Another heartbreaker: Lost chances doom Tigers again

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*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*

AUBURN, Ala. – A potential season-turning victory and sweet series win were there for the taking for Auburn’s baseball team Sunday. But, for the second straight game, the Tigers couldn’t get it done late when they had the chance. No. 11 South Carolina escaped Plainsman Park with a 4-3 victory, winning the weekend series two games to one.

The game turned in the eighth inning.

South Carolina took the lead when Gene Cone hit a one-out sacrifice fly in the top of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Auburn got runners to second and third with one out. But Dan Glevenyak and pinch hitter Sam Gillikin struck out swinging.

Less than 24 hours earlier, in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader, Auburn loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth and failed to score. South Carolina rallied with two runs in the ninth to win that one 3-2. Auburn won the series opener 4-2.

Downcast Auburn coach Sunny Golloway had little to say when it was over.

“Both games that we lose we have the tying run, go-ahead run on and one out,” Golloway said. “But you have to tip your cap. They struck us out.”

Asked if Auburn’s fourth one-run loss in the last five games was hard to swallow, Golloway answered simply “That’s baseball.”

Golloway chose sophomore right-hander Trey Wingenter as the starting pitcher. In his first Southeastern Conference start, Wingenter retired just one hitter and gave up two runs. Michael O’Neal, who was displaced by Wingenter in the starting rotation, took over and gave up one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Trey Cochran Gill gave up two hits and the go-ahead run in one inning and took the loss to fall to 0-2. Terrance Dedrick, who has been in and out of the closer’s role, pitched two hitless innings. He allowed one baserunner, that on an intentional walk.

Auburn scored a run in the bottom of the first on Blake Austin’s RBI single, another in the third on Damon Haecker’s RBI single and tied the game in the sixth on Keegan Thompson’s RBI single. With runners on second and third, Daniel Robert struck out to end the inning.

After South Carolina reclaimed the lead, Daniel Robert singled off South Carolina closer Joel Seddon and was replaced by pinch hitter J.J. Shaffer. Keegan Thompson singled. The runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch.

But Glevenyak struck out swinging. Gillikin pinch hit for Anfernee Grier and also struck out swinging. In the ninth, Damek Tomscha laced a two-out single to left, but Austin’s hard line drive was right at centerfielder Tanner English to end the game.

“The kids played really well,” Golloway said. “They fought back, and I thought they played really well.”

Auburn, which has not won a series from South Carolina since 1997, lost its fourth consecutive series and fell to 22-19 overall and 7-11 in the SEC. South Carolina improved to 30-10 and 10-8.