Mississippi State walk off

Mississippi State's Marshall Gilbert, center, celebrates with teammates after his walkoff single.

The team that leads the nation in come-from-behind victories did it again Sunday night on the biggest stage.

Mississippi State scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to stun Auburn 5-4 in a first-round game of the College World Series. It was the 28th time the Bulldogs have rallied for a victory.

“Give our guys credit,” Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis said. “They fought until the last out, and the grit of our ballclub showed.”

A crowd of 22,671 watched as Auburn, making its first CWS appearance since 1997, appeared destined for victory. The Tigers carried a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth when the Bulldogs started working their magic.

Mississippi State

Mississippi State's Ethan Small pitches in the second inning against Auburn.

Jake Mangum led off with a double off the base of the right-field wall. After a strikeout and a walk, Elijah MacNamee belted an RBI double to left to make it 4-2.

Justin Foscue brought home a run with an RBI groundout to make it 4-3. But the end seemed near when Dustin Skelton hit a grounder to third baseman Edouard Julien.

Julien, who had driven in three runs for the Tigers, double-clutched on the throw and fired high and wide of first to bring in the tying run.

After an intentional walk and an infield single, Marshall Gilbert stepped to the plate. The Bulldogs’ No. 9 hitter was 0 for 4 but came through in the clutch, delivering the walk-off RBI single up the middle.

“I was in awe of everyone before me,” Gilbert said. “I had been a little off, but I was getting encouragement from my teammates.”

Despite the loss, Auburn coach Butch Thompson credited his team for its performance.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” he said. “But they were able to put the ball in play and extend innings.”

Mississippi State dugout

Mississippi State's players rush out of the dugout as Marshall Gilbert hits a walk-off single.

Julien, a native of Canada, had staked the Tigers to a 3-0 lead. He hammered a two-run homer to right in the second inning and added a run-scoring single in the fourth.

Both came against Bulldogs ace Ethan Small, who leads the nation in strikeouts. He surrendered three hits in five innings and struck out eight, raising his season total to 176.

After Mississippi State scored a run in the sixth, the Tigers added an insurance run in the eighth. Will Holland was hit by a pitch with two outs and scored after a single by Steven Williams and a Bulldogs throwing error.

After Auburn was retired in the top of the ninth, Mississippi State rallied in the ninth.

The young Tigers — no seniors in the starting lineup and only two on the roster — didn’t seem rattled by the big crowd or the two-decade hiatus from the CWS. But they couldn’t hold their three-run lead in the ninth as Mississippi State rallied off Tanner Burns, the fifth Auburn pitcher.

“Our philosophy is to grind down the starter and get to the bullpen,” Gilbert said. “We did it again tonight.”

Mississippi State advances to a winners bracket game Tuesday night against Vanderbilt.

Auburn falls into a losers bracket game Tuesday against Louisville.

Spotlight

Play of the game

When there’s a walk-off win, it has to be the RBI single by No. 9 batter Marshall Gilbert in the bottom of the ninth.

Second play of the game

It was unfortunate, but Auburn would have won the game if not for a throwing error by third baseman Edouard Julien in the ninth that tied the game 4-4.

Star of the game

A four-run Mississippi State rally in the ninth included several heroes, but our vote goes to Jake Mangum, who started it all with a ringing double off the base of the right-field wall.

Second star of the game

Let’s give this one to Gilbert, who was hitless in four previous trips to the plate before delivering his game-ending RBI.

Auburn

Auburn's Will Holland attempts to tag out Mississippi State's Jordan Westburg as he steals second base.

Quirky moment

Mississippi State pitcher Ethan Small started the game by striking out the first five batters, one short of the CWS record.

Quirky moment II

Both teams started pitchers wearing the No. 44, and the first reliever in the game for both squads wore No. 14.

Our take

This is the kind of victory that can boost a team to new heights and absolutely crush the other. We’ll see how things play out over the rest of the Series.

They said it

“For 8⅔ innings, I thought everybody did a great job.’’ — Auburn coach Butch Thompson

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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