STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State pitching threw its fourth shutout of the season as the Bulldogs blanked No. 21 Auburn 5-0 in the final game of a Southeastern Conference weekend baseball series Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
Nick Routt and Daryl Norris combined on a four-hit shutout for the Maroon and White. It was
MSU’s first shutout of a league opponent since Ricky Bowen threw a two-hit, 4-0 shutout of Ole Miss at home on March 16, 2008. MSU pitching had previously shut out Lamar, Akron and Sacred Heart on the 2011 campaign.
With the victory, the Bulldogs completed a three-game series sweep of Auburn. For the Maroon and White, it was their first three-game conference sweep since the 2007 College World Series-participant Bulldogs accomplished the same feat in this stadium against Auburn.
Winning a fourth straight game against ranked opposition, the Bulldogs maintain sole possession of second place in the Western Division standings. MSU is now 18-6 overall and 4-2 in league play, while Auburn fell to 14-10 and 2-4. The Tigers had won seven of the past eight meetings before this weekend’s activity.
“It was nice to get three SEC wins under our belt this weekend,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “Today, executed a couple of plays very well. The first and third play was executed to perfection. We have to focus on Alabama A&M now. That is all we can worry about.
“I think we gained a ton of confidence this weekend that will help us moving forward.”
The Bulldogs broke open a scoreless tie with four runs in the fifth inning.
In that at-bat, Jonathan Ogden began things with a leadoff single. After a sacrifice-bunt by Adam Frazier, Wes Thigpen lined an RBI-single, scoring Ogden. Jaron Shepherd followed with an infield hit. After a strikeout, Ryan Collins walked to load the bases. Jarrod Parks followed with a two-run single to center field. An RBI-single by Cody Freeman capped the big inning.
The Bulldogs tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning. With runners at first and third and two outs, MSU successfully executed a first and third play. Running at first base, Shepherd got into the run down which brought Frazier in with a steal of home.
Two-out hitting was easily the theme of the weekend. The Bulldogs scored 24 of their 27 series runs after there were two outs. The Bulldogs scored in two different innings Sunday, while denting the scoreboard in three frames on both Friday and Saturday.
“Right now, it is all about confidence,” Shepherd said. “There are going to be ups and downs in baseball. The key is staying focused and not getting too down. Each win this weekend gave us some momentum going into the next game.”
Perhaps, the other storyline Sunday was the performance of Routt. Still battling back from an injury-plagued 2010, the Bulldog junior left-hander made his second start of the season. Working with a pitch count, Routt threw 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, with three strikeouts and two walks.
Norris (1-0) entered with two outs in the fourth inning and completed the contest, securing his first win in the Maroon and White. Working a career-longest 5.1 innings, the freshman right-hander also allowed two hits, with two strikeouts and no walks.
For the weekend, MSU pitching posted a 3.00 ERA, with 23 hits and 14 runs (12 earned) allowed in 27 innings of work. Bulldog hurlers struck out 20 and walked only 11.
Offensively, MSU totaled 10 hits in the series finale. Ogden had three hits, while Thigpen added two hits. In the series, the Bulldogs hit .387 and were paced by a 7-for-12 weekend by shortstop Ogden.
Auburn starter Derek Varnadore (3-1) was lifted after five innings of work. Varnadore allowed eight hits and four runs (all earned), with eight strikeouts and a walk. Ethan Wallen, Andrew Morris and Bradley Hendrix each threw an inning in relief.
Dan Gamache had two of Auburn’s four hits.
The Bulldogs complete this brief four-game home set with Alabama A&M at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Conference play resumes with a road trip to Georgia next weekend.
Click the image below to view a slideshow of the game
Article courtesy MSU Athletic Media Relations