HOOVER - Auburn's baseball team didn't give in on a warm Thursday at Regions Park. But in the end, the Tigers didn't have quite enough.
Derek Varnadore pitched two scoreless innings
South Carolina jumped to a 5-0 lead and held on for dear life to win 5-3 and eliminate Auburn from the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The Tigers go home with a 31-28 record. All they can do is wait to see if they will be invited to a regional. The field will be unveiled Monday morning. South Carolina improved to 40-16.
South Caroline got to starter Cory Luckie for two runs on four hits in two innings and to reliever Slade Smith for three runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. But Derek Varnadore and Justin Bryant shut the Gamecocks down from there. But the Tigers couldn't get enough off Gamecock ace Michael Roth and closer Matt Price.
Now they wait.
"It definitely hasn't been the season we were planning for in January, but we came a long way and met a lot of challenges along the way," Varnadore said. "I'd really like to get in a regional. I think we could go a long way in that format."
Most projection have the Tigers, the No. 10 seed in the SEC Tournament, just outside the field of 64. Fourth-year coach John Pawlowski said speculation was useless.
"I really don't know," Pawlowski said. "I think our team has competed well all year. There's been no quit in this team. I know we have good club and certainly a team that is as competitive as can be. If it is to be, it will be. I certainly think our team is a good, quality baseball team."
Trailing 5-0, the Tigers started to claw back in the fifth. Bryant led off with a single and Patrick Savage doubled, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Dan Glevenyak scored Bryant with a sacrifice fly.
Caleb Bowen reached on an error in the sixth and scored on Creede Simpson's sacrifice fly. The Tigers had a big chance in the seventh after Savage and Alvord singled. Glevenyak moved them over with a sacrifice bunt.
Pawlowski called on Kody Ortman to pinch hit, but South Carolina coach Ray Tanner called on Price. Pawlowski went to left-handed hitting Cullen Wacker, Auburn's second leading hitter who has been sidelined with a knee injury. Wacker struck out and Bowen grounded out to end the inning.
In the eighth, Ryan Tella doubled and scored on Bryant's single. But there would be no more.
"I thought we had some chances," Pawlowski said. "We had hoped we could get a situation for Cullen Wacker. Unfortunately it didn't work out."
Auburn finished with nine hits, two each by Tella, Bryant and Savage. South Carolina had 13 hits, nine of them coming in the first four innings.
Luckie took the loss to fall to 2-2. Ross got the win to improve to 6-1.