By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - If the Auburn Tigers were looking for excuses Saturday at Mississippi State, they had plenty from which to choose.
Their shortstop, Luke Jarvis, who had started all but two of Auburn’s first 43 games and shared the team home run lead, was out with back spasms. Star pitcher Casey Mize, who was scheduled to potentially start Sunday’s game 3 after missing a turn, was rendered unavailable when weather forced a schedule change.
The Bulldogs, playing at home, had all the momentum after beating Keegan Thompson 5-2 in Friday’s series opener.
Instead of making excuses, Auburn made a statement. The Tigers swept Saturday’s doubleheader, winning 17-8 and 5-3 to move into a first-place tie with MSU in the SEC West.
“Very long day, 18 innings,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Auburn Tigers tonight.”
Freshman Will Holland filled in for Jarvis at short, an assortment of pitchers answered the call in Mize’s absence, and Dylan Ingram, whose career began at Mississippi State with a redshirt season in 2014, homered in both games, including a grand slam in Saturday’s first game.
“It was really special coming back and seeing a lot of the guys who I played with here,” Ingram told the SEC Network. “Playing here made me a better guy, made me a better player, and going to junior college did the same thing. I’m right where I’m supposed to be so it was awesome.”
Holland fielded his position with flare, especially in the nightcap with seven assists.
“Will Holland, everybody noticed him,” Butch Thompson said. “I think he had to be appreciated by the great fans here because he ranged to his left. He came across the second base bag multiple times to make a play at first base. He played athletic. He turned it loose. He didn’t play like a freshman. It was so good to see.”
Cole Lipscomb earned the win in Saturday’s first game, pitching the final 4.2 innings. Andrew Mitchell started the final game of the series, picking up where he left off in the Arkansas series, allowing only one run in 4.1 innings.
“Coach told me, ‘Good things happen when you fill up the strike zone,’” Anderson said. “That’s what we’ve been working on all season. Commanding all three pitches and just filling it up.”
Freshman outfielder Jeremy Johnson, who had three at-bats in SEC play before the Starkville series, exemplified Auburn’s weekend, starting all three games in left field and going 3-for-3 in the series-clincher.
“Our coaches always preach, ‘Be ready to play,’ and so I always go 100 percent in batting practice, and practice and scrimmages to be ready to play,” Johnson said. ““We’re not done yet. We’re still hungry. This is just another series. We’re looking forward to the next one.”
The next one is against Alabama, with No. 5 Auburn (32-14, 14-7) hosting its in-state rival beginning Friday at 6 p.m. After returning from Starkville Sunday morning, the Tigers will take two days off before resuming practice on Tuesday.
“For us to win a doubleheader today,” Thompson said, “it’s another feather we can put in our hat as a mission accomplished.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer