Auburn, Ala.---South Carolina DH Carlos Cortes hit a grand slam and added a triple and starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt was dominant from start to finish as the #6 Gamecocks (19-7, 6-2) evened the series with the 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers with a 7-0 win on Saturday at Plainsman Park.
It was the first time Auburn (22-7, 6-2) has been shut out this season with the last time coming on May 13th against eventual first-rounder Dakota Hudson of Mississippi State.
Auburn pitcher Davis Daniel threw four hitless innings to start his outing, but wound up allowing four hits and four earned runs in five and one/thirds innings to take the loss. Coming out of the bullpen, Corey Herndon allowed a pair of runs on two hits in just two/thirds of an inning. Gabe Klobosits pitched the final three innings, allowing a run on two hits.
The story of the game was the pitching of Schmidt. Entering the game with a 3-0 record and an ERA of just 1.12, the junior controlled the game from the start, allowing just five hits and striking out 10 in eight innings. Seeing his own guy Casey Mize pitch a well on Friday, Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said they got one-upped on Saturday by Schmidt.
"I thought Clarke Schmidt is the best guy we saw all year," Thompson said. "He was outstanding. Coach (Chad) Holbrook, a great coach, he talked about Casey yesterday when we met behind home plate and said 'it's the best outing we've had against us this year'. I think I reciprocated that just now and said that was by far the best outing we've seen.
"I think you run into a buzzsaw every now and then," he added. "You don't want it and you want to keep going, but I think that happens to every club, great club, average club, bad club. That happens."
Both pitchers got off to solid starts with the double play ball helping out both. Each team hit into a pair of twin-killings in the first four innings before South Carolina finally made Daniel pay in the top of the fifth.
Leading things off, Jacob Olson singled to get things started for the Gamecocks and Cortes followed with a triple off the right field wall to put South Carolina in front. When L.T. Tolbert blooped a single into left field just like that it was a two-run hole for the Tigers.
Things would only get worse in the sixth when Jonah Bride singled with one out and a walk to Matt Williams brought Herndon out of the Auburn bullpen. Getting the first guy on a strikeout, Herndon walked Olson to bring Cortes to the plate. Continuing his big day, Cortes jumped on a 1-0 fastball and launched it into the bullpen for a grand slam.
Now trailing 6-0 the Auburn offense remained stagnant until the bottom of the eighth inning against Schmidt. With one out Bowen McGuffin singled through the right side for just the fourth hit of the day for the Tigers.
One out later second baseman Will Holland hit a deep drive to right field that would have easily been a run-scoring triple, but the ball hopped over the fence on one bounce for a ground rule double. Stepping to the plate, Jonah Todd worked a full count before going down swinging on a 96 MPH fastball from Schmidt on his 111th pitch of the night.
Auburn will look to take the series on Sunday in a 1 p.m. start against South Carolina. The Tigers are likely to start freshman Ryan Watson against the Gamecocks with bullpen pieces Cole Lipscomb, Andrew Mitchell, Daniel Robert and Calvin Coker all ready to go if needed.
Tiger Ticket Note: Auburn junior pitcher Keegan Thompson is not on the 27-man roster for this weekend’s series. That means he’s not available to pitch in Sunday’s game.