AUBURN, Ala.-- Mississippi State continued its strong offensive production Sunday afternoon but still could not break into the win column. The Bulldogs hung tough before falling 11-8 to No. 19 Auburn in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played at Plainsman Park.
The league's hottest team, Auburn won its fifth straight league game and captured its third straight league series. The Tigers have won the last three series from the Bulldogs and have also captured the last three series played here on the AU campus. For Auburn, it was the first series sweep of M-State since 1985.
With the victory, Auburn improved to 33-15 overall and 15-9 in league play. The Tigers have now caught Ole Miss for second place in the Western Division standings. Meanwhile, MSU fell to 20-28 and 5-18.
The series was full of offensive highlights. The Tigers outhit the Bulldogs, 43-35. The teams combined to hit 19 home runs. Auburn hit 12 of those, including a school-record seven round trippers in a 16-14 win on Saturday. AU won the opener Friday night, 9-6.
For a second straight day, the Bulldogs scored first with one tally in the opening inning on Sunday. Nick Vickerson drew a walk followed by a Luke Adkins single. Connor Powers made it back-to-back hits with an RBI-single through the left side, plating Vickerson.
Auburn answered with three runs in the second inning. Hunter Morris and Kevin Patterson began things with back-to-back singles. A wild pitch advanced both runners with Morris coming home. Casey McElroy then drew a walk. Ryan Jenkins lined an RBI-double, while a sacrifice-fly by Justin Fradejas brought the other run home.
The Bulldogs battled back for a 3-3 tie with two runs in their half of the third inning. Connor Powers again started things with a leadoff single. Jaron Shepherd then lined his first Bulldog home run - a two-run shot just right of the extended wall in deep center field.
Auburn quickly regained the lead minutes later with their first home run of Sunday's play. Brian Fletcher led off the inning with the first of his two home runs for the contest. A follow-up single by Jenkins placed the Tigers on top, 5-3.
Each team scored a lone run in the fourth inning. The Bulldogs scratched when Vickerson lined a two-out single, advanced on a Luke Adkins double and scored on a misplay on Adkins' ball in the AU outfield. The Tigers answered when Fletcher homered for the second time in as many innings.
Auburn extended the lead to 9-4 with three scores in the fifth inning. Again, the long ball proved large, as Patterson began the at-bat with a solo home run. The Tigers hit three home runs Sunday, 12 home runs in the series and have hit a league-best 93 for the 2010 season. It is a pace that should see the squad better the school record of 102.
The hosts also scored in the fifth inning on an RBI-triple by Justin Hargett, which scored Jenkins, who had doubled. Hargett scored during a rundown which actually resulted in an inning-ending caught stealing.
The Bulldogs then began their rally with three runs in the sixth inning and another score in the seventh inning. In the sixth inning, Jonathan Ogden hit a line drive solo home run for his fifth of the season. Adkins added a two-run blast - his third of the weekend and seventh of the season. The seventh inning score came on a Ryan Collins' RBI-single.
After back-to-back scoreless innings by the MSU bullpen, the Tigers struck again in the eighth inning with a critical RBI-single by Morris and a bases-loaded walk drawn by McElroy.
In the ninth inning, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with a single and two walks. However, a strikeout, popup and groundout ended that final threat.
The Tigers finished with 10 hits today. Jenkins had three hits for the victors, while Fletcher, Morris and Patterson each added multiple hits.
The Bulldogs finished with 14 hits, including nine from the top three spots in the lineup. Vickerson, Adkins and Powers each had three hits to pace the Bulldogs' offensive attack.
AU starting pitcher Grant Dayton (6-2) worked into the sixth inning to earn the win. Austin Hubbard closed the door in the ninth inning for his seventh save. Caleb Reed (0-5) worked 2.2 innings in relief of starter Luke Bole and took the loss.
The Bulldogs return home for their final homestand of the 2010 regular season. MSU hosts Northwestern State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday before playing league foe Vanderbilt in a weekend series. The Bulldogs and Commodores close out the year at Dudy Noble Field with start times of 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.