STARKVILLE – John Cohen was stumped.
The coach was quizzed about the last time Mississippi State had swept an SEC series. The answer: 2007 against Auburn.
The Bulldogs have a chance to repeat that feat after Saturday’s 15-8 win over those same Tigers (14-9, 2-3 SEC), who entered this series ranked No. 22 in the country but have been hammered by the MSU bats through two games.
The win pushed State (17-6, 3-2) over .500 in league play for the first time since the opening series of 2009, Cohen’s first season.
“I think we have older kids who understand what’s at stake. And again, I think they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Cohen said. “I think they want to prove to the world that we’re a good club, and we’re a good club in the best league in America.”
State won one SEC series last season, against Tennessee, and this is only the fourth series won under Cohen.
MSU tallied its highest run total in an SEC game since a 17-16 loss to Alabama in 2009.
The tone was set in the first inning when MSU scored eight runs, six of which came with two outs. Going back to C.T. Bradford’s game-winning hit against Vanderbilt on Sunday, 21 of MSU’s last 24 runs have been scored with two outs, including 13 on Saturday.
Cohen thought that facing Vanderbilt’s rock-solid pitching staff last weekend helped the Bulldogs, as did a focus on hitting more line drives and ground balls.
“Our kids just looked at each other and said, if we can do that, we can do anything,” Cohen said. “Everybody in our league has good arms, but after facing Vanderbilt’s arms, people look human.”
MSU collected nine hits in the first inning, and Auburn starter Will Irvin (3-1) only got two outs before being yanked.
“He wasn’t commanding a whole lot of his off-speed for strikes, so we were jumping on the fastball,” said senior Ryan Collins, who had four hits and two RBIs. “It’s amazing how once things get rolling, the hits keep coming, and guys just kept jumping on it and attacking up there.”
MSU’s 21 hits were its most since getting 24 against Alcorn State last season. It had 21 hits against Kentucky in 2009.
Senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden had five RBIs and hit his team-leading fourth home run of the season in the fifth inning, a two-run shot for a 15-4 lead.
All that offense made it an easy day’s work for starting pitcher Chris Stratton. The sophomore from Tupelo went 71/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits, striking out five and walking four.
Today’s game is set for 1:30 p.m., with Nick Routt getting his first SEC start since early last season as he continues to overcome an elbow injury.
n Game summary, Page 2B
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal