In a showdown between ace pitchers in the Southeastern Conference, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington and his bullpen reigned supreme.
Pilkington, Peyton Plumlee and Riley Self combined for a four-hitter as No. 7 Mississippi State beat No. 5 Auburn 5-2 in the opening game of a three-game SEC series at Dudy Noble Field.
MSU won the opening game of a conference series for the fifth time in seven tries this season. The Bulldogs also kept the lead in the overall conference standings with 11 games to play.
MSU is now 30-14 overall and 14-5 in league play, while Auburn fell to 30-14 and 12-7. The Bulldogs need one more win to clinch a sixth straight conference series win.
“Terrific start to the weekend,” head coach Andy Cannizaro said. “We played a complete game. Konnor was very workmanlike tonight. He gave us a great effort. Then we got a shutout with the bullpen. The crowd was outstanding. It was a good night for baseball and a great way to start the weekend against an outstanding Auburn team.”
Pilkington (5-3) allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings of work, with four strikeouts and five walks. Plumlee and Self faced the minimum in the eighth and ninth innings. After a walk, a double play sealed Self’s third save of the season.
Auburn ace Keegan Thompson (5-2) was touched for a season-high five runs (all earned) in 6.2 innings of work. Thompson allowed six hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
Jake Mangum reached as a hit batsman in the MSU first inning. A Brent Rooker single and Ryan Gridley fly out moved Mangum to third. He would then score on a balk call.
After Auburn tied the game in the fourth inning, MSU took the lead for good with two scores in the home half of the inning. Elijah MacNamee had an RBI-triple. Josh Lovelady followed with an RBI-double down the left field line.
Two errors allowed Auburn to score its final run in the fifth inning. MSU then stretched the lead with single scores in the sixth and seventh innings.
Biloxi’s Cody Brown had an RBI-double in the sixth inning, while Gridley had an RBI-single in the seventh inning.
MSU finished with seven hits. Gridley had three hits to lead the Bulldogs. Jonah Todd had two of Auburn’s four hits.