Tigers Can't Handle No. 1 South Carolina

With help from his mother, South Carolina's star pitcher overcame a rocky start to send Auburn into the SEC Baseball Tournament losers bracket.

Hoover, Ala.--Auburn jumped on South Carolina ace pitcher Michael Roth for three first inning runs, but Roth and the Gamecocks recovered to defeat the Tigers 7-3 in the opening round of the SEC Baseball Tournament on Wednesday.

Auburn dropped to 29-28 as it heads into the losers bracket to play 28-29 Georgia, the loser of Wednesday night's game vs. Vanderbilt. The Commodores won 10-0 in seven innings of a game that ended early due to the 10-run rule. If the Tigers lose that contest their season will be done because they must have a winning record to qualify for an NCAA regional.

Justin Fradejas bunts for a single vs. South Carolina.

Auburn's second game will start following a 9:30 a.m. losers bracket contest matching Arkansas and Mississippi State.

"Our players know that if we want to stick around we have to play well tomorrow," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said.

"It is nothing new to our team," he said. "They know it is a great challenge and there is a sense of urgency. They know we have got to play hard and play well."

Auburn plans to throw its top pitcher, junior Derek Varnadore, on Thursday. The coach said the entire pitching staff will be available if needed because of the urgency of the situation.

Pawlowski said he and the players have talked about it being a do or die situation on Thursday if they want the season to continue. "These are all smart, well-educated student-athletes," he said. "They understand exactly the situation we are in. There is a time to continue to talk about it. Now is the time we need to go out and earn our keep."

Michael Roth went the distance for the Gamecocks, giving up six hits as South Carolina, the nation's No. 1 ranked team, improved its record to 45-12. None of Auburn's three runs were earned.

"I thought he got better as the game went along," Pawlowski said of Roth. "He kept us off balance. He has a lot of different pitches."

Roth, who improved to 11-3 on the season, broke a personal two-game losing streak thanks to advice from an unusual source. "A lot of times you don't want to listen to your parents, but I actually got a lot of stuff from my mom," Roth said. He noted the best advice she gave him was to "pick up the pace" between pitches and the lefty said that worked.

However, early in the game things didn't look good for Roth or the Gamecocks.

Justin Fradejas led off the game reaching first on an error by the third baseman. He was cut down at second when Wes Gilmer's attempt at a sacrifice bunt went back to the pitcher, who cut down the lead runner.

Gilmer reached second base on a groundout by Casey McElroy and Tony Caldwell drove him home with a line drive single into center field.

Creede Simpson then followed with a single to left field putting runners of first and second base for Kevin Patterson, who smacked a double to right field to drive home two more runs.

In the second inning Jon Luke Jacobs gave up back-to-back singles to the first two batters. Adrian Morales then lined a double past third base to get the Gamecocks on the scoreboard.

Evan Marzilli then worked a three-two count before hitting an opposite field ground-rule double to left center field to tie the game and start activity in the Auburn bullpen with Zach Blatt throwing.

Jacobs then got the next two batters with groundouts before Peter Mooney swung and missed on a third strike stranding a runner on third base.

After the Tigers left McElroy stranded on first following a one out single in the third inning, Jacobs walked Scott Wingo to start the bottom half of the inning. Wingo reached second on a stolen base with one out and then scored on a two-out line drive single to left by Jake Williams to put the Gamecocks ahead 4-3.

Patterson fought off a three-two pitch to open the fourth inning with a bloop single to center for the Tigers.

After Cullen Wacker grounded into a double play, Brooks Beisner walked and reached second base on a wild pitch. Justin Hargett, batting ninth and wearing No. 2 for the Tigers, grounded out to second base on a two-two count.

The Tigers went to the bullpen in the fourth inning. Senior lefty Sean Ray got the call, but gave up another run on two hits stretching the lead to 5-3. Ray was pulled after an inning giving way to Blatt.

Blatt was pulled with one out in the sixth inning in favor of Ethan Wallen after the Blatt hit back-to-back batters.

Wallen was greeted with a single to center field by pinch-hitter DaSean Anderson making the score 6-3 and leaving runners on second and third when the throw from center to third base was late. A sacrifice fly increased South Carolina's lead to 7-3.

Wallen then walked the next batter putting runners on the corners before forcing a ground out to third to end the threat. He lasted until the ninth inning when he was replaced by Jay Wade after walking the leadoff hitter. Wade took care of business stranding the runner at first with two foul ground popup outs and a strikeout.

Auburn was unable to rally as Roth got into a groove and kept Auburn's hitters off stride in the second half of the contest.

Casey McElroy

McElroy, Auburn's leading hitter coming into the tournament, said the Tigers won't change anything even though they are in a must-win situation. "We are just going to come out there and play hard," he said. "We try to look at it as another game. We will run our best guys out there and see what we can do."

In the early session on Wednesday, Alabama opened the tournament with a 7-4 victory over Arkansas and Florida rallied to defeat Mississippi State 7-5.

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