game, and I knew Bobby was coming. I had full trust that Bobby would get the job done. I was just happy to be a part of it."
Starting pitching continued to be a strong point for Auburn in the middle game of the series, as Christian Herberholz would pitch five innings while only giving up three hits and no runs.
Despite being down 11-3 heading into bottom of the ninth after less-than-ideal relief pitching, the Tigers would not go away. Auburn would go to record seven runs before ultimately falling short by a score of 12-11.
Kason Howell was a big part in mounting a comeback, recording three hits, including a solo home run to right field that led off the inning. The fifth-year man would match a season high in hits and RBIs in what was the outfielders’ best game of the season.
"We just had lock-down and committed at-bats," Thompson said. "We got their best closer and Kason's big swing and a couple of those were really good at-bats. It was a pretty tall order, but pretty impressive to see our guys fight to finish the ballgame."
Zach Crotchfelt struggled in the starting role for Auburn on Sunday, giving up four runs before being pulled due to injury after 1.2 innings. Will Cannon replaced Crotchfelt, but nothing was going Auburn’s way, as the pitcher gave up eight hits and five runs by the end of the fourth inning.
Despite the poor start, Auburn would have fight, going back and forth with Mississippi State until the last moments of the game. Cooper McMurray led the line for Auburn with two homeruns that accounted for the Tigers first five runs on the day.
“Our pitchers have been doing a lot better and some of those games we have not been able to put up as many runs up as we want to help them out,” McMurray said. “It was good to get all those runs up on the board and just be able to stay in the fight and come back and win.”
Not to be outdone by McMurray, Bryson Ware caused Plainsman Park to erupt in the bottom of the eighth when hitting a homer to deep left field, which gave Auburn its first lead of the game.
With a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth, Cole Foster provided the most crucial play of the game. After not recording a hit in the previous four trips to the plate, three of which were strikeouts, Foster would connect with a ball, hitting it to deep right center field, which sent Josh Hall all the way home for the 12-11 victory.
Auburn will look to continue its momentum from the series win next Tuesday night against the Troy Trojans. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT with broadcasting on the SEC Network+.