Auburn rattled Mississippi State ace Kendall Graveman for ten hits in seven innings to take a 3-0 victory in game-two of the SEC series. Although, because game-one was to be completed afterwards with the Bulldogs leading 6-3, the Tigers took the first win of the weekend and improved to 24-14, 6-10 SEC.
State was 30-10, 8-8 as the suspended Thursday game resumed in the bottom of the seventh inning. An official crowd of 10,143 turned out, largest of this home season so far.
On the face of things this was an entirely unexpected outing for Graveman. The senior righthander was coming off three consecutive complete-game victories and had established himself in the league’s elite. But his history hinted at trouble this time. In two previous outings against his home-state team Graveman had struggled with a no-decision and loss to Tiger squads.
The senior-season chance went much the same. Auburn certainly didn’t pound Graveman as much as just chip and chop away, and cash in the few scoring chances. Two of those came aided by Bulldog errors, one of them on the pitcher himself. Graveman (5-3) went 7.0 complete innings with the ten hits, one earned run. He only walked one Tiger and struck out five.
State’s much bigger issue though was facing the Auburn version of, yes, a Graveman. Soft-tossing righthander Michael O’Neal frustrated and even infuriated Bulldog batters for 7.0-plus innings as well, shutout innings at that. He scattered the five hits allowed, worked around four walks aided by two double-plays, and struck out four to improve to 8-2.
The Tigers were an inning short of shutout too, before reliever Terrance Dedrick got touched for the only Bulldog run in the ninth. Dedrick still picked up his fourth save by leaving the tying runners on bases.
The radar gun showed Graveman was charged for his old foe, nipping 91 mph as he got two quick ground-outs in the first inning. A soft single to leftfield didn’t seem like much, but when Garrett Cooper dribbled a grounder along the left-line Graveman got there first. And, over-threw first base for Tigers on corners. Patrick Savage made it sting with a clean single to center scoring Cullen Wacker from third, whereas he probably wouldn’t have made it from second.
Auburn’s third also produced a two-out score, after a leadoff single was erased on a line-out double-play. Graveman was hit for three-straight singles, the last a one-hopper off SS Adam Frazier’s glove by Savage to score Wacker again. Graveman returned to old form with three ground-outs in the fourth, only to get hit consecutively by the top two of the order in the fifth. Worse, RF Hunter Renfroe just let the second single roll through his feet for an error and extra bases. So Ryan Tella was able to score on a fly ball by Wacker for the three-run lead, all Auburn would need.
Because O’Neal just had the Bulldogs baffled. He didn’t top 85 mph on anything but located most everything. His second inning had trouble brewing with a walk of DH Daryl Norris before C Nick Ammirati reached on an infield single with third baseman Damek Tomscha throwing it away at first for a pair in scoring positions. LF Demarcus Henderson slapped a grounder that was knocked down by shortstop Self, and his strong throw might have even beaten the runner. At least first base ump John Bennett decided so.
From there O’Neal retired the next ten-faced before walking 3B Alex Detz in the sixth. Renfroe also worked a walk, and 2B Brett Pirtle was plunked to load all bases. The best opportunity of the evening went for nought as 1B Wes Rea two-hopped directly to the second baseman to start the double-play.
Further frustration came in the seventh as CF C.T. Bradford singled and was erased on a double-play. Ammirati reached on a pulled-foot at first base and Henderson singled over second base. Frazier had the inning still going on his single with a late throw to second base. Ammirati wheeled on around third base for home, and the throw had him beat so much that he tried running back for third and was tagged.
O’Neal returned to walk Detz again in State’s eighth and bowed-out for Dedrick to get two fast strikeouts and a grounder. State was only able to evade shutout with Bradford leading off the ninth with a double. He took third on a grounder and was scored by Ammirati’s single to right. With two outs Frazier extended the inning on a base hit dropped before the deep-playing centerfielder.
Detz made contact and while second baseman Jordan Ebert stumbled he recovered to throw in time.
Four Tigers had a pair of base hits each, with Savage’s the key knocks accounting for two RBI. State’s three hits were shared by three hitters, with Frazier going 3-of-5. Bradford and Ammirati had the other safeties.
Thursday’s suspended game was to start at 9:22 with State batting and one out in the seventh, and Pirtle coming to bat.