April 19, 2013 12:58:23 AM
STARKVILLE - In honor of its first nationally televised game of the season, Mississippi State University gave out a free t-shirt to every fan Thursday night.
By the fifth inning, those Dudy Noble Field fans expected to use that t-shirt as cover from the storms heading into Oktibbeha County. With one out in the bottom of the 7th inning at No. 16 MSU leading 6-3 over Auburn University in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference series, consistent lightning and rain forced a postponement of the contest until Friday following the scheduled 6:30 p.m. game.
Under SEC rules, "If a game is suspended on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, the game shall be completed from the point of interruption on the following day prior to the regularly scheduled game. In the event that the regularly scheduled game is to be televised, the continued game may be played afterward."
When the contest resumes MSU will have one out in the bottom half of the inning with cleanup hitter Brett Pirtle scheduled to hit next with nobody on base. Play was halted by lightning at 8:59 and just over 90 minutes later a decision was reached to replay the game after the completion of the scheduled Friday game.
Once the rain finally came through the MSU campus, flooding of both the dugouts and the Auburn locker room became an issue as photo evidence shows in the top left corner.
MSU (30-9, 8-7) scored four unearned runs off four Auburn errors Thursday night and added a solo home run from redshirt sophomore first baseman Wes Rea to take control.
The Bulldogs, who were coming off a road sweep of Texas A&M University, countered the fact senior pitcher Luis Pollorena was knocked around for three runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings in his sixth start of the 2013 season. Auburn went up 1-0 in the first inning marking the eighth time this season MSU has been down after the opening frame.
Rea's fourth home run of the season tied the score as the third-year sophomore crushed a fastball over the left-center field wall off Auburn starter Conner Kendrick for the only earned run the junior college transfer from Northwest Florida State College would give up Thursday night. Kendrick suffered control problems in the third inning that included back-to-back walks to junior Hunter Renfroe and Pirtle that caused a run to score in a three-run frame.
MSU quickly went to sophomore left-hander Ross Mitchell in the fourth inning for his 17th relief appearance of the season and the Smyrna, Tenn., native went for a scoreless thee innings. The soft-tossing southpaw is the current pitcher of record and going for his seventh victory of the season if the Bulldogs can hold on to the three-run lead for six more outs.
Auburn (23-14, 5-10) had runners in scoring position in each of the last four innings played Thursday but failed to convert against either Mitchell or MSU closer Jonathan Holder. Holder is one save short of tying Caleb Reed for third all-time in that statistical category with 21.
MSU got its 14th multi-hit game from junior outfielder C.T. Bradford Thursday night as he had singles through the right side in the third and sixth innings.
MSU is 28-1 this season when leading a game after six innings and Thursday night marked the second game of the season that has been delayed because of weather issues.
The second game of this series is scheduled to be played at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted by Comcast SportsSouth. MSU is expected to start senior right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman (5-2, 2.15) after consecutive complete game victories while Auburn will counter with junior left-hander Michael O'Neal (7-2, 2.40).
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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