"It's frustrating to lose, but we set it up and the guy makes a diving catch," Renfroe said. "That's a great play at game time. Their kid pitched a whale of a game. Their closer came in and was real good, but we had a shot and the shortstop makes a big league diving play which would have tied the game."
South Carolina starter Matt Campbell earned the win as he gave up just one run on eight hits in six innings while striking out just three. Closer Chad Blackwell did his job to perfection, allowing just two hits in three innings and striking out four. Arnold Hughey takes the loss for Auburn, giving up three runs on four hits in six and two/thirds innings. Hughey struck out six. Relievers John Madden and Mike Felix came on to pitch the last two and one/third innings and allowed one hit and no runs.
"Arnie threw well and he made just one mistake that the kid hit out, but that's baseball," Renfroe said. "I know he would like to have that pitch back. We had our chances and couldn't convert. That kid is really good. You have to tip your hat to what he did."
The hitting star of the game was Brendan Winn, whose two-run home run in the sixth inning was the difference in the contest. First baseman Steve Pearce also had a solo home run to account for all of South Carolina's runs on the night. Both Clete Thomas and Mike Hyntka had three hits for the Tigers while Ben Sprague added two.
South Carolina got on the board first by virtue of the long ball in the third inning. First baseman Pearce took a Hughey pitch high to left field and it just cleared the monster for his 13th home run of the season. The lead was the first this weekend for the Gamecocks and Campbell made it stand despite Auburn swinging the bat pretty well.
In the fourth inning Auburn loaded the bases on singles by Thomas and Sprague along with a walk to Ben Maitland, but Hytka fouled out to right fielder Winn to end the inning and the Tiger threat. The fifth inning would be much of the same for Auburn as a Tug Hulett single and a Thomas walk were for naught as Josh Bell grounded out to end the inning.
The long ball again hurt the Tigers in the sixth. Leading off the inning Steven Tolleson drilled a long shot deep into the left center gap. Running full speed, Sean Gamble caught the ball just in front of the 385' sign for the first out of the inning. One out later catcher Landon Powell hit a grounder to short, but Chuck Jeroloman couldn't make the play to bring Winn to the plate. That proved to be bad news for Auburn as he drilled a long home run off the batter's eye in center field to give South Carolina a 3-0 lead. Hulett saved another run with a fantastic defensive play at second base to end the inning.
Auburn finally broke the ice in the bottom of the sixth inning off the crafty Campbell. Leading off the inning Gamble singled up the middle. Advancing to second on a wild pitch, Gamble sat and looked as both Sprague and Maitland failed to move him up. Getting another chance with two outs Hyntka delivered as his single up the middle scored Gamble to cut the Gamecock lead to 3-1 heading to the seventh.
The Tigers missed a golden opportunity to tie the game in the seventh inning when both Hulett walked to lead off the inning and Thomas singled one out later. With Bell at the plate reliever Blackwell balked the runners up to second and third, giving Bell an opportunity to close the game. Unfortunately for Auburn that didn't happen as he fouled out to Pearce for the second out of the inning. That's when Tolleson made the play of the game.
With Gamble at the plate the Tigers felt good about their chances and that proved to be right as he drilled a liner just to the left of the second base bag, but Tolleson had other ideas. Leaving his feet he snared the liner just off the ground for the third out of the inning. The play sealed the game for South Carolina as Blackwell shut down the Tigers in the eighth and ninth to earn his 11th save of the season.
The two teams return to action Sunday at 1:30 with junior Steven Register taking the mound for the Tigers against lefty Arik Hempy for South Carolina. It will be Register's first career start and he is 6-0 with a 2.52 ERA this season. Hempy is 3-1 with a 1.82 earned run average.