Auburn Falls 4-3 To Drop Series To Gamecocks

Auburn fell 4-3 to South Carolina on Sunday for its seventh one-run loss of the season and fourth in the last five games.

Auburn, Ala.--Trailing 4-3 in the eighth inning and with runners on second and third and just one out, the Auburn Tigers had a chance to get a big hit and win a series over No. 6 South Carolina. Two strikeouts later and the opportunity was gone as Coach Sunny Golloway's club lost its fourth one-run game in the last five contests and seventh overall this season as the Gamecocks finished off the series win to improve to 30-10 overall and 10-8 in SEC play.

The loss meant Auburn still hasn't beaten South Carolina in a series since 1997, but this time around the Tigers have no one to blame but themselves. Getting runners in scoring position in the eighth inning with less than two outs in losses on Saturday and Sunday, Auburn failed to capitalize. Now 22-19 overall and 7-11 in league play, Auburn has put itself in serious jeopardy of not making the SEC Tournament in Hoover with four conference series remaining.

"Our kids played really well today," Golloway said. "They fought back and I thought they really played well today. My feeling is we played well this weekend.

"Both games that we lose we have the tying run and go-ahead run on with one out," he added. "You've got to tip your cap, they struck us out."

When asked if that's difficult to swallow, being so close to getting a win over a Top 10 club, Golloway said "that's baseball".

Coming on in relief for the Tigers with his team down 2-0 in the first inning, senior Michael O'Neal allowed just one run on five hits in five and two/thirds innings to keep his team in the game on Sunday. Also pitching well was fellow senior Terrance Dedrick. Not used in a closing situation on Saturday, Dedrick didn't allow a hit in two innings pitched on Sunday, but the story was O'Neal.

"He threw the ball really well out of the bullpen today," Golloway said.

At the plate senior catcher Blake Austin was 3-5 on the day with an RBI and a run scored while fellow senior Damek Tomscha chipped in with two hits. Also with two hits was freshman Keegan Thompson, who was back in the lineup at first base for the first time since a 6-0 win over Troy back on April 8.

Starting Trey Wingenter on Sunday, Auburn didn't get much help on the mound early as South Carolina scored two quick runs in the first inning before O'Neal came out of the bullpen to get the final two outs. The big blow came on a Joey Pankake double on a 2-2 pitch, the first of his two doubles on the day.

Auburn answered back in the bottom of the inning as back-to-back walks to Ryan Tella and Tomscha brought Austin to the plate with a chance to do some early damage. Getting a pitch to handle, the senior pulled it through the left side for a single to score Tella and put the Tigers on the scoreboard. Following a passed ball that put runners on second and third, Auburn had an opportunity to do some big damage but a Damon Haecker strikeout and an Daniel Robert groundout left two runners stranded.

In the third South Carolina pushed the lead back to a pair of runs thanks to plenty of help from O'Neal as he walked the first two Gamecocks to give them life. It looked like he might get out of the jam when Kyle Martin hit a smash right at Dan Glevenyak at second. Catching the liner, he threw to Thompson at first to double up the runner. Facing Grayson Greiner, O'Neal left a pitch over the plate and the powerful Greiner made him play with a double to left. That easily scored D.C. Arendas to put the Gamecocks back in front 3-1.

Once again the Tigers would respond as two-out singles from Tomscha and Austin were followed up by a Haecker single to score a Tomscha and cut the lead down to a run. In the sixth Auburn tied it up as Austin singled to start the inning, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a Thompson RBI single.

That's how things would remain until the eighth inning when Cochran-Gill allowed singles to Martin and Greiner to start the inning. That brought Dedrick in out of the bullpen for Auburn. Getting the first hitter on a sacrifice bunt to put runners on first and second, Dedrick walked Taylor Widener intentionally to load the bases with one out and bring Gene Cone to the plate. Doing his job, Cone hit a fly ball to center field to score Martin and put South Carolina back in front.

Just like they had done all day long, Auburn gave itself another chance to respond when Daniel Robert and Thompson singled with one out to bring Glevenyak to the plate. Before he would have a chance to put the ball in play, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position with one out. Following a familiar pattern, Glevenyak struck out before pinch-hitter Sam Gillikin suffered the same fate to end the threat. Auburn went down without a fight in the ninth to drop the series to South Carolina.

The Tigers return to action Tuesday night when South Alabama comes to Plainsman Park for a 6 p.m. start.

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