Gamecocks take fourth straight SEC series with win over Auburn

A two-run triple by Christian Walker followed by a two-run homer off the bat of LB Dantzler highlighted a four-run sixth inning as No. 8 South Carolina held on for a 5-3 victory over Auburn on Saturday afternoon to clinch a weekend SEC series.

The Gamecocks are 29-11 and 10-7 in the SEC and have won four straight conference series. The series victory is also the 13th consecutive series victory over the Tigers. Auburn drops to 21-18 and 7-10 in league play. Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for 2 p.m.

With a 1-0 deficit entering the top of the sixth inning, the Gamecocks made their move as Chase Vergason drew a leadoff walk after reaching a full count against Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs. It was Jacobs’ first walk of the game. After a sacrifice bunt from Joey Pankake, the Gamecocks put another runner on base as Evan Marzilli also walked after working to a full count.

That set the stage for Christian Walker, who launched a 2-1 pitch into right-center that sailed by a diving attempt by Auburn center fielder Ryan Tella. Walker would triple on the play scoring both runners to give the Gamecocks a one-run lead. LB Dantzler got ahead 3-1 on Jacobs and launched a two-run homer that stayed just fair of the foul pole in right field for a two-run homer increasing the Carolina lead to 4-1. The home run was Dantzler’s sixth of the season.

Auburn threatened in the bottom half of the sixth and scored a single run on a pinch-hit RBI base hit off the bat of Kody Ortman. With the bases loaded and two outs, Gamecock reliever Tyler Webb worked out of a jam as he struck out Jay Gonzalez to end the inning. Auburn crept to within one run in the bottom of the eighth on a solo home run from Garrett Cooper, his second homer of the series and fourth of the season.

The Gamecocks received some insurance in the ninth inning with an unearned run against the Tigers to extend the advantage back to a pair of runs. Pinch hitter Kyle Martin led off with a walk. After a sacrifice bunt from Adam Matthews moved pinch runner TJ Costen into scoring position, the Gamecocks tallied the fifth run on a fielding error by Auburn shortstop Dan Glevenyak.

A grounder off the bat of Tanner English was misplayed by Glevenyak and Costen hustled home all the way from second base to give the Gamecocks a 5-3 lead. Junior right-hander Matt Price worked a perfect ninth inning with a popup and two flyouts sealing Carolina’s victory.

Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery earned the win and improved to 4-0 for the year. He allowed two runs on six hits in 5.1 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Webb worked 1.2 scoreless innings of key relief and Price closed it out allowing one run on one hit in two innings of work with no walks and two strikeouts for his fourth save of the season.

Price made his 87th career appearance and is one shy of the school record of 88 held by Rob Mosser (1990-93). Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs suffered the loss, his first of the season. He is 5-1 on the year. He allowed four runs on three hits in six-plus innings with two walks and three strikeouts.

Both Montgomery and Jacobs were stellar in the early innings as neither team could muster much offense. It would be the Tigers that would break through first, scoring a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to go ahead 1-0. Creede Simpson singled to open the frame and after a sacrifice bunt, scored on Blake Austin’s RBI single off the 30-foot wall in left field. Gamecock left fielder Tanner English had a key play on the single though as he relayed a bullet of a throw to Chase Vergason at second base and Austin was nabbed attempting to stretch his hit into a double.

South Carolina won despite being out-hit 9-5 by the Tigers. Walker was 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple as well as a run scored and two RBI. Austin led the Tigers with a 3-for-3 day at the plate.

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