Dayton Is Dandy As AU Takes Down Gamecocks

Grant Dayton

Auburn avoided a sweep with a 10-6 win Sunday against South Carolina. The win keeps the Tigers one game out of the lead in the Western Division.

Auburn, Ala.--In desperate need of a win to keep pace in the Western Division of the SEC race, the Auburn Tigers got just what the doctor ordered on Sunday as starting pitcher Grant Dayton allowed five runs on nine hits in seven and one/third innings to earn his third win of the season as the Tigers defeated South Carolina 10-6 at Plainsman Park. With the win Auburn improves to 17-7 overall and 4-2 in SEC play. The loss ended a 13-game winning streak for South Carolina as the Gamecocks fall to 19-5, 5-1 in league play.

"Look at what Grant Dayton did today," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "He goes out there and gets us into the eighth inning with no walks against a team like South Carolina and the offense they can put up and the wind blowing out to left field. I thought he did a great job of keeping them off base. It was two solid pitching performances back-to-back from Cole (Nelson) and Grant. I thought that was the difference today."

Struggling much of last season and into the early part of 2010, Dayton had his second consecutive good outing as he picked up the win against the Gamecocks. With the pressure on for the team to avoid being swept, Dayton said he knew it was a big game and he just worked on keeping the ball in play for his defense.

"My arm started feeling really good," Dayton said. "It felt really good in the bullpen and I kind of found a groove. I was able to locate my fastball. I didn't throw much off-speed and I didn't need to because I kept the fastball down. I guess that's why I was successful today."

At the plate Auburn was led by Creede Simpson. The sophomore was 3-4 with a pair of RBI after being moved from second down to fifth in the Auburn lineup. Second baseman Justin Hargett had a pair of hits with two RBI as well. Pawlowski said with so much emphasis being placed on Hunter Morris and Brian Fletcher by the Gamecocks it was up to someone else to get the job done.

"I think that is a trademark of a good team," Pawlowski said. "Hunter and Fletch are marked guys. With the credentials they have teams are being very cautious about them in the lineup. They are pitching around them and being very careful. I told them that other guys are going to have to step up. They contributed on several different occasions."

Through two weekends LSU leads the West after two weekends with a 5-1 record after sweeping Tennessee. That drops the Vols to 0-6. Auburn is tied at 4-2 with Ole Miss and Arkansas as the Rebels won two of three against Florida at home while the Razorbacks swept Alabama at home. That drops the Crimson Tide to 2-4 in league play. In the East, South Carolina leads at 5-1 with Vanderbilt and Florida both 4-2. At 1-5Kentucky is tied for Georgia for last place in the East after Mississippi State (2-4) won twice in Starkville.

Auburn got its offense cranked up early on Sunday when Justin Fradejas led off with a bunt single to put the early pressure on the freshman pitcher. A sacrifice bunt moved the junior to second where he was joined on the base paths by Morris after he earned a walk. That brought Fletcher to the plate and he came through with a sharp single to left to put the Tigers on the board. That was the first time the Gamecocks had trailed in 76 innings.

Creede Simpson came up big on Sunday for the Tigers.

It was just the start of things to come for Auburn as Simpson followed with a single of his own to load the bases for shortstop Casey McElroy. Getting a pitch on the outer half of the plate, the sophomore laced it into left-center where South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. ran it down for the out. Morris scored on the play however to make it 2-0. Third baseman Justin Bryant finished out the scoring for Auburn in the first with a single that scored Fletcher.

Staked to a 3-0 lead, Dayton got the Gamecocks out in the top of the second, allowing his offense to add to the lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to some help. A leadoff walk to Ryan Jenkins and a passed ball put the Tigers in business and from there it was small-ball time as Fradejas moved him to third with a bunt and a Tony Caldwell ground ball scored Jenkins for a 4-0 Auburn lead.

It didn't take long for the Gamecocks to get back into the game though as they got to Dayton in the third. With one out number nine hitter Scott Wingo reached on a bunt single and moved to second on a single to left by Whit Merrifield. Dayton came back to get Adrian Morales on strikes, but Bradley would push across the first run for the Gamecocks with a single up the middle to bring Parker Bangs to the plate. The offensive weapon on Friday for South Carolina, Bangs sent one deep to left field that just missed going over the wall by inches. Instead it was a double that scored two runs and cut Auburn's lead down to one.

In the fourth the Tigers would again respond offensively as a leadoff single by Justin Hargett opened the floodgates for Auburn. Following a Jenkins flyout, Fradejas walked to put runners on first and second for Caldwell. Hitting a ground ball up the middle, it looked like Caldwell would hit into an inning-ending double play, but Gamecock shortstop Bobby Haney booted the ball to load the bases for the heart of the Auburn order.

Struggling with the bases loaded this weekend, Auburn's problems continued as Morris struck out to bring Fletcher to the plate. Working the count full, the junior walked to score Hargett and make it 5-3 Auburn. Continuing his clutch hitting, Simpson followed with a single to left to score both Fradejas and Caldwell to give Auburn a four-run lead.

With Dayton in firm control, the Tigers added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to some clutch two-out hitting. Leading off with a double to left, Caldwell looked as if he would be left stranded with Morris and Fletcher both striking out behind him, but this time the Tigerss got some help from the Gamecocks as Simpson walked and McElroy was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Bryant. Showing a good eye, Bryant walked to score a run and bring Hargett to the plate. Auburn's second baseman delivered in the clutch with a two-run single to right field to make it 10-3 Tigers.

In the eighth South Carolina finally chased Dayton from the game as a one-out single from Bradley and a double by Bangs scored a run to cut the Auburn lead to six. That would be all for Dayton as reliever Zach Blatt came on. He got a ground ball out on a great play from Morris at first before allowing a single. That would be all for the sophomore as Hubbard came on to finish the deal, but not before giving up a run and loading the bases in the inning. He recovered to strike out Wingo on a 3-2 breaking ball to keep Auburn's lead at 10-5. South Carolina added a single run in the ninth, but never threatened as the Tigers avoided the sweep with the victory.

Auburn returns to action Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. when the Tigers play at Troy.

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