The loss ruined a great performance by Auburn starter Cole Nelson as he allowed just four hits and one run in seven and two/thirds innings. Auburn coach John Pawlowski said it's unfortunate that Nelson's day was all for nothing in the loss.
"Cole Nelson went out there and gave us a chance to win," Pawlowski said. "That's what we're looking for."
Nelson was the definition of unfortunate loser as he dropped his first game on the season to fall to 4-1. Throwing just 76 pitches, the junior said that while he wasn't in complete command he did have enough to get the job done.
"It was a tough game to lose," Nelson said. "It was really close. I thought we had a chance to whole way. It was a really good game to come see I guess, but a tough loss.
"I really didn't have my slider for the most part," he added. "My fastball was really what I used. I think I used three change-ups and the sliders were just kind of to change the speed up a little bit. The fastball was as sharp as it has been, but overall I wasn't quite as good."
Auburn's loss on this day falls at the hands of the offense. Five times the Tigers had at least two runners on base in an inning and failed to score. Those are things that Pawlowski said you can't do and expect to win games against top teams like South Carolina.
"To beat good teams, to beat elite teams you've got to be able to execute and do little things," Pawlowski said. "We certainly had our opportunities, but Dyson made some great pitches in big situations and we weren't able to scratch anything today."
Allowing just two hits through seven innings, Nelson faced trouble in the top of the eighth as he hit leadoff man Adam Matthews to put the Gamecocks in business. Following a foul out to catcher Ryan Jenkins, shortstop Bobby Haney lifted a fly ball to left field that got caught in the wind and died in front of Justin Fradejas for a single. It proved to be a huge play in the game as second baseman Scott Wingo followed with a double to score Matthews. Making a solid relay throw from center fielder Creede Simpson to shortstop Casey McElroy, Auburn cut down the second runner at the plate, but the damage was done.
That would be all for Nelson on the day as closer Austin Hubbard came on in relief and walked the first man he faced to put runners on the corners with still two outs and Adrian Morales at the plate. Lifting a fly ball down the right field line that just floated foul, Morales was retired as Tony Caldwell made a sliding grab to end the inning and keep the South Carolina lead at 1-0.
Auburn got something going in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Michael Roth. With one out in the inning Caldwell was hit by a pitch and following pinch hitter Justin Bryant's flyout to right field, second baseman Justin Hargett hit one just over the head of the shortstop Haney into center field to bring Jenkins to the plate facing closer Matt Price. Unfortunately it was a replay of many times before on this day as Jenkins was caught looking to end the Auburn threat. South Carolina added an insurance run off Hubbard in the ninth as a leadoff walk, a stolen base and a error put the runner on third where he would score on a flared single to right just over the head of Hunter Morris.
It was a fitting end to a day the Tigers would just as soon forget as they finished with more than double the hits South Carolina. Twice they left the bases loaded and despite 11 hits they failed to score thanks to 12 total left on base.
For South Carolina they finished with a total of five hits with nobody accumulating more than one.
Sunday Auburn will send junior left-hander Grant Dayton to the mound looking to salvage a win in the series. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park.