COLUMBIA, S.C. – For the second consecutive night, Auburn’s hitters struggled Saturday against the Southeastern Conference’s top pitching staff. And this time, the hitters joined in.
Derek Varnadore had his shortest outing of the season.
No. 2 South Carolina used two big innings, fueled by pitching and defensive meltdowns, to hammer Auburn 10-2 at Carolina Stadium and drop the Tigers into a third-place tie in West Division.
Auburn fell to 23-20 overall and 9-11 in the SEC, tied with Ole Miss and one game behind Alabama and Arkansas going into the final game of the series,.
Walks, hit batters and errors helped the Gamecocks score three runs in the fourth inning to break a 1-1 tie and put the game away with six runs in the seventh. The Gamecocks won their seventh consecutive SEC series and will go for the sweep today.
After a game effort in a 2-1 loss Friday night, the Tigers couldn’t come up with big hits and made bad pitches at the worst possible times. They had to cope with the loss of third baseman and cleanup hitter Dan Gamache, who suffered an apparent hamstring injury running out a base hit.
Auburn coach John Pawlowski said the Tigers were not at their best.
“South Carolina pitches extremely well, and I thought we left the zone a little bit too much,” Pawlowski said. “It was not a great ballgame for us tonight.”
Auburn managed just five hits after managing just seven Friday night. Its runs came on solo home runs by Kevin Patterson and Justin Frad3jas.
Starting pitcher Derek Varnadore (4-2) took the loss for Auburn in his shortest outing of the season. He gave up five hits and three walks and hit a batter.
A walk, two hit batters and an error contributed to South Carolina’s three-run fourth. Three walks and another error contributed to the six-run seventh.
Auburn pitchers walked seven, hit two and did not register a strikeout as South Carolina improved to 34-8 overall and 16-4 in the SEC.
Left-hander Cory Luckie will get the call on the mound today as the Tigers try to salvage the final game of the series. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.