Auburn hasn't defeated South Carolina in a series since the 1997 season and the Tigers are just 6-24 in games against the Gamecocks over that span. Amazingly Sunday's 7-6 loss was the 11th one-run loss for Auburn during that time. Coach Tommy Slater said his team didn't finish on Sunday and that cost them a chance at a victory in the ninth.
"I'm disappointed to lose any games obviously," Slater said. "To get swept at home is no fun whatsoever. Credit South Carolina. Every time we made a mistake on the mound they hammered it. They did a good job. Every time we made a mistake defensively they capitalized on it. They did a really good job with that. Today's game was an example of the importance of every single run. Not letting mistakes snowball on you and give up runs. Our offense has showed time and time again we're going to give ourselves chances to win games. We've done that continually throughout the season.
"It's disappointing. We started out with a sweep at Florida and since that time we've done very well. We've played good baseball. We won three series in a row. It's disappointing to get swept at home by a good South Carolina team, but I have a lot of belief and faith in this team. We're going to be okay. We're still right there in the hunt."
It was a day of searching on the mound as Auburn starter Bradley Hendrix did a solid job, allowing three earned runs on seven hits in five and one/third innings. It was the relievers that struggled to finish off the game as Scott Shuman, Luke Greinke, Michael Hurst and Evan Crawford all allowed one earned run in just a total of two and two/thirds innings. Shuman got the loss, allowing a run without a hit and walking two in just two/thirds of an inning. South Carolina's Blake Cooper got the win to improve to 4-3 after giving up three earned runs on nine hits in six and two/thirds innings.
With a fierce wind blowing out at Plainsman Park, it came as no surprise that both teams used the long ball to get on the board early. In the top of the first Harley Lail hit a high fly ball to left field that Ben Jones looked to camp under short of the wall. However the ball kept sailing and wound up clearing the wall for a solo home run.
Auburn answered back in the top of the first with a windblown home run of its own. Leadoff man Trent Mummey got a fastball to hit and lifted it to the gap in left center. The ball again kept drifting until it carried over the wall just under the scoreboard in left center field. That tied the game at one, the way things would remain until the top of the third.
Hendrix was solid to start, but struggling in the third as he walked Reese Havens and Whit Merrifield to open the inning. The Tigers appeared to get a break as Justin Smoak hit a ground ball to Hunter Morris at first base. The big freshman turned and threw to Matt Hall at short, who attempted to throw to Hendrix covering the bag at first for the double play. The throw was up the line, missing the mark and going into the South Carolina dugout. The error allowed Havens to score to put the Gamecocks back in front. Hendrix settled in to retire the final two batters to keep the score 2-1.
The Tigers came back strong in the bottom of the fourth inning to take the lead back as Morris led off the inning with a double off the wall in right field to bring Brian Fletcher to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive the opposite way, Fletcher tripled to the gap to score Morris and tie the game at two. Jones followed with a single to right field that scored Fletcher to put Auburn in front 3-2.
Hunter Morris had a home run, a double, and three RBI on Sunday.
Hendrix escaped a jam in the top of the fifth as a one-out single by Havens and a two-out ground-rule double by Smoak brought James Darnell to the plate looking to put the Gamecocks back in front, but a ground ball to Hall brought the inning to a close with Auburn still ahead. It didn't stay that way in the sixth.
With one out designated hitter Parker Bangs earned a walk and Andrew Crisp followed with an infield single that David Cunningham caught, but fell trying to spin and throw to second base. With runners on, Kyle Enders hit a sharp ground ball just off Cunningham's glove for a double. Bangs scored to once again tie the game, but the Tigers would get out with no further damage as Shuman came on to extinguish the rally and keep the score tied.
South Carolina broke things open in the top of the seventh as Auburn's bullpen continued to struggle against the Gamecocks. Facing Smoak to start the inning, Shuman walked him and that was the end of the day for the sophomore. Greinke came on in his first SEC appearance since Kentucky, but he didn't have much success as a single by Darnell and a double by Phil Disher broke the tie and left runners on second and third. A wild pitch then scored Darnell to make it 5-3 Gamecocks. Greinke settled in to allow no more damage, but it left Auburn trailing by two heading to the bottom of the seventh.
With Cooper still in the game Mummey again came through as he doubled down the left field line to get things going. Justin Hargett then hit a fly ball to left field that Andrew Crisp caught, but collided with Merrifield and went to the ground. Mummey tagged from second to third while Crisp threw the ball back in and then hit the ground in pain. Following a delay of almost 30 minutes Crisp was taken by ambulance from the field for precautionary measures. He had back surgery in January of 2008 and was taken for x-rays.
The delay didn't hurt Cooper though as he struck out Bianucci looking for out two before Morris struck out against lefty reliever Alex Farotto to end the inning with Mummey still at third.
South Carolina added to its lead in the top of the eighth as a two-out double by Darnell scored Havens to make it 6-3 Gamecocks. The Tigers had a chance in the bottom of the inning as Fletcher led off the inning with a walk. With two outs Cunningham got his third hit of the game to bring Hall to the plate with a chance to cut into the lead. Hall got a pitch to drive and hit it to the gap in left field, but defensive replacement Justin Hopper ran the ball down for out three. The Gamecocks added what seemed to be a meaningless run in the ninth inning after a leadoff walk and a Cunningham error put runners on second and third with nobody out, but Bryan Woodall came on to allow just a single run. Trailing 7-3 Auburn rallied in the ninth, but it was too little too late.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Joseph Sanders singled to right field after sitting out the entire game because of a stomach virus. A walk to Bianucci followed to bring Morris to the plate. Getting something up in the zone, Morris crushed it to right field for his eighth home run of the season. The blast cut the South Carolina lead down to 7-6. Fletcher then reached on an error by Havens at shortstop to bring the winning run to the plate for the third consecutive day, but a strikeout by Jones and a groundout by pinch hitter Kevin Patterson preserved the sweep for the Gamecocks.
Cunningham led the way for Auburn with three hits while Mummey, Hargett and Morris all had two hits. Freshmen accounted for nine of Auburn's 12 hits and five of the six RBI on the day. For South Carolina Havens, Smoak, Darnell and Enders all had two hits.
Auburn returns to action Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on South Alabama at Plainsman Park.