Gamecocks Defeat Auburn 11-5 In Series Opener
Auburn, Ala.(USC SID) – South Carolina broke out with eight runs in the first two innings powered by three home runs and starting pitcher Blake Cooper worked seven strong innings to earn his fourth win of the season as the Gamecocks defeated Auburn 11-5 on Friday evening in game one of a three-game SEC baseball series. Carolina is 18-4 and 4-0 in the SEC while the loss drops the Tigers to 16-3 and 3-1 in conference play. Both teams face off again on Saturday with first pitch set for 1 p.m. ET at Plainsman Park. The game will be televised live on CSS-TV (Time Warner Cable channel 165 in Columbia) and ESPN360.com and can also be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network. All nine position starters for South Carolina tallied at least one hit with Adam Matthews going 3-for-3 with three RBI and Bangs batting 2-for-4 with three RBI as well. Matthews, Bangs and Scott Wingo all homered for Carolina. With his leadoff base hit in the first inning, Whit Merrifield became the 23rd player in school history to record 200 career hits with the Garnet & Black. Auburn was led by Creede Simpson, Hunter Morris, Brian Fletcher and Ryan Jenkins who all had two hits apiece for the Tigers. Cooper’s seven-inning stint helped him improve to 4-0 for the season. He allowed four runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and four walks. He now has 25 career victories, tied with Peter Bauer for 12th on the USC career list. Auburn starter Cory Luckie lasted only 1.1 innings and allowed eight runs on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts and two walks allowed. He is 1-1 on the year. “We put Parker (Bangs) in there (at DH) and he had a good run here a couple of years ago, pitching and hitting and he came up big for us (today) early,” said head coach Ray Tanner. “Blake (Cooper) was important for us tonight. He had a rough start and they had some quality at bats against him. He walked the first two guys in the second, they both scored and that was it. Veteran guy, he just realized he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be and he settled down and gave us a chance to win.” South Carolina wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with three runs in the top of the first inning courtesy of Parker Bangs. Leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield opened the game with a base hit and Adrian Morales also singled to left field to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners. With one out and on an 0-1 pitch, Bangs drilled a solo home run over the “Green Monster” wall in left giving the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead. For Bangs it was his second home run of the season. Creede Simpson answered for Auburn in the bottom half of the first with a home run of his own to bring the Tigers within a run. After a leadoff bunt by Justin Fradejas, Simpson drove a 2-2 pitch from Cooper over the wall in left field cutting the Gamecocks lead to one run. With a 3-2 lead, the Gamecocks kept the hit parade going scoring five times in the top of the second inning to extend its lead to 8-2 and knocking Auburn starting pitcher Cory Luckie from the game. Scott Wingo opened the frame with a solo home run to right field, his fourth round tripper of the season. Merrifield followed with a walk and Parker Bangs walked with two outs to put a pair of runners on base. Kyle Enders would bring home Merrifield with a RBI base hit to center field and Adam Matthews followed with a three-run homer to right field off a 2-2 pitch from Luckie giving the Gamecocks a six-run cushion. Matthews homer was his second of the season. Auburn put up its second two spot in the bottom of the second inning to cut Carolina’s lead to 8-4. A pair of walks to open the frame to Dan Gamache and Wes Gilmer would eventually come back to haunt Cooper as Ryan Jenkins drove in a run with a base hit and Creede Simpson added a RBI single. Cooper got himself out of a tough spot though as he struck out Hunter Morris and coaxed Brian Fletcher into a fly out to right field keeping the Tigers from having a big inning. South Carolina took a 9-4 lead in the sixth inning as Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a walk, stole second base and scored on a fielding error by Auburn third baseman Dan Gamache. Carolina added an unearned run in the seventh inning as a failed pickoff attempt by Jon Luke Jacobs allowed Scott Wingo to score. With Wingo on third base and two outs, Jackie Bradley Jr. broke from first base before Jacobs threw home with a pitch. Jacobs stepped off and attempted to get Bradley at second but the throw was low and Wingo broke home after the ball got by the infielder to put the Gamecocks ahead 10-4. Both teams traded runs in the eighth inning with Kyle Enders scoring on a fielding error by Auburn second baseman Wes Gilmer. The Tigers scored on a two-out double from Wes Gilmer in the bottom half of the eighth. Gamecock reliever Ethan Carter closed out the game as he struck out a pair of batters in the final 1.1 innings to seal the victory for Carolina.