AUBURN, Ala. – On its final day on The Plains, No. 4 Mississippi State dialed long distance to complete a Southeastern Conference baseball sweep Sunday afternoon.
With strong pitching from Konnor Pilkington, Ryan Rigby and Reid Humphreys, the fourth-ranked Bulldogs hit three home runs to take a 10-3 victory against Auburn at Plainsman Park.
MSU improved to 37-14-1 and 18-9 in league play with its seventh straight league win, while Auburn fell to 22-30 and 8-19. The Bulldogs remain on the heels of Texas A&M for the Western Division lead. MSU has now won eight of nine conference series, including all five road series.
“We have a lot of goals we have not accomplished yet,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “Our kids feel it. They are competing very well. They want to compete for an SEC championship. The key on Sunday is throwing strikes. We were not as good there as we wanted to be but we were good enough.
“The biggest thing is scoring first, especially if you have already won the first two. The other team can get down in that situation. Throwing strikes and scoring early were really big for our team.”
After sweeping Missouri last weekend at Dudy Noble Field, MSU made it back-to-back series sweeps for the first time since defeating Ole Miss and Arkansas on consecutive weekends in 2003.
The Bulldogs also made it back-to-back sweeps on the Auburn campus after also achieving the feat in 2014. State has won seven of its last nine on The Plains.
MSU finished the contest with 13 hits. It was the first time in a conference series this season the Bulldogs had 10 or more hits in all three games. For the weekend, MSU scored 30 runs on 45 hits with a .372 clip.
Jack Kruger and Nathaniel Lowe each had three hits. Gavin Collins had two hits. Lowe had three RBIs, while Kruger and Humphreys each had two RBIs. Kruger now has nine three-hits games, while Lowe has had three or more hits seven times. It was also Lowe’s seventh game with three or more RBIs.
Kruger, Lowe and Humphreys each hit home runs in the victory. Kruger has now homered seven times, while Lowe and Humphreys are each at five. The Bulldogs hit seven home runs in the series and finished with 21 extra-base hits. It marks the first time MSU hit seven home runs in a series since earning seven at Auburn in 2010.
The Bulldogs built an early 2-0 lead on a double by Lowe in the third inning and a home run by Humphreys in the fourth inning. Kruger homered to lead off the fifth inning. After a single by Lowe and double by Collins, Brent Rooker hit a sacrifice fly.
MSU then put the contest away with three runs in the seventh inning on only one base hit. In that inning, the Bulldogs benefitted from three walks and an Auburn error. Lowe had a two-run home run in the eighth inning and Kruger lined an RBI-single in the ninth inning.
Pilkington (3-1) threw a career-best six innings, with three hits and no runs allowed. Pilkington struck out four and walked two. Rigby threw the seventh and eighth innings, while allowing a pair of hits and an earned run. Humphreys was touched for a pair of runs in the ninth.
Auburn finished with seven hits, including multi-hit games by Blake Logan and Jordan Ebert. Starter Casey Mize (2-4) pitched four innings and took the loss.
MSU will close the regular season with a three-game series against Arkansas at Dudy Noble Field. The Bulldogs and Razorbacks will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (SEC Network +), 6:30 p.m. Friday (SEC Network +) and 5 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network).
(From MSU Media Relations)