STARKVILLE — Mississippi State made sure it wasn”t going to lose a late-inning lead on Saturday afternoon.
After blowing a 6-3 advantage in a 9-8 loss to Auburn on Friday night, the Bulldogs knew they had to handle a similar situation different in the second game of the series.
MSU scored two insurance runs in the eighth inning and left-handed starting pitcher Nick Routt handled the rest as the Bulldogs beat Auburn 8-3 at Dudy Noble Field.
Mississippi State coach John Cohen was glad to see the Bulldogs extend the lead, but he was even more pleased to see Routt go the distance.
“Nick came in and threw strikes,” Cohen said. “He did exactly what you want him to do late in the game.
“He just makes it very simple and most guys his age make it very difficult. He”s going to make you put baseballs in play and he”s going to make you a little bit uncomfortable. The best thing he”s got going for him is his brain because he just simplifies the game.”
It was the third complete-game victory for Routt (4-1), who had a career-high 12 strikeouts and only one walk.
Routt knew he had to finish what he started despite his pitch count getting to 119 at the end.
“I had to close the door in the last inning,” Routt said. “I struggled a little bit, but I finished it out. I felt a little fatigued toward the end of the game, but you”ve just got to push through it. I worked hard all offseason and I”m just putting it to work.”
Mississippi State (16-14, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) provided Routt with a lead to work with by scoring four runs on four hits in the first inning. The big blow was a two-run home run by Connor Powers, his seventh of the season.
MSU scored another run in the fifth on a solo homer by Russ Sneed, his fourth, before Auburn (19-10, 5-6) answered with three runs in the sixth.
By adding a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Grant Hogue, the Bulldogs had the same 6-3 lead they had on Friday.
The Tigers rallied for six runs in the ninth against Chad Crosswhite in the first game of the series, but the results were different as MSU evened the series.
Routt worked three scoreless innings down the stretch and the Bulldogs put up two more runs in the eighth.
Sneed led off the inning with a single and scored on a double by Ryan Collins. Collins crossed the plate on a single by Ryan Powers.
“Coming out in the eighth and getting a couple of more was a positive thing for us,” Sneed said. “It gave us even more confidence. Routt filled the strikezone up and competes really well for a young guy.”
Sneed had his first career four-hit game, while Hogue had three hits and Collins had two hits for MSU.
After tweaking his swing, Sneed felt comfortable at the plate after going hitless in the first game of the series.
“After last night, I felt all of my at-bats,” Sneed said. “I had my timing a little bit better.”
Mississippi State will attempt to win the series when it hosts Auburn at 1:30 p.m. today. Lefthander Forrest Moore (2-0, 2.60 ERA) is expected to get the start on the mound for MSU.
n NOTES: Hogue had his second three-hit game of the season…Hogue stole his 19th base which puts him one away from joining the school”s single-season top 10 list. He is also tied with Jeffrey Rea for seventh on the career theft chart with 43…Routt”s 12 strikeouts were a season-high for the pitching staff…Routt”s outing followed a career-high nine-strikeout performance by Tyler Whitney on Friday…MSU football coach Dan Mullen will throw out the first pitch before today”s game.