Comeback kids: Auburn erases 7-run deficit in series-clinching, walk-off win

Auburn topped Mississippi State 12-11 with a walk-ff single in the bottom of the ninth. (Addison Faucett/AU Athletics)

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn outscored Mississippi State by seven runs in the last four innings to complete its comeback and clinch the series with a 12-11 walk-off win Sunday at Plainsman Park.

The Tigers (23-16-1, 7-11 SEC) trailed 7-0 through three innings and 9-3 through five innings but battled back to complete their 11th come-from-behind win of the season and notch another one-run victory.

“I’m just proud of them to keep fighting through everything that happens,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “If this is the new way this game is played, I’m the one who has to adjust more. They just need to keep fighting and find their opportunities when they can have success.”

Cole Foster delivered the game-winning double as he hit an 0-2 fastball into the gap in right center field to score pinch runner Josh Hall from second base and send his teammates to mob him in the infield.  

“Throughout the game I was trying to shorten up and have the shortest swing on a big pitch,” Foster said. “That’s what I finally ended up doing. I was sitting offspeed because that pitcher throws a lot of offspeed and then I realized I haven’t hit a fastball all weekend, why wouldn’t he throw me that? So I shortened up, got my hands through, got a barrel to the ball and I was happy with what happened. I’m glad we got the win.”

Konner Copeland (2-1) entered with two outs in the top of the fifth and pitched the final 4.1 innings en route to earning the win. The senior lefty retired the first seven Mississippi State batters he faced and ultimately allowed just two unearned runs on three hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

“I just went out there and tried to compete,” Copeland said. “Don’t do anything crazy, just be myself, fill up the zone and trust my defense to be behind me. We got the series win this weekend. That’s big for us.”

Trailing 10-8 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Bryson Ware hit the first pitch he saw from reliever Nate Dohm for a three-run home run to give Auburn its first lead of the game. The long ball was Ware’s team best 16th of the season, including his third go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later.

“I was really happy with the way we fought today,” Ware said. “I’m really happy Cole picked me up at the end. It was a full team effort. Konner Copeland did an outstanding job on the mound today. I’m really happy with the way we competed.”

After Ware’s home run, Mississippi State (23-17, 6-12 SEC) tied the game on a ground ball that resulted in a two-out error and allowed the runner from third to score in the top of the ninth. However, Nate LaRue drew a leadoff hit-by-pitch before being sacrificed to second by Chris Stanfield. Hall then entered to run for LaRue and scored the winning run on Foster’s walk-off double.

Mississippi State started the scoring out of the gate with two runs in the top of the first and jumped out to a 7-0 lead through three innings with a three-run homer in the second and two-run double that was lost in the sun in the third.

For the third straight day, Cooper McMurray got Auburn’s scoring started with a home run, this one a three-run shot off the right field foul pole in the fourth. It marked McMurray’s fourth game this week with a home run.

“This win is huge for us,” McMurray said. “I knew he had a good slider so I was just trying to stay on it. Fortunately he gave me one over the plate with two strikes and I was able to pull it down the line. Thank God it stayed fair. Doing whatever we can to help the team win. I’m blessed to be in that situation.”

In his next at-bat two innings later, McMurray sent a shot down the other line that clanked off the left field foul pole for a two-run home run and cut Auburn’s deficit from six to four. It was McMurray’s second multi-homer game of the season, fourth home run of the series and fifth this week. Three batters later, after Caden Green drew a one-out walk, LaRue smacked a 3-2 pitch for a home run off the scoreboard to make it a two-run game. The long ball was LaRue’s first of the season.

With Copeland on to pitch, the Tigers chipped away with a run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh but left bases loaded in the frame.

Mississippi State got the run right back in the top of the eighth, but Auburn responded to take its first lead of the game in the home half. Bobby Peirce hit a one-out single and Ike Irish doubled to left center to put a pair in scoring position for Ware, who hit the first pitch he saw out the left.

The Bulldogs again plated an unearned run to tie the game in the top of the ninth, but it didn’t take long for Auburn to respond a second time with Foster’s walk-off theatrics.

“This was a series that we needed to have because we get right back on the road against maybe the No. 1 or 2 team in the country next weekend. If we can just go up there and fight, something good might happen. I think we need to ride the meanest, rankest bull in the country because at some point we’re going to step up to the plate with the season on the line like it is now. You can get the most credit by riding the meanest, rankest bull out there, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed this weekend.”

Prior to its trip to South Carolina, Auburn continues non-conference play with a midweek matchup vs. Troy (28-12) Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Plainsman Park.