STARKVILLE, Miss. – Auburn left-hander Michael O’Neal rendered Mississippi State’s hitters helpless, pitching seven shutout innings as the Tigers beat the No. 10 Bulldogs 3-1 at Dudy Noble Field on Friday.
Head coach John Pawlowski said Auburn played its best defensive game of the season.
O’Neal moved to 8-2 with the win, becoming Auburn’s first pitcher to eight wins since Grant Dayton finished the 2010 season at 8-3.
Auburn finished the day 25-14 overall and 6-11 in the SEC. Mississippi State moved to 31-10 and 9-8.
“I just tried to throw Strike 1 and get guys out early in the count to go deep in the game,” O’Neal said. “I kept the ball down and got them to hit into double plays when we needed it.”
O’Neal scattered five hits and walked four before leaving the game after walking the leadoff hitter in the eighth inning. It was the third time this season he has not surrendered a run.
Behind him, Auburn played spectacular defense. Shortstop Mitchell Self and second baseman Jordan Ebert made diving stops at big times. They combined to turn double plays to quell Mississippi State threats in the sixth and seventh innings.
“That was our best defensive game of the season,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “I can’t tell you how many great players Mitchell Self and Jordan Ebert made.”
O’Neal saluted his teammates.
“Mitchell Self and Jordan Ebert, I can’t say enough about them,” O’Neal said. “I’ve never seen us play that great on defense.”
Terrance Dedrick pitched the final two innings to earn the save.
Patrick Savage had two run-scoring singles and Cullen Wacker a sacrifice fly to account for Auburn’s runs. Mississippi State scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, avoiding its first shutout of the season.
After the regularly scheduled game, Mississippi State completed a 6-3 victory in a game that was suspended Thursday night with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Mississippi State closer Colin Holder, who entered the game in the seventh inning Thursday, struck out seven of the eight batters he faced and picked up his 12th save.
Auburn and Mississippi State will meet today at 5 p.m. in the series rubber game.