Bulldogs finish sweep of Auburn

Published 8:51 am Monday, May 16, 2016

AUBURN, Ala. — Mississippi State’s long drive to Auburn was punctuatated, appropriately, by a bunch of long drives.

Jack Kruger, Nathaniel Lowe and Reid Humphreys all homered, and the Bulldogs scored in five of the last six innings to beat Auburn 10-3 on Sunday.

Mississippi State (37-14-1, 18-9 Southeastern Conference) hit seven home runs during its three-game series sweep at Auburn (22-30, 8-19). MSU has won eight in a row overall and 10 of its last 11 games heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

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Mississippi State will host Arkansas in a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field beginning Thursday night.

“We have a lot of goals we have not accomplished yet,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “Our kids feel it. They are competing very well. They want to compete for an SEC championship.”

Mississippi State dominated the series. It outscored Auburn 30-9 in three games, and scored 26 runs in the last two games.

Lowe’s RBI double in the third inning gave the Bulldogs an early lead, and then Humphreys homered with one out in the fourth to make it 2-0.

Kruger led off the fifth inning with another home run, and Brent Rooker had a sacrifice fly later in the inning. MSU then scored three times in the sixth to make it 7-0 and blow the game open.

“The biggest thing is scoring first, especially if you have already won the first two” games, Cohen said. “The other team can get down in that situation. Throwing strikes and scoring early were really big for our team.”

Lowe finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. He hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning.

Kruger was 3-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs scored, and Humphreys drove in two runs.

Mississippi State’s pitchers were pretty good, too. Konnor Pilkington started and threw six shutout innings before giving way to the bullpen. He allowed three hits and two walks, and struck out four.

Ryan Rigby allowed one run in two innings, and Humphreys closed it out in the ninth but gave up two runs.

“They pitched it so well this weekend,” said Auburn head coach Butch Thompson, a former Mississippi State assistant. “(Pilkington) did a great job for a freshman. We just weren’t able to generate enough offense to ever draw it back close and make them make a move early today.”

Kyler Deese drove in two runs for Auburn, while Blake Logan and Jordan Ebert had two hits apiece.

Starting pitcher Casey Mize allowed four runs in four-plus innings. He was pulled in the fifth after giving up three consecutive hits, including Kruger’s home run.

“I thought through the fifth it was a really good ballgame and we were just hanging in there waiting for a chance to get into it,” Thompson said. “We just weren’t able to generate enough offense to jar it back close.”