Bulldogs blow big lead, lose series finale to Auburn

Published 8:04 pm Sunday, April 23, 2023

AUBURN, Ala. — This time, Auburn completed its comeback.

The Tigers erased an early seven-run deficit, blew a lead in the top of the ninth inning, and then rallied in the bottom half to steal back a wild 12-11 win over Mississippi State in Sunday’s series finale.

Nate LaRue was hit by a pitch leading off the ninth, and then scored on Cole Foster’s double to give Auburn (23-16-1, 7-11 Southeastern Conference) the walk-off win.

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Auburn scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday but lost 11-10.

“I’m just proud of them to keep fighting through everything that happens,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “If this is the new way this game is played, I’m the one who has to adjust more. They just need to keep fighting and find their opportunities when they can have success.”

Mississippi State (23-17, 6-12) jumped out to a 7-0 lead after three innings. Hunter Hines hit a three-run home run and Colton Ledbetter a two-run homer. The Bulldogs still led 9-3 through five innings before Auburn started its comeback.

Two-run home runs by Cooper McMurray and LaRue cut it to 9-7 in the bottom of the sixth, and a sacrifice fly by Kason Howell in the seventh got the Tigers within a run.

The Bulldogs scored in the top of the eighth, but a three-run homer by Bryson Ware gave Auburn its first lead of the game, 11-10, in the bottom half.

Ware’s homer was the last of four that Auburn hit. Mississippi State’s pitchers also walked four batters and hit four more.

“Credit them a little bit, but we’ve got to pitch better,” Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis said. “You give up the freebie, and then on top of it you give up the homer. Not a good combination.”

Mississippi State tied it again in the top of the ninth. Amani Larry doubled and scored on a two-out error to make it 11-all.

In the bottom of the ninth, however, Foster’s double to the gap in right center field allowed LaRue to score easily from second and the Tigers had the win.

All three games in the series were decided by one run. Auburn scored the winning run in the eighth inning on Friday, and in the ninth on Sunday.

“Disappointed, crushed, whatever you call it,” Lemonis said. “To jump out and have a lead, and command the game the way we did early, tip your cap to them. They had a pitcher come in and give them a hold, which is what they needed and we didn’t keep the ball in the ballpark. We walk out of here with having hung one we feel like we should have won.”

It was indeed a disappointing loss for Mississippi State, which had won its previous two SEC series to finally start digging out of a deep hole in the standings.

Now the Bulldogs will play Ole Miss on Tuesday night at Trustmark in Pearl for the annual Governor’s Cup game, before going on the road to Tennessee next weekend.

The series opener against Tennessee is Thursday night.

“We have to come out and play good on Tuesday,” Lemonis said. “We’ve got a big week ahead of us. It’s a lot of travel, four more SEC games, so we’re going to have to have somebody step up and give us some good performances on the rubber.”