For Auburn (23-19, 9-10) starter Jon Luke Jacobs went eight innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run. He struck out nine Gamecock hitters while walking five. South Carolina's Alex Roth was just as good, giving up a run on seven hits in eight innings and striking out six. Freshman Dillon Ortman got the loss for the Tigers, allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Auburn coach John Pawlowski said it was just a great baseball game Friday night that came down to South Carolina making one more play than the Tigers.
"Jon Luke did a great job for us tonight," Pawlowski said. "You look at it, early in the ballgame he found his way out of some trouble. I thought he gave us everything he could. He was outstanding. Against good teams, we didn't have too many opportunities. We had a few opportunities and just couldn't scratch another run across. It was a great effort by him and certainly proud of what he did."
The Tigers managed seven hits off Roth and left nine runners on base for the game. Pawlowski said they got to the crafty lefty, but he was just a little better on the mound.
"You look at his numbers going into the game and there's a reason why," Pawlowski said. "He made pitches when he needed to. We had a couple of shots and couldn't manufacture anything. It was a good baseball game, a game where one pitch and one play could make the difference. It just didn't go our way tonight."
Early on both pitchers struggled to get off to a good start. It was Auburn's turn first in the top of the first as a two-out double by Casey McElroy and a walk to Tony Caldwell brought Wes Gilmer to the plate. The senior reached on an error to load the bases for Kevin Patterson, but facing the sidearm left-hander was too tough for Patterson as his ground ball left the bases loaded in the first.
South Carolina returned the favor in the bottom of the inning as Peter Mooney singled to open the frame and one out later a single by Christian Walker put a pair of runners on base for the Gamecocks. A walk by Jacobs to Brady Thomas loaded the bases for the heart of the USC order, but he recovered to get a ground ball to Dan Gamache at third base. His throw cut down Mooney at the plate for the second out. A fly ball brought the South Carolina threat to an end with the game still scoreless.
The Tigers again put together something against Roth in the second inning. Leading off, Creede Simpson singled and following a stolen base he found himself at second with two outs for Justin Fradejas. Back in the leadoff spot, the senior singled home Simpson to give Auburn the 1-0 advantage.
A single by Evan Marzilli and a double by Robert Beary scored him to tie the game at one. Two walks in the inning loaded the bases with two outs, but Jacobs recovered to strike out Thomas and keep the game tied going to the third.
That's how things would stay until the top of the eighth when Auburn would again threaten against Roth. With one out Caldwell was hit by a pitch for the second time on the night and Gilmer singled to right field to bring Patterson to the plate again with runners in scoring position. Facing Roth, Patterson popped up on the infield for out number two. Despite being around the 120-pitch mark Roth got Simpson on a groundout to end the threat with the game still tied at one.
In the top of the ninth Justin Hargett looked as if he would give the Tigers a huge hit as with one out he lined one to left field off reliever John Taylor. On a dead run Jake Williams made a diving grab to rob the Auburn senior of extra bases. Taylor then retired Fradejas to end the inning.
Coming on in the ninth, Ortman put himself in a huge hole as he hit Beary to open the inning. After a bunt moved the runner to second, Mooney singled to right field and a strong throw from Fradejas put runners on first and third with one out and Wingo coming to the plate. Falling behind in the count Ortman left a pitch over the plate that the senior lifted deep to center field. The blast easily scored Beary to give the Gamecocks the 2-1 victory.
Auburn will look to even the series on Saturday as the Tigers take on South Carolina in game two. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. central time and can be seen on SportSouth.