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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Baseball: Timely hitting returns as Auburn salvages finale against No. 14 South Carolina 10-6

AUBURN, Ala. — A day after getting shut out at home for the first time in five years, Auburn’s lineup broke out in a big way.

Six different Tigers drove in runs in a 10-6 win against No. 14 South Carolina at Plainsman Park on Sunday as Auburn salvaged the final game of the weekend.

Auburn (17-7, 4-2 SEC), which left 12 men on base in a 2-0 loss Saturday, scored three runs in three different innings Sunday, displaying the offensive prowess it did in a three-game sweep of Georgia to open SEC play last weekend.

“We had a bunch of hits yesterday; we just weren’t able to get them when they counted,” said center fielder Creede Simpson, who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “Today we had some guys step up.”

South Carolina (19-5, 5-1 SEC), the last SEC team to lose a league game, watched its 13-game winning streak end.

“I think for out mind set, for our kids to know they can go out there and compete with the best teams in our league and the best teams in the country, I think it was a very important win for us today,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said.

Auburn wasted no time putting Saturday’s shutout behind it. The Tigers chased South Carolina starter Tyler Webb (1-2) with four runs in the first two innings.

The Gamecocks cut the lead to 4-3 before Auburn broke things open in the fourth. With the bases loaded and two outs, cleanup hitter Brian Fletcher took a borderline strike, the second close call of the inning. Pawlowski left the dugout to argue the point with home plate umpire Todd Henderson.

His message got through. With a full count, Fletcher took ball four on the fringe of the strike zone, just below the knees, to force home a run. Simpson followed with a two-out, two-run single to give Auburn a comfortable cushion at 7-3.

In the sixth, Justin Bryant walked with the bases loaded and Justin Hargett hit a two-run double to make it 10-3.

Simpson, Bryant and Hargett — three players in the bottom half of the order — combined to go 6-for-10 with six RBIs.

“I think that’s a trademark of a good team,” Pawlowski said. “I think Hunter (Morris) and Fletch are marked guys. Obviously, with the credentials that they have, teams are being very, very cautious, very conscious about them in the lineup. They’re pitching around them, maybe, and being very careful.

“I told the guys it’s the other guys that are going to have to step up, and certainly they’ve contributed on several different occasions.”

Grant Dayton (3-1) gave Auburn a solid effort on the mound, taking advantage of a strong wind blowing in from right field. The left-hander recorded 14 fly ball outs, getting 10 straight at one point. He went 7 1/3 innings, not throwing a single breaking ball the entire time, and left with a 10-4 lead. He gave up five runs on nine hits.

“It’s a huge confidence booster,” Dayton said. “I’d been struggling starting from last year, hadn’t been going deep in games. Going (7 1/3 innings), that helps. As a starting pitcher, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Auburn returns to action Wednesday at Troy before a weekend series against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

1 comment:

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