STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State junior pitcher Preston Johnson struck out a career-high 12 batters, the offense compiled 14 hits and the Bulldogs beat No. 17 Auburn 9-5 Friday night at Dudy Noble Field to claim a series win.
The Bulldogs (21-15, 6-8 SEC) were led by senior Brad Cumbest with a 4-for-5 night at the plate with three RBIs and two runs. Junior Kamren James was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs, while freshman Hunter Hines was 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run and freshman Slate Alford was 2-for-4.
Senior Kason Howell led the Tigers (23-12, 7-7 SEC) with three hits, one RBI and one run, while senior Brody Moore was 2-fo-4 and accounted for one RBI.
Johnson (3-2) pitched seven innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks. Senior Drew Talley replaced Johnson and allowed a base hit, walked the next batter and allowed an RBI single without getting an out. He was replaced by junior KC Hunt, who earned his first save after pitching the final two innings.
Junior pitcher Trace Bright (2-4) was charged with the loss for Auburn after allowing four runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in 5 1⁄3 innings.
MSU wasted no time getting on the board, taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. James hit a one-out single up the middle and senior Luke Hancock followed with a double to right-center field to put runners on second and third base. Junior Logan Tanner scored James on an RBI sacrifice fly before an RBI single by Hines scored Hancock.
The score remained the same through the next four innings before the Bulldogs added two runs to their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Sophomore Kellum Clark drew a one-out walk and Cumbest followed with a single to through the left side. Sophomore Lane Forsythe was then walked to load the bases. Graduate student RJ Yeager’s two-RBI double down the left-field line made it a 4-0 game.
In the top of the seventh inning, redshirt junior Bobby Peirce reached first on a fielder’s choice and made his way to third on Tanner’s errant throw to first. A sacrifice fly from sophomore Cole Foster scored Auburn’s first run of the game and made it 4-1.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Hines and Alford hit back-to-back singles. Senior Brayland Skinner replaced Alford. After a flyout, a passed ball allowed Skinner and Hines to move up a base before Cumbest hit a three-run home run to left-center. Forsythe was then walked, and James hit a two-run homer to give the Bulldogs a 9-1 lead.
In the top of the eighth inning, Johnson walked freshman Mike Bello and hit redshirt junior Blake Rambusch. Howell then hit an RBI single to left field, and that was the end for Johnson. Talley then allowed RBI singles by senior Sonny DiChiara and Moore. Hunt replaced him and struck out the first batter he faced before giving up an RBI single by Foster to end the game’s scoring at 9-5.
The Bulldogs will look to complete the series sweep Saturday at 1 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.