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Founders Park: USC was three innings away from being swept at home by Auburn on Sunday afternoon. Then Will Tippett happened. In the bottom of the seventh, the light hitting freshman from Geogia (.145 average) hit his first career homer, a three-run shot to left center, to put the Gamecocks on top of the Tigers for the first time in the series 8-6, and they held on for an 8-7 win to salvage the final of the three game series at Founders Park.
As was the case in the first two games, the Gamecock starting pitcher, in this case Matthew Becker, was hit hard by the Tigers. He allowed five runs on five hits, including three homers, in five innings of work. USC’s three starting pitchers in the series combined to allow 18 earned runs in 14.1 innings.
To Becker’s credit, after allowing his five runs in the first two innings, he only allowed a single over the next three innings. He was pulled for Eli Jones after throwing 90 pitches. Jones, Chris Veach and Nick Proctor allowed two runs on six hits over the final four innings.
After spotting the Tigers a 5-2 lead after two innings, the Gamecocks tied the game with two runs in the fourth on a single by Michael Braswell, and a sacrifice fly by Carson Hornung in the fifth. The Tigers regained the lead in the sixth on the second home run of the game by Bryson Ware.
The Tigers had a chance to add to their lead in the seventh loading the bases with one out against first Jones and then Veach, but Veach got power hitting Cooper McMurray to strike out and Ware to ground out to second to end the threat.
Caleb Denny, who had four hits on the day, led off the bottom of the seventh for USC with single. Jonathan French followed with a single. Carson Hornung then flied out to left bringing Tippett to the plate, and he drilled a 1-2 pitch from Tanner Bauman into the seats for an 8-6 lead.
Veach had to work out of another bases loaded situation in the eighth. With one out, he induced a fly out to center and then ended the inning with a popup behind first that Tippett, the second baseman, caught in foul ground.
The Gamecocks threatened in the bottom of the eighth getting runners to second and third with two outs, but Hornung flied to right to end the inning.
Auburn would not go quietly in the ninth. Bobby Peirce hit the first pitch of the inning from Veach over the left centerfield wall to make it a one-run game. Veach then walked McMurray on a 3-2 pitch, and Proctor was called in from the pen for just his third appearance in an SEC game this season. He got some immediate help from his catcher French when he picked off McMurray at first on a failed bunt attempt.
Ware then followed with a single for his third hit of the day, but Proctor got a strike out and a force out at second to end the drama and preserve the Gamecocks’ one win in the series.
USC coach Mark Kingston was ejected in the bottom of the third inning after coming out of the dugout to argue with the homeplate umpire over what he thought was a missed pitch clock violation. Kingston said afterwards he was ejected for getting too close to the umpire. It was his second ejection of the season which brings a one game suspension from the SEC.
Veach earned the win to improve to 2-0 and Proctor picked up his first save. The Gamecocks are 35-8 and 14-6 in the SEC. The win was #500 for the Gamecocks in SEC play.
USC is now number two in the RPI after Sunday’s games. With Vanderbilt sweeping Kentucky over the weekend, USC is a game and a half back of the Commodores in the race in the SEC East.
USC will play at Winthrop Wednesday night and then travel to Kentucky for a weekend series starting Friday night.