Baseball Tigers Rally to Even Series

The Auburn baseball Tigers defeated LSU 6-2 with a strong performance on the mound by Rocky McCord.

Columbia, S.C.--Auburn pitcher Rocky McCord kept his team close to South Carolina before the visiting Tigers were able to take advantage of the home team’s bullpen on the way to a 6-2 SEC baseball victory on Saturday.

Auburn evened the series at 1-1 and improved its record to 31-17 overall and 11-12 in the SEC. South Carolina dropped to 10-13 in the conference.

The teams will wrap up their series with a 1 p.m. CDT start on Sunday at Carolina Stadium as the Tigers look to win a series vs. the Gamecocks for the first time since the 1997 season.

McCord, a senior right-hander, improved his season record to 5-3. He gave up just four hits in seven innings. He allowed two runs, but just one was earned.

It was a third straight victory for Auburn with McCord as the starting pitcher. “I think I am just gaining a little bit of momentum and confidence on the mound,” McCord said. “My fastball command has gotten a lot better. The movement in my fastball today helped me out a lot.

“I have been developing my other pitches, too,” McCord added. “I have come a long way.”

Auburn coach Sunny Golloway had praise for McCord’s performance. “Rocky pitched really well and then we went to the lefty and Izaac Yarbrough pitched really well and Yarbrough saved (reliever Justin Camp) and (reliever Trey Wingenter) for tomorrow. Those guys behind big Dalton (Sunday starter Dalton Rentz) sets us up really good going into the rubber match.”

Golloway said that McCord won the game even though he probably wasn’t as sharp as he has been in some games. “I don’t think he was really his best today, but he competed his tail off.”

The Gamecocks took the lead with an unearned run in the third inning and another run in the fourth when McCord walked in Jordan Gore.

Meanwhile, the Tigers were struggling to figure out pitcher Taylor Widener, who struck out seven and allowed just one hit in five innings. Normally South Carolina’s closer in the bullpen, he was pulled in the sixth inning to set the stage for the visitors to rally by scoring two runs each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the Gamecocks ended up using seven pitchers.

“When we were down 2-0 I was a little frustrated with our non-competitive at-bats and I got after our guys a little bit,” Golloway said. “They pitched their closer. It’s going to be tough. You don’t have to score against him. You’ve got to stay close and you’ve got to keep competing. He isn’t going nine innings and when they go to the bullpen--jump on them. That was our plan and it worked.”

Auburn tied the game in the seventh inning. Damon Haecker started the rally with a single and moved to second base on a walk to pinch-hitter Jordan Ebert.

After a sacrifice bunt by J.J. Shaffer, Cody Nulph cut the lead to 2-1 with a single. Sam Gillikin then hit a ground ball up the middle to tie the game before a ground ball double play by Kyler Deese ended the threat.

Melvin Gray started Auburn’s eighth inning with a walk and reached third base on a single to left field by Anfernee Grier, who moved to second base on a throw to third base as Gray was safe on his slide. Gray then put the Tigers ahead by scoring on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Grier.

The Tigers got help from the Gamecocks for the other run in the inning as Grier scored from second base on a bobbled ground ball to the second baseman.

Auburn added insurance runs in the ninth inning after Nulph opened the frame with a single to left before moving up a base on a passed ball. Nulph moved to third base on a ground ball and scored from there on a bunt squeeze play by Deese, who ended up on second base when the Gamecocks’ pitcher threw the ball past first base.

The final run of the game was driven home by Gray’s single to put the visitors up 6-2. Yarbrough, who pitched two innings and allowed just one hit, was credited with the save.

The teams will play on Sunday at 1 p.m. CDT. That contest will be televised on ESPNU.

Game 2 Box Score

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