STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, including a bases-loaded walk-off walk from senior Luke Hancock, to beat No. 17 Auburn 7-6 in Thursday’s series opener at Dudy Noble Field.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 20-15 (5-8 SEC), while the Tigers fall to 23-11 (7-6 SEC).
Offensively, MSU was outhit 10-6. Freshman Hunter Hines was 1-for-3 with two RBIs, while graduate student RJ Yeager was 1-for-3 with two runs and one RBI. Hancock and senior Brad Cumbest both recorded one hit, one RBI and one run, while junior Logan Tanner added one hit and one RBI.
Sophomore Cole Foster led Auburn with three hits, three runs and one RBI. Redshirt junior Blake Rambusch was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and graduate student Brooks Carlson added two hits.
Senior pitcher Brandon Smith started for the Bulldogs and allowed two runs on six hits with one walk in five innings. Sophomore Brooks Auger then pitched the next 1 2⁄3 innings and allowed three unearned runs on two hits, two walks and three strikeouts. Senior Drew Talley got the final out of the top of the seventh inning via strikeout before freshman Pico Kohn and senior Parker Stinnett (4-1) pitched the final two innings.
Junior pitcher Hayden Mullins started for the Tigers and allowed three runs on four hits with four strikeouts and five walks. Senior Carson Skipper then pitched the next three innings and allowed two runs on two hits with three strikeouts. Junior Blake Burkhalter (3-1), who leads the team with three saves, entered in the bottom of the eighth inning and was charged with the loss after allowing two unearned runs on zero hits. He fanned two batters and walked four.
MSU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Yeager and junior Kamren James drew back-to-back walks before Hancock singled up the middle to load the bases. Tanner’s RBI single through the left side plated one run before a sacrifice fly from Hines scored the other.
The Tigers cut MSU’s lead in half in the top of the third inning on a solo home run by junior Nate Larue.
The bottom of the third inning began like the bottom of the first with James and Hancock drawing back-to-back walks. A double play would follow before Hines hit an RBI single up the middle to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth inning, Foster hit a leadoff double to right field, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on another groundout to make it a 3-2 ballgame.
Auburn then plated three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 5-3 lead. Senior Brody Moore drew a one-out walk, redshirt junior Bobby Peirce reached on an error and Foster singled to load the bases. Larue drew a bases-loaded walk to score Moore. A strikeout followed before Rambusch hit a two-RBI single to right field.
Cumbest led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a home run to left field before Yeager hit a one-out homer, also to left field, to tie the game at 5-5.
Foster’s home run in the top of the eighth inning gave Auburn a 6-5 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, sophomore Kellum Clark drew a leadoff walk and Cumbest then hit what looked like a routine double play, but an error had the Bulldogs with runners on first and second with no outs. A perfect sacrifice bunt to third base put runners on second and third before Yeager was intentionally walked. Clark then scored on a wild pitch, barely beating the catcher’s tag, to tie the game. James was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Hancock. Hancock was ahead 2-0 before a swing and miss made it a 2-1 count. Another ball made it a 3-1 count before a low pitch walked in the game-winning run.
The Bulldogs and Tigers will play the second game of the three-game series on Friday at 6 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.