No. 23 Auburn entered Sunday's rubber-game vs. Mississippi State having lost six of its last seven SEC games. Its woes looked as if they would continue Sunday afternoon, until a sixth-inning rally changed the series for the Tigers.
Auburn (25-12, 6-9 SEC) rallied to defeat Mississippi State 7-5, totaling all seven of its runs in the sixth inning.
To start the game, Auburn looked to be out of sync at the plate, unable to buy a hit. Mississippi State starting pitcher Jacob Billingsley struck out a career-high seven Auburn batters. Through two innings, Auburn had four strikeouts at the plate.
On Auburn’s side, pitching was in its favor early as well. Starting pitcher Tanner Burns fanned four on the day, holding the Bulldogs the first 4.2 innings.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, a deep fly ball was taken by the heavy gusts of wind at Plainsman Park and pushed just out of reach of the diving mitt of Auburn center fielder Jay Estes, allowing State to take a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs' next batter, Luke Alexander, crushed Burns' 3-1 pitch out of the park for a two-run homer, putting MSU up 3-0, and sending Burns to the dugout.
Cody Greenhill entered the fray, and ultimately saved the day for the Tigers. Greenhill, who had only pitched in one SEC game this season due to a battle with mononucleosis, wowed on Sunday, striking out five batters and allowing two runs over 4.1 innings of work.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers' offensive drought continued with a strikeout by senior Josh Anthony. However, the next batter, Will Holland, singled to left field, providing a bit of a spark for his team.
Holland advanced to second on a passed ball and Steven Williams reached first after being hit by a pitch. Brett Wright then took the plate and hit an RBI double to left field, scoring Holland and sending Williams to third.
After an Edouard Julien walk and a passed ball to close the score to 4-2, Brendan Venter, who was 6 for his last 50 and 1 for his last 26 in SEC play, stepped to the plate.
Venter launched a ball over the middle of the plate out of the park, nearly over the scoreboard in center field. Suddenly, the Tigers led 5-4.
“Brendan Venter needed this,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “That was a big moment for him, a pressure release for him.”
After Venter’s crucial home run, Luke Jarvis reached base after smacking a single up the middle. Freshman Judd Ward then hit a triple down the right field line, scoring Jarvis from first.
“This means a lot. I was just trying to make a difference,” Venter said. “I don’t really have any words for this. Just having the same mindset and just going out there each and every day to try and get better is a big thing for me.
“This win today was huge. We’ve been out here grinding, it feels good to come out on the win column today."
Estes closed the scoring with an RBI single to cap the seven-run inning.
The Tigers finished the day with seven runs and eight total hits, with all runs and five of their hits coming in the sixth inning.
Greenhill earned his second win of the season and first career SEC win.
“We saw the Cody Greenhill effect for us,” Butch Thompson said. “(Greenhill) pitched good and pitched for a while… It was huge for him to finish this ball game for us… This is a big one, this is a big one for our program, this team.”
Auburn will return to action on Tuesday as it hosts UAB. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CST.