STARKVILLE – Cody Freeman was still shaking during postgame interviews, only moments after coolly delivering the game-winning hit.
The Mississippi State senior stroked an RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Bulldogs to a 7-6 win over No. 22 Auburn in the series opener Friday night at Dudy Noble Field. He took a 1-2 slider from reliever Zach Blatt and sailed it into left-center field to give MSU (16-6, 2-2 SEC) its second consecutive one-run win.
The veteran was as giddy as a little leaguer afterwards.
“That was awesome,” he said. “I can’t explain it right now. I’m still excited, I’m shaking.”
State had several timely hits, going 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position with five RBIs. There were big two-out hits as well, such as freshman C.T. Bradford’s single in the sixth to set up Wes Thigpen’s two-run home run, which gave MSU a 6-5 lead.
The win came five days after the Bulldogs had a 9-8 comeback victory at No. 2 Vanderbilt.
“I think it shows a lot of character in our clubhouse,” Freeman said. “We just preach every day at practice, finish every play and every drill, just finish. I think the last two games we’ve finished with the right attitude and the right way.”
Thigpen, a senior catcher, was 3 of 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He got the ninth started with a leadoff single to right field and was lifted for pinch runner Sam Frost, who moved to second on Jaron Shepherd’s sac bunt before scoring the winning run.
Sophomore reliever Chad Girodo (2-0) got the win, getting MSU out of trouble in the eighth – two on, one out – and retiring all five batters he faced, three on strikeouts.
“Girodo has really discovered a slider that can make right-handers swing and miss,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “The pitch is only about 21/2 weeks old for him, and we really believe in that guy because he can shove it in the strike zone.”
Girodo was the last of five MSU pitchers. Starter Devin Jones had a second straight rough outing, giving up four runs on three hits in three-plus innings. He accounted for two of MSU’s four wild pitches.
Tim Statz and Luis Pollorena gave up a run each, while Caleb Reed got two outs but let two runners reach before giving way to Girodo.
“This is why we’ve invested in so many arms and why we have so many arms on our staff, for these types of events on Friday night,” said Cohen. “If it doesn’t happen for our starter, we’ve got other guys who can step in.”
MSU out-hit Auburn 12-8. The Tigers (14-8, 2-2) got six innings out of starter Cory Luckie, who gave up six runs on eight hits.
Reliever Zach Blatt (1-2) took the loss.
MSU went ahead 4-0 in the second inning, getting a two-run single from Shepherd followed by a two-run double from Nick Vickerson. Auburn then scored five unanswered runs over the next three innings to jump ahead.
After Thigpen hit his cloud-scraping two-run homer in the sixth, Auburn tied it in the seventh with a solo shot by Justin Fradejas.
Today’s game is set for 2 p.m.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal