No. 19 Auburn used two home runs off the bat of Brian Fletcher and another by Kevin Patterson to claim an 11-8 win over Mississippi State on Sunday, completing Auburn's first three-game series sweep of its SEC West rival since 1987. With its win, Auburn (33-15, 15-9 SEC) moved into a tie with Ole Miss for second in the SEC West, one game behind Arkansas.
"We knew Mississippi State wasn't going to go away. That club is a very good offensive club and they tested us," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "They tested our arms. Grant Dayton didn't have his best stuff today but when you look at the bottom line, he got us into the sixth inning again today and this is certainly a good win for us."
Auburn's magic number to clinch its first SEC Tournament berth since 2003 is two as it sits five games head of ninth-place Alabama (10-14 SEC) with six games remaining.
The sweep was Auburn's first at home since it swept Vanderbilt in May of 2002 and its first home sweep of Mississippi State since 1985.
Dayton (6-2) allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits while walking two and striking out two to pick up the win while Mississippi State reliever Caleb Reed (0-5) took the loss.
Austin Hubbard recorded the final three outs to pick up his second save in as many days and his seventh of the season, stranding the tying run at first in the top of the ninth.
"Sweeps are huge. We just try and come out here and play well every day. Every SEC team is going to bring its best," Hubbard said. "I got some pretty big outs (in the ninth). The pop-up to Wes (Gilmer, the second out of the inning) and the roller back to me, this is a pretty big win for us," Hubbard said.
For the second straight day Auburn had to record a come-from-behind win, though Sunday's deficit was only a single run after the top of the first as opposed to Saturday's nine run deficit after the top of the second.
Down 1-0 heading to the bottom of the second, Auburn scored three times off of Mississippi State (20-28, 5-19 SEC) starter Luke Bole. Hunter Morris (2-for-4, 2 R, RBI) led off with a single, went to third on Patterson's (2-for-4, BB) single and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. The first of two Ryan Jenkins (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI) doubles scored Casey McElroy (4 BB, HBP) and a Justin Fradejas (0-for-2, 2 BB) sac fly brought Dan Gamache (0-for-4) home to put Auburn up, 3-1.
Mississippi State tied the game on Jaron Shepherd's two-run home run in the top of the third only to have Auburn answer with the first of Fletcher's shots and a Jenkins RBI hit that scored Morris to put Auburn up two, 5-3.
"We are on pace to possibly win the West and sweeping this weekend is huge for us," Fletcher said. "The third win was huge for us and hopefully we can carry that into next weekend against Tennessee."
Mississippi State scored an unearned run in the top of the fourth to narrow the game to one, 5-4, when Nick Vickerson (3-for-5, 2B) scored on a fielding blunder by Fletcher in left following a Luke Adkins (3-for-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) double down the line in left. Again Auburn answered with a Fletcher blast, his third of the weekend and 16th of the season, to go up 6-4. The multi-homer game was the seventh of his career, second al-time at Auburn.
Auburn extended its lead to 9-4 in the fifth as Patterson hit his 14th home run of the season to start the inning, a shot that was estimated to travel 507 feet out to right. Justin Hargett (1-for-3, 3B) tripled in Jenkins following his second double of the game and then scored on a delayed double steal, getting home just before Fradejas was tagged out in a rundown between first and second.
Mississippi State clawed back with three runs in the top of the sixth as Jonathan Ogden hit a solo home run and Adkins hit a two-run shot, making 9-7.
A Ryan Collins RBI single in the seventh cut Auburn's lead to one, 9-8, and then only the padding on the top of the wall kept Auburn ahead in the eighth as Connor Powers doubled off the top of the padding in right, missing the game-tying home run by mere inches.
Auburn tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the eighth when Morris singled home Fradejas and McElroy drew a bases loaded walk.
The two teams combined to score 64 runs on the weekend, collecting 38 extra-base hits along the way, 19 of which were home runs.