Conway’s Holmes improves to 6-0 with win over Auburn

South Carolina broke ahead by six runs in the first three innings and behind an 11-hit attack that featured home runs from LB Dantzler and Erik Payne, the Gamecocks would defeat Auburn 11-7 to sweep a three-game SEC baseball series at Plainsman Park.

The Gamecocks improve to 30-11 and 11-7 in the SEC while the loss drops Auburn to 21-19 and 7-11 in league play. South Carolina has won four consecutive conference series as well as eight straight SEC contests.

Former Conway High star and junior right-hander Colby Holmes earned the win and is now 6-0 on the year. He allowed four runs on nine hits and tied a career-high with seven strikeouts in five innings of work. Auburn freshman left-hander Daniel Koger suffered the loss and is 2-4 for the year. He allowed eight runs, three earned, on five hits in 4.1 innings. He walked three and struck out two.

Carolina’s 11-hit day featured a 4-for-5 day from Tanner English as the Gamecock freshman outfielder set a season-high. Dantzler was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and a pair of RBI. Payne drove in a career-high four RBI as well. Auburn tallied 16 hits with designated hitter Kody Ortman 4-for-5 with three RBI. Ryan Tella, Garrett Cooper, Cullen Wacker, Jay Gonzalez and Blake Austin all had two hits apiece as well for the Tigers.

For the second time in the series, the Gamecocks broke ahead 4-0 in the top of the first inning. Carolina was able to take advantage of two errors by the Auburn infield to break ahead by four runs. Joey Pankake drew a leadoff walk on a nine-pitch at bat to open the game. With one out, Christian Walker would reach base as his grounder to the left side went through the legs of Auburn third baseman Justin Bryant.

With runners on first and second base, the Tigers would commit their second error as Grayson Greiner reached base on a throwing error by Auburn shortstop Dan Glevenyak, scoring Pankake from second base in the process. With two outs, designated hitter Erik Payne came through as he launched a three-run homer to right field. The home run was Payne’s third of the season.

South Carolina manufactured a run to go ahead 5-0 in the second inning. Tanner English reached base on an infield single as he beat out a throw by Glevenyak. A base hit to left field by Chase Vergason gave the Gamecocks runners on first and second with no outs. After Pankake sacrificed the runners over, English would score on Evan Marzilli’s sacrifice fly to left field.

The lead extended to 6-0 in the third inning as the Gamecocks scored another unearned run off the Tigers. With two outs and runners on first and second base, English hit a grounder to Bryant at third base. Bryant’s throw sailed wide of first base and as AU first baseman Garrett Cooper tried to tag English, the ball popped out of his glove and flew towards second base allowing LB Dantzler to score all the way from second.

Auburn scored a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Bryant reached base with a leadoff single and advanced to third on Kody Ortman’s base hit. With one out, Jay Gonzalez knocked a RBI base hit into left field scoring Bryant. The Tigers would try to score more as they loaded the bases with two outs. Holmes worked out of the jam as he induced Ryan Tella into a groundout to Walker at first base, keeping the Gamecocks ahead by five runs.

South Carolina answered in the top of the fifth inning with a pair of runs to go ahead 8-1 and knocked Koger from the game in the process. Greiner drew a leadoff walk and after a wild pitch moved him to second base, he would reach third on a bloop single by Dantzler. Evan Marzilli drove Greiner in with a sac fly to left field. With runners on first and second base, English greeted Auburn reliever Slade Smith with a RBI base hit up the middle to score Dantzler.

The Tigers struck with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning to tally three runs and cut Carolina’s lead to 8-4. Kody Ortman drove in a run with a double to left field that was followed by a two-run homer to left-center by Simpson, his first homer of the year.

A solo home run by LB Dantzler, his second of the series and seventh of the season gave the Gamecocks a five-run cushion in the top of the seventh inning. Dantzler’s homer cleared the wall in right field and ties him with Christian Walker for the team lead in home runs.

Two more runs in the eighth inning would increase Carolina’s lead to seven runs. Pankake doubled and Marzilli walked to start the frame. Greiner would drive in Pankake with a RBI groundout. Dantzler tallied his second RBI of the game, a double off the wall in right-center, scoring Marzilli and increasing the lead to 11-4.

Auburn didn’t waver though and mounted a rally in the ninth inning with five hits and a walk including a two-run single by Ortman and a RBI base hit by Jay Gonzalez. With the bases loaded and one out, junior right-hander Matt Price closed the game out as pinch hitter Patrick Savage struck out looking followed by a strikeout of Glevenyak that ended the game and preserved the Gamecock sweep.

Carolina played well the entire series vs. the Tigers. The Gamecocks had 29 hits in three games as well as 28 runs scored. The Gamecocks also walked 14 times, were hit by five pitches and struck out just 10 times for a team on-base percentage of .378.

South Carolina returns to the field on Thursday, beginning a three-game SEC series against Alabama. First pitch for the opener is 7:30 p.m.

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