"We weren't good at the plate tonight," Slater said. "We had terrible approaches. After last night when we really battled and dug in and had some pretty good at-bats against a good pitcher, not to take anything away from Cisco he's very good, indicative of a poor night at the plate is fly balls and strikeouts. Not a ton of line drives and hard ground ball outs for us."
After a solid pitching performance in Friday night's never-ending duel, the Auburn Tigers were looking for much of the same from Saturday starter Brett Butts. Coming off a solid outing last weekend against Birmingham-Southern, Butts had some momentum entering Saturday's contest. It wouldn't matter to the Gamecocks on this day.
Leading off the game Cheyne Hurst singled off Butts and second baseman Chris Brown followed with a perfect bunt single down the third base line that just stayed fair. Watching the ball roll, Josh Donaldson let it keep rolling until it eventually hit the third base bag.
Remaining hot at the plate, third baseman Neil Giesler singled home Hurst to give the Gamecocks the early advantage. Keeping the pressure on, Robbie Grinestaff singled as well to score Brown and make it 2-0. The final run of the inning came on a sacrifice fly by Michael Campbell to score Giesler. Before the fans had even settled into their seats the Tigers trailed 3-0 to the Top 10 Gamecocks.
While Butts had a problem settling in, that wasn't the case for South Carolina starting pitcher Mike Cisco. Showing a good fastball and command of the strike zone, Cisco dominated Auburn early. That allowed his offense to stake him to an insurmountable lead just a few innings later.
In the second it was catcher Trent Kline's turn to hurt the Tigers once again. Coming on as a pinch hitter in Friday's game and finishing with three hits, Kline picked up where he left off by depositing Butts' first pitch over the wall for a solo home run. That gave the Gamecocks a four-run advantage and they came back for more in the fourth.
With one out in the inning right fielder Andrew Crisp started the South Carolina rally with a smash at shortstop Justin Bristow that the freshman failed to field cleanly. The error gave the Gamecocks all they were looking for as back-to-back doubles by Hurst and Brown pushed across two more runs for the 6-0 South Carolina lead. That would be it for Butts as Andy Masten came on in relief for the Tigers to finish the inning with no more damage.
Auburn finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth thanks to the power of freshman Mike Bianucci. Getting a pitch to hit, Bianucci hit a towering home run over the 385 mark in left-center. It was his fourth blast of the season and ended a streak of 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Cisco.
Bianucci had Auburn's first run of the game with his fourth homer of the year.
Masten settled in nicely from that point forward as he pitched two scoreless innings before the Gamecocks added an insurance run in the seventh on a Reese Havens triple that scored Grinestaff from third base with two outs. Grinestaff reached on a single, stole second, and moved to third on a ground ball. It would be the only blemish for Masten on the night as he pitched four and two/thirds innings of relief, allowing just one run on five hits. Fellow reliever Johnny Thompson pitched a scoreless ninth and Slater said both did an outstanding job.
"Andy did a great job of coming in for the second time this week and keeping us in the game," Slater said. "He did a great job getting us there to the ninth and then Johnny Thompson coming in and keeping it at a four-run game. I was really happy with both Johnny's outs in the ninth and the way Andy rolled for us through the middle and even the early part of the game and into the late part."
The Tigers cut into the lead one final time in the bottom of the eighth inning as pinch hitter Garrett Maines walked to lead things off. Center fielder Bruce Edwards, who had several outstanding defensive plays on Saturday, also walked to put the Tigers in business. Following a Tyler Johnstone fly ball to deep right field that moved Maines to third, that would be it for Cisco as reliever Chase Tucker came in to face Russell Dixon.
The move didn't pay off for South Carolina in the early going as Dixon ripped a double down the left field line to score Maines and leave the Tigers with two runners in scoring position and still just one out. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was next and he almost cut into the advantage in a big way with foul home runs down both the left field and right field lines before grounding out to the shortstop to score Edwards. First baseman Andy Bennett struck out to end the rally and the Auburn threat. Tucker shut down the Tigers in the ninth to close the door on game two of the series.
The final game of the three-game series is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. with freshman Evan Crawford on the mount for the Tigers.