The loss drops Auburn to 16-6 and 3-1 in SEC play while South Carolina improves to 18-4, 4-0 in conference action. On a night when nothing seemed to go right for the Tigers coach John Pawlowski said it started with a lack of success on the mound early.
"We got behind so early in the ballgame," Pawlowski said. "We were behind 8-2 before we came back in the second inning. It just made it tough against a team like that, an outstanding team. They jumped us early. I thought in the second inning we scored a couple more and had some momentum going, but that's a solid club."
It was a tough night for the Tigers all the way around as Luckie got bombed in the first two innings, giving up two three-run home runs along with a solo shot. At the plate Auburn had several chances early to score runs off South Carolina starter Blake Cooper, but left two runners on in both the second and third innings. Throw in some spotty defense and you have a game that Pawlowski would rather forget.
"They had two three-run home runs so in two pitches they scored six runs," Pawlowski said. "They did a good job. Good hitters got some balls up in the zone and they put some good swings on them.
"We put some good swings early in the game in the first few innings and then I thought he (Cooper) started commanding his fastball and his breaking ball too. I thought he did a really good job of pitching after that. He really pitched after the first two innings."
The biggest positive on Friday night was the pitching of sophomore Jon Luke Jacobs. Coming on in the second in relief of Luckie, Jacobs allowed just five hits and two runs in five and one/third innings. Pawlowski said he and fellow reliever Stephen Kohlscheen gave the Tigers a chance to get back in the game and did a great job of working deep into the game.
The offensive fireworks started early as Whit Merrifield and Adrian Morales singled to start the game off for the Gamecocks and things would only get worse for Luckie on this night. Following a strikeout, Parker Bangs got a pitch over the plate and drove it deep to left field for a three-run home run. The blast gave South Carolina the early lead, but Auburn would respond in the bottom of the first and it was be via the home run.
Leading off for the Tigers, left fielder Justin Fradejas put down a perfect bunt single to bring Creede Simpson to the plate. With one home run on the season, the Auburn native got a pitch to drive and sent it deep over the monster in left for his second of the year. The blast made it 3-2, but the Tigers weren't done as Hunter Morris followed with a double to left field to put the tying run in scoring position with still nobody out. A Brian Fletcher single left Auburn with first and third and shortstop Casey McElroy at the plate, but a double play and a Tony Caldwell strikeout kept the South Carolina lead at one.
Getting back in the game, Auburn was looking to carry that momentum back to the mound but it wasn't to be on this night. Number nine hitter Scott Wingo got the Gamecocks back on track with a solo shot to start the second. A walk to Merrifield kept the pressure on Luckie, but the Prattville native responded to get the next two outs. They would be the last outs of the night for the sophomore though as a walk and a single made it 5-2 before left fielder Adam Matthews put a cap on an early night for Luckie with a three-run shot into the South Carolina bullpen.
Now down 8-2, Auburn would again respond on offense as Cooper walked Dan Gamache and Wes Gilmer to open the second inning. Catcher Ryan Jenkins then hit a blooper into center field that fell in for a single. Gamache scored on the play to make it 8-3 South Carolina. Simpson then singled through the right side to score Gilmer for his third RBI of the night. Cutting the lead down to four the Tigers were right back in the game, but unfortunately the offense would dry up on both sides.
With Jacobs pitching well, South Carolina would go scoreless until the sixth, but the same would be true of the Tigers as well as Cooper settled in and proceeded to mow down the Auburn offense. Still 8-4 in the sixth, the Gamecocks added a single run for a five-run advantage and scored another run in the seventh to make the score 10-4 South Carolina. Each team would add another single run to make the final 11-5 Gamecocks.
Simpson led the Tigers with two hits and three RBI while Morris, Fletcher and Jenkins all added two hits as well. For the Gamecocks Matthews led the way with three hits and three RBI while Bangs added a pair of hits.
Auburn will take on South Carolina in game two of the series at noon on Saturday at Plainsman Park. The game can be seen live on CSS as well as ESPN360.com.