The Tigers still have not beaten South Carolina in a series since 1997 and are now just 9-34 overall against the Gamecocks since that time.
Saturday was much of the same for Auburn as the Tigers got a stellar outing from Jon Luke Jacobs to start the game as the senior allowed just one hit in the first five innings, but two walks opened up the floodgates in the sixth. Allowing a two-run triple and a two-run homer to back-to-back batters, Jacobs took his first loss of the season. For the game he gave up four runs on just three hits in six innings.
"The thing is, anytime you have a close ballgame like this any swing and any walk could be the difference," Coach John Pawlowski said. "They put four runs on the board in one inning. I thought we fought back and got it to one run and then we had a mistake there in the ninth that certainly hurt us.
"He (Jacobs) has gone out there consistently and given us an outing, something that we can work with and have some confidence in," he added. "He did that. Unfortunately we weren't able to string any hits together. I think we had nine hits, but I don't recall any back-to-back hits. Sooner or later they've got to start coming for us."
With the loss Auburn now finds itself just one game out of last place in the league after two wins by Alabama (6-11) over Vanderbilt (6-11) this weekend. Needing something positive to happen, Pawlowski said it makes Sunday's game even more important when looking at the league race.
"I told them tomorrow is a very important game," Pawlowski said. "For us and for our confidence and our team, tomorrow is a huge game. As you progress down towards the end of the conference, every game gets magnified more and more. Tomorrow is an important game and we've got to find a way to be ready and come out and play."
Garrett Cooper celebrates his solo home run on Saturday
After a combined 17 runs were scored Friday night, Saturday's game started out as a pitcher's duel as Jacobs and South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery both mowed down batters left and right the first four innings before Auburn finally got on the board in the fifth. Leading off the inning, Creede Simpson singled off the glove of L.B. Dantzler at third base for Auburn's fourth hit of the game.
Locked in a scoreless battle, Pawlowski decided to play small ball as Jay Gonzalez bunted Simpson to second to bring Blake Austin to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, the sophomore blasted it off the wall in left field to score Simpson. It was one of three hits on the day for Auburn, but he was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. The damage was done however as Auburn led 1-0 going to the sixth inning.
Allowing just one hit through the first five innings, Jacobs ran into trouble in the sixth thanks to his own doing. Facing the number nine hitter in the South Carolina order, the senior walked Chase Vergason to put himself in trouble. Following a sacrifice bunt that moved the runner to second, Jacobs added to his problems with a walk of Evan Marzilli.
Now with runners on first and second Jacobs had to face one of the SEC's most feared hitters in Christian Walker. He made the Tigers pay as he hit a bomb to deep right-center field that just fell out of the reach of a diving Ryan Tella. The triple scored both runners and gave South Carolina the lead for the first time on the day. Unfortunately for Jacobs he fell behind 3-0 to Dantzler and instead of walking him and setting up the double play, Auburn chose to pitch to the clean-up hitter. It proved to be the wrong move as Dantler hit a towering two-run homer to right to make it 4-1 Gamecocks.
The Tigers kept battling as a walk to Cullen Wacker to open the sixth started a rally. One out later Justin Bryant singled through the left side to put a pair of runners on for Auburn. Reliever Tyler Webb came in for South Carolina and struck out Tella to bring pinch hitter Kody Ortman to the plate. Doing a good job of battling, Ortman singled through the left side after getting down 0-2. The hit scored Wacker to cut the lead to 4-2.
Auburn had a chance for more however as Simpson walked to load the bases for Gonzalez. With an opportunity to get even closer the Tigers instead would remain two down as the sophomore struck out to end the inning.
With Cory Luckie on in relief the Gamecocks went back to work in the eighth inning as Walker singled to right field with one out and then stole second to move into scoring position with Dantzler at the plate. A hard ground ball to the right side was knocked down by Cooper at first, but he bobbled the ball and his toss to Luckie was a little too late. The error put runners on first and third and brought Dillon Ortman out of the pen for the Tigers.
Auburn then got a break as South Carolina attempted a suicide squeeze, but Greiner's bunt went directly to Ortman on the mound in the air. His throw to third doubled up Walker to end the inning.
Still trailing by two runs, Auburn cut into the lead dramatically on the first pitch in the bottom of the inning as Cooper hit a solo homer off closer Matt Price to make it 4-3 Gamecocks. The Tigers couldn't do anymore damage in the inning and went to the ninth down just one.
Facing a pinch hitter, Ortman committed the cardinal sin as he walked Kyle Martin to put the leadoff man on base. With Slade Smith on for Ortman, Adam Matthews bunted the runner to second to bring Tanner English to the plate. Hitting a slow roller towards Glevenyak at short, English looked like he would be the second out. However the ball bounced away from Glevenyak allowing English to reach first. Never slowing down Martin rounded third and headed for home. He scored ahead of an errant throw to make it 5-3 Gamecocks.
Price made the lead stand up in the ninth with a perfect inning to secure the win and his fourth save of the season.
Auburn will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m. as freshman Daniel Koger takes the mound for the Tigers.