HOOVER - Nothing has come easily for Auburn's baseball team this season, and nothing is coming easily in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Patrick Savage had two hits in Wednesday's win over Georgia/Todd Van Emst photo
The Tigers, the No. 10 seed, turned back a ninth-inning Georgia threat to win 3-2 in an elimination game on Wednesday. Their prize is a matchup today with East Division champion South Carolina, the No. 2 sed. The Gamecocks lost 3-2 to Vanderbilt on Wednesday when Mike Yastrzemski put down a two-strike, suicide squeeze bunt in the eighth inning.
To make things even tougher for Auburn, the Gamecocks did not start ace pitcher Michael Roth (5-1, 2.66). Instead, Auburn will see him today. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.
South Carolina (39-16) is locked in as a regional host and probably a national seed, meaning it would also be in line to host a super regional. Auburn (31-27) is trying to make its way into an NCAA regional. South Carolina swept Auburn in a three-game series at Plainsman Park on April 20-22.
Tiger coach John Pawlowski said Wednesday night he was undecided on a starting pitcher. He mentioned senior Cory Luckie (2-1, 3.42), sophomore Dillon Ortman (1-1, 3.20) and freshman Trey Cochran-Gill (5-2, 3.67) as possibilities.
Freshman Daniel Koger got the call on the mound Wednesday and answered in a big way. He pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings before turning it over to Derek Varnadore.
"It's a lot of pressure," Koger said. "You just push the pressure aside and play the game of baseball. Guys went out there and played the game the right way - great defense. The defense stepped up big."
Koger was not intimidated by the big stage of the SEC Tournament.
"It's the game, no matter where it's played," Koger said. "You control the 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound to the plate. That's what I've been taught all my life and what my coaches preach to me."
Auburn's offense, leading the league in batting average, has sputtered since losing outfielder Cullen Wacker, hitting .353, and Garrett Cooper, hitting .324. With them out of the batting order, Ryan Tella, the team's leading hitter at .358, has gone into a deep slump. He has just one bunt single in his last 18 at-bats.
Pawlowski said Wacker could be available to pinch hit today. Cooper, he said, will not be available.
Patrick Savage, Cooper's replacement at first base, had two hits and drove home a run in Auburn's victory over Georgia. Bobby Andrews, Wacker's replacement in left field, struck out three times.