Auburn, Ala.--Freshman Conor Davis made his first Auburn home run a memorable one on Sunday as he came off the bench with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and delivered a pinch-hit, three-run bomb to give the Tigers a 6-5 win over #6 South Carolina to set off a huge celebration at Plainsman Park.
With the win Auburn matches its victory total from a season ago, improving to 23-7 overall. The Tigers are now 7-2 in SEC play, one win away from last year's win total in the league.
Trailing 5-3 entering the ninth inning, Auburn's chances looked bleak with South Carolina reliever Josh Reagan cruising on the mound with two scoreless innings under his belt. Things started innocently enough with Jonah Todd reaching on an infield single to give the Tigers some life. That brought senior Daniel Robert to the plate. Getting down 0-2 on the count, Robert fought off pitch after pitch before lacing a single into right field to bring the tying run to the plate.
Trying to bunt the runners into scoring position, Luke Jarvis' effort was fielded by South Carolina catcher Chris Cullen just in front of the plate. His throw to third beat Todd to record the first out of the inning. Following a Dylan Ingram fly ball for out number two, Auburn called for Davis for the Tigers' last chance at a win.
Ahead 2-0 in the count, Davis swung through a change-up for the first strike before getting a breaking ball. He didn't miss it as his bomb over the Green Monster in left field sent the crowd of 3,722 into a frenzy and gave Auburn its first series win over South Carolina at home since 1996.
"I went and talked to a couple of guys that had faced Josh and they said just don’t swing at that changeup," Davis said. "And, of course, the first pitch I swung at was the changeup. I got that one hanger. I was nervous a little bit, big situation, but I was ready to go.
"Right when he threw the pitch, I was like, ‘If I hit this, I’m going to get a hold of it.’ I knew."
Without No. 1 starting pitcher Keegan Thompson available this weekend the Tigers needed a strong performance from Sunday starter Ryan Watson, but he only went two innings and allowed a run on four hits before giving way to Cole Lipscomb out of the bullpen. Allowing just one run on a single hit in four innings, Lipscomb left the game with Auburn in the lead.
Not allowing an earned run this season in eight appearances, Andrew Mitchell looked like he would get his first loss after allowing three runs in the seventh on just 17 pitches after Auburn took a lead in the sixth. Calvin Coker pitched the final two innings for the Tigers to pick up the win and improve his record to 2-1 on the year.
"It seems like going through the course of the year we keep having a new guy in the moment when they get the opportunity to do something special," Coach Butch Thompson said. "It’s been neat. With Keegan out this weekend, how the next guy man up and you can positively define that. I just think it’s powerful for us. It’s a teaching point for us that we can do things. We don’t have to rely on one person.
"I think it makes us stronger," the coach said. "I think it makes that whole locker room feel stronger. I think it’s a great bounce back from yesterday as well. We beat a great team. South Carolina is really good. They have power, great starting pitching. It’s just a well-rounded ball club. Any time you can have success or hang in there or throw a punch and get something done against a great ball club, that builds confidence."
South Carolina got the scoring started on Sunday thanks to a leadoff double by Chris Cullen in the second. Recovering to get the next two hitters, Watson left a pitch over the plate and Jonah Bride made him pay with a single to left field.
Giving up singles to L.T. Tolbert and Madison Stokes to load the bases, the freshman got out of the jam with a fly ball to end the second, but it would be the end of his day.
Following a scoreless third inning out of the bullpen, Lipscomb ran into trouble in the fourth thanks to a leadoff walk. Recovering to strike out the next batter, the senior gave up a single to Bride on a hit-and-run to move Jacob Olson to third with one out. Doing his job, Tolbert lifted a fly ball to center to easily score the second run for South Carolina.
Unable to get anything going against Hill the first three innings, Auburn finally broke through in the fourth with a pair of runs to tie the game. Getting it started, Estes singled up the middle and when Todd followed with a double off the wall the Tigers had second and third and no outs.
Getting the job done, Robert hit a slow roller to first base to allow Estes to score from third and break up the shutout. Following a Luke Jarvis strikeout, Ingram stepped to the plate with a chance to right the ship. Just one for his last 17 at the plate, Ingram smoked a single up the middle to score Todd and tie the game.
In the sixth the top of the order again came through for the Tigers as Estes ripped a double to left. Instead of playing for a big inning, Auburn decided to bunt Todd and it worked as his sacrifice moved Estes to third. For the second time Robert got the job done as his fly ball to center scored Estes to give the Tigers a 3-2 advantage.
Not wanting to push Lipscomb for a fifth inning, Auburn went to Mitchell out of the bullpen and it wasn’t his day. Allowing a leadoff double to Bride, the left-hander had a chance to help himself when Tolbert bunted the ball right back to him on the mound. Trying to field it Mitchell slipped, putting runners on first and third with no outs.
Getting a ground ball to score the tying run and give him the first out, Mitchell left a pitch over the plate to T.J. Hopkins and he made the Tigers pay with a line drive over the Monster in left field for a two-run shot. It was his fourth of the year and gave South Carolina the lead back at 5-3.
That set the stage for the dramatic finish for the Tigers and the series victory.
Auburn returns to action on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on Georgia Tech at Plainsman Park.
Tiger Ticket Extra: 11,914 fans saw the series this weekend at Plainsman Park. That is the highest total for a series since 2003 and the third highest total in Plainsman Park history.
Another stat is that Auburn is now 8-2 in one-run games this season. Last year they were 1-11 in one-run games.