Staked to a four-run advantage thanks to a strong pitching performance from starter Andrew Morris, Auburn saw it's lead go away in the course of two innings. Despite a serious threat in the top of the ninth the Tigers fell to 14-7 with the loss while JSU improves to 15-5 overall.
"I was real encouraged by what Andrew Morris did," Pawlowski said. "He went out there and threw the ball extremely well. I was proud of him. We made a couple of mistakes late in the ballgame when they had base runners on. You make mistakes late in the ballgame with runners on base it comes back to haunt you. It was a good ballgame. I thought our kids played hard. They battled but unfortunately we couldn't come up with a way to win tonight."
The loss ruined a fantastic outing for the junior Morris. Allowing eight hits and three runs in six and one/third innings, the junior college transfer got a no-decision on a night when he deserved better. He said while it wasn't a win it was a confidence builder for him in his first start.
"We're a team so it's not a single person in this situation," Morris said. "We all hold each other liable for everything. We've got to build from this and use it as determination for this weekend at Mississippi State.
"I expect a lot out of myself every time I get on the mound," he added. "I push myself to the limit to make things like that happen. We didn't come out on top tonight. This was definitely a good outing for me in my first start of the year."
With the score tied at four Auburn failed to threaten in the top of the eighth but the Gamecocks would not go as quietly in the bottom of the inning. With one out Kyle Bluestein ripped a double to left field off reliever Sean Ray and that would be it for the senior as he lasted just two batters before being replaced by freshman Dillon Ortman.
Facing pinch hitter Scott Underwood with the go-ahead run on second and one out, the Huntsville native got a pop up for the second out. He wouldn't be as fortunate facing Blake Seguin as the second baseman singled up the middle to plate the eventual game winner. It was just the second RBI for the diminutive Seguin but it proved to be a big one.
Facing the Gamecocks' closer Todd Hornsby, Auburn got a two-out single from Justin Hargett in the top of the ninth inning to put the tying run on base for Justin Fradejas. Already with two hits on the night the senior right fielder doubled to left field to put runners on second and third with two outs for Casey McElroy.
Auburn's hottest hitter this season and the reigning SEC Player of the Week, the junior drove the ball deep to center field and just missed a home run as Michael Bishop caught the ball just in front of the 400 foot sign to end the game.
"We put some good swings on it," Pawlowski said. "I told Casey, he was disappointed, you can't do anything but square a ball up like that. He hit it good to the deepest part of the park and it didn't fall for us."
Fradejas led the way for the Tigers at the plate with three hits while Dan Gamache and Creede Simpson added two hits each. Tony Caldwell hit his third homer of the season while Kevin Patterson added a hit and two RBI on the night.
After leaving a pair of runners on in the first and struggling to get a feel for JSU starter Casey Antley, Auburn finally struck for a pair of runs in the top of the fourth to take the first lead of the night. Leading things off Gamache doubled just inside the first base bag and a walk to Wes Gilmer put the Tigers in business with nobody out.
Asked to bunt the runners up, senior Caldwell did his job as his sacrifice put the runners on second and third for Patterson. With seven RBI over the weekend the senior again did damage as his hard single to center field scored both Gamache and Caldwell for the 2-0 Auburn lead. Later in the inning Simpson reached on an infield single but a Justin Hargett groundout left two on for the Tigers as they led by two.
Kevin Patterson drives home two runs against JSU.
With Morris cruising on the mound, allowing just five hits and no runs on 57 pitches through five innings, the Tigers went to work in the top of the sixth to try to break things open. Leading off, Caldwell blasted his third home run of the season over the fence in left field for a three-run Auburn lead.
Following a Patterson pop up that featured a circus catch by third baseman Coty Blanchard, left fielder Brooks Beisner doubled to right center. With reliever Ben Haynes coming in, pinch runner Bobby Andrews stole third on the first pitch with Simpson at the plate. Playing small ball, Simpson put down a perfect bunt to score Andrews easily. JSU first baseman Ben Waldrip glanced at the plate and by the time he turned to first Simpson beat it out for the hit.
Just like Andrews, Simpson stole a base on the first pitch to move into scoring position with Hargett at the plate. That would be the end of things for Auburn though as Hargett struck out looking with Simpson running and he was caught stealing to end the inning with Auburn up 4-0.
Morris faced his first trouble of the night in the bottom of the seventh as Erik Underwood singled to start the inning and one-out singles from brothers Andrew and Michael Bishop broke up the shutout and brought the junior's night to a close. With runners on the corners and one out Slade Smith came on in relief with the Tigers up 4-1.
Hitting .485 coming into the game Blanchard was 0-3 stepping to the plate to face Smith and that meant he was due. The freshman drilled a double to right-center field that Simpson misplayed allowing both runners to score and cut the Auburn lead to just one.
A wild pitch moved Blanchard to third with Jake Sharrock at the plate and it proved to be a huge mistake for the Tigers. Despite a great play by Patterson on a ground ball it wasn't enough to keep the run from scoring as his diving grab and walk to first got the second out but Blanchard scored to tie the game. The Gamecocks added a run in the eighth and held on for the win to even the season series with Auburn at 1-1.
Auburn will return to action this weekend at Mississippi State as the Tigers face the Bulldogs in a three-game series. Game times for the series are 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 on Sunday.