April 21, 2013 10:54:16 AM
STARKVILLE - Jacob Lindgren knew his luck needed to change in a hurry and saw that happen in front of the second-largest crowd in Dudy Noble Field history.
The Mississippi State University sophomore left-handed starting pitcher had left games after a line drive ricocheted off his knee and sprained his ankle retrieving a bunt in home starts this month. In a 6-0 victory Saturday over Auburn University, Lindgren remained healthy and stayed away from any crazy circumstances to provide his third quality start of the 2013 season.
Lindgren left after the first batter of the ninth inning to a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 14,562 after finishing with 11 strikeouts in a 106-pitch effort.
"It was one of those days where I had some good movement and it's hard to describe but I got to the ballpark today with my best stuff in all of my pitches," Lindgren said.
Lindgren, who opened the year as the Bulldogs opening night starter and Friday night option before injuries derailed his progress, only reached three-ball counts on six Auburn hitters Saturday and only allowed runners in scoring position one time past a difficult second frame for the Bay St. Louis native.
Lindgren had much more swing-and-miss stuff Saturday as he'd combined for 13 strikeouts in his last three starts against the University of Kentucky, University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University.
"I just thought Jacob Lindgren was phenomenal in attacking the strike zone," MSU coach John Cohen said. "He is just one of those guys that works off his slider and is kind of backwards off most pitchers
No. 16 MSU (32-10, 10-8 in Southeastern Conference) won its third consecutive series thanks to quality pitching throughout the weekend. The Bulldogs allowed just four earned runs to a struggling Tigers offense through three days and only used six pitchers to accomplish the 1.33 ERA.
"When you talk about the three phases of the game, pitching, hitting and defense, I don't think we gave our best effort in any of those today," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "We've got to get a lot better and fast."
The bottom of the MSU batting order came through all weekend and continued its torrid stretch Saturday as senior catcher Nick Ammirati had only his fifth multi-hit game of the 2013 season as he contributed two RBIs and two runs scored out of the eighth spot of the MSU lineup.
"It was always there," Ammirati joked about his batting talent. "I just needed more playing time to show it off."
Playing time for Ammirati has been a touchy subject for Cohen and the MSU staff after they used starter Mitch Slauter in 64 games last season. The Bulldogs coaching staff feared Ammirati would get restless with his backup spot and possibly leave the program this summer. However, the transfer from Panola (Texas) College via Sparta, N.J. Has used the fractured hand injury to Slauter to his benefit by hitting .545 this weekend and only making one error after being behind the plate for all 27 innings.
"You're talking about a guy that bluntly that he didn't get to play as much as he wanted to or deserved to," Cohen said. "A lot of 21-year-old men to say the world is against me because of those darn coaches. He worked his tail off this summer to prove to us that he deserved this opportunity."
MSU outfielders C.T. Bradford and Demarcus Henderson combined for seven hits this weekend out of the sixth and ninth spots in the order after coming into this series against Auburn (24-16, 6-12) on severe slumps. The bottom of the lineup production allowed MSU to survive a three-day stretch where power sluggers Hunter Renfroe and Alex Detz combined to go 2 for 21.
"Our lower half of the order had some huge clutch hits and those guys are really taking great swings and putting together what we would grade out as quality at-bats," Cohen said. "People used to get on Ron Polk for this but there's a lot in this game that you can't control and there's an element of fortune in this game."
With the Saturday victory, MSU has positioned itself with an ratings percentage index of in that second spot of the Western Division as it continues to fight for not only one of those four byes in the SEC tournament but also that precious NCAA Regional hosting spot next month.
The Bulldogs will next take to the field Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. in AutoZone Park to play the University of Memphis in the home stadium of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.
"There is no Vanderbilt (MSU's weekend opponent), there's only Memphis and Memphis has beaten Ole Miss twice and is a really good club to contend with," Cohen said. "We recognize the importance of mid-week games when you're fighting for what we're fighting for."
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.
2. 'OzLand' to premiere locally Thursday ENTERTAINMENT