May 4, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – As hitter after hitter came up empty, everything finally fell apart for Auburn’s baseball team on Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.
With Auburn’s scoreless inning streak at 29, Mississippi State broke loose for eight runs on nine hits in the seventh inning and romped to a 12-1 victory and a sweep of the weekend series. The Tigers, shutout by 3-0 scores on Friday and Saturday, were left with their postseason hopes hanging by a thread.
Freshman Daniel Robert saved the Tigers the indignity of a third consecutive shutout when he hit his first career home run in the bottom of the seventh.
For senior catcher Blake Austin, it was almost too much to take. And he put much of the burden on his own shoulders.
“It stinks,” Austin said. “It’s not something I like commenting on. It just (stinks). It (stinks) when you are a senior and it doesn’t go the way you want it to go. You try to do everything you can and it just (stinks) when it doesn’t happen.
“… It’s the at-bats we didn’t take and the at-bats we threw away. You have to put solid contact on every ball you can. If you don’t, walk, get hit, do something. We didn’t do that. It starts with me, because I didn’t do that at all this weekend.”
Auburn fell to 25-23 overall and 9-15 in the Southeastern Conference. Worse, the Tigers fell to 13th place, half a game behind Georgia. The top 12 teams advance to Hoover for the SEC Tournament. No. 23 Mississippi State improved to 31-18 and 14-10.
With series remaining at Kentucky and at home against LSU, Austin said hope is not lost. But Sunny Golloway acknowledged the second sweep suffered by the Tigers this season did serious damage.
“It’s a huge blow to any opportunity that we had,” Golloway said. “We knew we were hanging on by a thread. We let so many games get away from us early in the year when I thought we were playing well.”
With right-hander Preston Brown on the mound for Mississippi State, Golloway benched leading hitter Jordan Ebert, who was hitting .361, in favor of left-hander Jackson Burgreen.
“We just decided to go with the left-hander today,” Golloway said. “Even though you look and say that was the leading hitter, when you look at his numbers, he’s really cooled off here lately. He’s dealing with some things as far as adjustments at the plate. It just seems like he’s taking an awful lot of pitches and slicing balls the other way.”
Going into the game, Ebert was on a team-high six-game hitting streak with a team-best .304 batting average in that stretch. For the season, he was hitting .361, 25 points better than any other Auburn regular.
“We were at 20-plus innings without scoring a run,” Golloway said. “You can’t be afraid to shake it up a little bit. That leading hitter has been in there that whole time and we haven’t been able to score runs. There is no reason to leave it alone. We tried to shake it up a little bit. Clearly, it didn’t work.”
Mississippi State got to five Auburn pitchers for 19 hits. All its runs were earned.
Senior starter Michael O’Neal took the loss, giving up three runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings. In the seventh, Jay Wade gave up one run, Trey Cochran-Gill three and Terrance Dedrick gave up four runs.
For the weekend, Auburn had 13 total hits and scored its lone run on Robert’s home run.
The Tigers return to Plainsman Park on Tuesday to play Bethune-Cookman at 6 p.m.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: