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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn falls short in delay-filled night

Coming back onto the field after the second rain delay of the night, No. 17 Auburn failed to keep its comeback rolling and dropped game two to Mississippi State with a final score of 9-5.

The game, which was originally scheduled for 6 p.m. CST, got off to a late start at 7:35 when the rain finally calmed down. 

Leadoff hitter Blake Rambusch didn't mind the late start and started off the game with a double in the left-center gap. He advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by Kason Howell, but was left there as Sonny DiChiara and Brooks Carlson failed to put the ball in play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the frame, the Bulldogs were eager to get things going. Unlike the Tigers, they were able to cash in on their early noise. Following a single and a double put two runners in scoring position with one out, a sacrifice fly and another double plated a pair before Auburn starting pitcher Trace Bright got out number three.

Bright didn't allow the early damage to get to him, and he followed up with four scoreless innings. Mississippi State threatened by loading the bases in the third inning, but Bright induced a pop-up to keep it 2-0. Other than that, he strolled through five innings relatively untouched and kept Auburn in the game. 

The Auburn bats just couldn't get anything going early on. They only put together eights hits in the game, and six of them came in the last three innings. A lot of that had to do with Mississippi State starter Preston Johnson, who struck out 12 in his strong seven-inning performance. 

In the sixth inning, the Bulldogs gave Johnson a four run cushion and chased Bright out of the game. With one out, Mississippi State played station to station by sandwiching a single in between two walks to load the bases.

At that point, Thompson went to his bullpen and called on Carson Swilling to try to escape the jam. However, the first batter he faced hammered a double down the left field line, producing two runs. Swilling was able to prevent further damage and ended the frame after reloading the bases.

The seventh inning is when the Tigers finally got on the board, and the offense came to life. Brody Moore led things off with a single, and Bobby Pierce replaced him at first after a fielder's choice out. When a throwing error by the catcher Brough Pierce to third, Cole Foster picked up the RBI on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.

Putting the comeback attempt to rest, Mississippi State hit a pair of home runs in the bottom of the seventh to push across five in the frame and make it 9-1. Brad Cumbest and Kamren James continued their huge days with  a three-run and then a two-run blast, respectively.

Cumbest torched Auburn, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two extra-base hits. James also had a multi-hit game, ending his day 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.

However, Auburn still kept fighting. It tallied four runs in the fourth after six straight players reached base before an out was recorded. Howell, DiChiara, Moore and Foster all had RBI singles in the inning as Auburn went station to station.

Even with the breakout four-run frame, the Tigers still missed out on more. After Foster's one-out RBI single, the bases remained juiced for Nate LaRue. 

For the fourth time of the night, LaRue went down on strikes and Mike Bello did the same to end the inning. Auburn found themselves down by four with only an inning to go, and the Tigers had the tying run at the plate twice in the eighth inning.

Chase Isbell took the mound looking to keep the score where it was and set up a chance for another four-run inning by Auburn in the ninth to tie it, but the weather had other plans.

With two on and two out, the rain returned and so did the tarps for the second delay of the night, which lasted 44 minutes. Combined with the delay prior to first pitch, the game was delayed for two hours and 14 minutes total.

When play resumed, Konner Copeland took the mound and recorded the last out for Auburn via strikeout.

Looking to extend the night and mount a late comeback, Auburn sent the top of its lineup to the plate. With one out, Howell reached on a single to give the Tigers some hope, but it was soon crushed, as DiChiara grounded into a double play to give Mississippi State the win.

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The second consecutive loss to Mississippi State means Auburn's first series loss on the road this season, and its first series loss since Ole Miss took two out of three from the Tigers in Auburn in March. If they lose game three tomorrow, it will be the first time Auburn has been swept this season. 

This also means that Auburn has lost the past four games that Bright has started, which accounts for all of his SEC starts. This game was a step forward for him, however, as he exited the game versus Vanderbilt last weekend after giving up six runs in 3.1 innings. 

Tonight, he finished with 5.1 IP, including four runs on seven hits, two walks, eight Ks and a hit by pitch. He rebounded well in the middle innings after a two-run first inning before running into trouble in the sixth, when he reached 108 pitches. Unfortunately, his bullpen couldn't bail him out and he falls to 2-4 on the season.

With the 9-5 loss, Auburn falls to 23-12 and 7-7 in SEC play. Mississippi State improves to 21-15 and 6-8 in league play. The defending National Champion looks like it is finally putting things together after starting the season in disappointing fashion. 

The Tigers have lost the series, but they will still have the chance to avoid the sweep in game three tomorrow, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. CST on Saturday.

"The last three weekends we have been good on that third game, and we will need to be tomorrow," Thompson said. "We need to get something out of this series and come out here ready to fight."

Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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