May 3, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - For Auburn's hitters, soft-tossing Mississippi State left hander Russ Mitchell's assortment of floaters and flutter balls were too much to overcome on a lost Saturday night at Plainsman Park.
Mississippi State got all the runs it needed in a three-run third inning and won the game and the series 3-0.
Mitchell, whose fastball topped out at 81 miles per hour, gave up just four hits in pitching a complete-game shutout. Auburn, which has not scored in 23 innings dating back to last weekend at Arkansas, loaded the bases in the ninth but came up empty again.
The loss sent the Tigers, who also lost 3-0 to Mississippi State on Friday, reeling to their fifth series loss in six weeks and did significant damage to their postseason hopes. They fell to 25-22 overall and 9-14 in the Southeastern Conference going into Sunday's series finale. They close the regular season with series at Kentucky next weekend and at home against No. 6 LSU the following weekend.
Auburn's offensive woes left first-year head coach Sunny Golloway frustrated.
"I don't understand it," Golloway said. "I've never coached a team that couldn't score runs. Our number is five or less. Hold them to five or less and we're going to win. You can throw that out the window with this offense."
Golloway said Auburn's hitters did not take productive approaches to Mitchell's array of slow and slower pitches.
"He did what he was supposed to," Golloway said. "He kind of floats it in there. Our guys were burying their back foot in the back of the box. We made a change to get up in the box. ... That's the way you can beat him. If we'd had that approach from the get-go, I think it's a different outcome. Poor planning by us.
"We had the scouting report. We didn't have a very good offensive approach. I've already talked to our coaching staff that we have to be better at having a better approach against certain guys. When we finally got rid of that front line and got up, I thought we had a lot better at-bats against him. We just needed to make that kind of threat earlier in the game."
Freshman Keegan Thompson was the hard-luck loser in what has been a hard-luck season in his won-loss record. After getting out of the third, Thompson, who has a 1.91 earned run average, didn't give up another run in going seven innings. He gave up five hits and struck out four.
In the third, Thompson walked the first two hitters, his only two walks in the game. After the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead, another run scored on fielder's choice that might have been a double play and another on a double when the throw went toward second.
Golloway said he had no complaints about Thompson's outing.
"He really wasn't bad," Golloway said. "He was frustrated a little bit with the zone. I tried to calm him down. I really thought he did a good job pitching out of it."
Sophomore Dylan Smith got his first start as the designated hitter and leadoff man. He grounded out to the pitcher and struck out swinging before being replaced by Blake Logan. Left-handed hitting Daniel Robert had led off three of the previous four games.
"He's been running into some balls (in practice)," Golloway said. "He hasn't been ready coming back from an injury in the fall. We feel like he's been ready late, but he didn't match up well. He is in the back of the box taking big swings against a guy that is topping out at 81 and throwing most of his pitches in the low 70s. We made that change pretty quick."
Senior Dan Glevenyak, who replaced freshman Brett Binning at second base in the fourth inning, had a double for Auburn. Damek Tomscha, Jordan Ebert and Anfernee Grier had singles.
Auburn will try to avoid being swept for the second time this season in the final game of the series today at 1 p.m.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: