Bulldogs get dramatic win in SEC again
MSU's Cody Freeman had the game-winning double Friday night against Auburn. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Mississippi State senior Cody Freeman is a young man who understands his limitations.
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The senior designated hitter, who is MSU's backup catcher, knew he and his team would be better off with him ending the game with a walk-off single to center field.
"I told (Bulldogs catcher Wes Thigpen) that the only reason I got the hit was because I didn't want have to go catch," Freeman said.
The base hit that scored pinch runner Sam Frost completed a 7-6 victory in front of 3,434 at Dudy Noble Field for the Southeastern Conference home opener in Starkville.
It was a game in which Mississippi State (16-6, 2-2 in SEC play) lost an early 4-0 lead and used five pitchers for the evening, which ended with left-handed sophomore Chad Girodo throwing 1 2/3 innings of relief to earn his second win of the 2011 season.
"They will fly ball you to death but our park is a little bit bigger than theirs so they were out of luck tonight," Girodo said. "This is a process - to sweep you have to win on Friday night."
Girodo (2-0) drove Auburn hitters back with a diving slider that allowed him to pick up three strikeouts with the final two coming against the middle of the Tigers order closing out the final frame. The Hartselle, Ala., product got his first win of the 2011 season in similar fashion by shutting down Vanderbilt for an inning last Sunday.
"This pitch (the slider) is just about two and a half weeks old for him and I really believe in that guy because he can shove it in the strike zone," Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said.
State's relief effort combined to allow just two runs in the final six innings but still leaving MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson with enough options for the rest of the weekend.
"I'm so proud of all the guys that came in and contributed on the mound," Cohen said. "We have so many good matchups coming out of the bullpen. This is why we invested in so many arms for these types of situations on a Friday night."
After having a less than pleasant day behind the plate with two passed balls, Thigpen, who came in with a .200 average, used the bat to anchor the Bulldogs offense with his first multi-hit game of the season.
The transfer from Meridian Community College went 3-for-3 during the evening including a two-run home run in the sixth inning that gave State the lead back at 6-5. It was a bloop single to right field that started the final inning for Mississippi State as Sam Frost would eventually pinch run for the senior catcher.
"He took some really good swings and had a plan and stayed on breaking ball to hit it out the ballpark," Cohen said. "Then he comes back with a great plan to serve a ball out to right field to get us going."
Every member of the MSU lineup except one player had a base hit Friday night including the first multi-RBI game of the season for senior left fielder Jaron Shepherd. The Bulldogs speedster slapped a two-RBI single to left-centerfield to get Mississippi State on the scoreboard early.
Auburn (14-8, 2-2) relied similarly to how they won the final two games against Arkansas last weekend by beating around Jones for four runs in the third and fourth innings and the Eupora native failed to get out of the fourth inning for the second straight start in league play.
After being concerned with how his team was hitting with runners in scoring position, Cohen was able to look at a Friday night box score that saw all seven runs driven in with two outs.
"I think it shows a lot of character in our clubhouse," Freeman said. "The past two games we've finished with the right attitude and the right way."
The Bulldogs will toss sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton today in a 2 p.m. contest as the Tupelo native looks for the team-leading fourth victory on the mound and improve on last year's outing against the Tigers where he gave up six runs in just 4 1/3 innings of work. Auburn will counter junior right-hander Will Irvin.
Should State pick up the victory today, it would mark an end to Auburn seven straight series victories in SEC play.