Auburn pours it on again, claims upset series win over No. 3 South Carolina baseball
Through three months of the season, No. 3 South Carolina featured one of the most fearsome offenses in the country.
But injuries have mounted in recent weeks, and USC’s thinned-out lineup struggled for a second straight game against Auburn on Saturday. Playing without their starting shortstop, third baseman and second baseman, USC fell to Auburn 9-5, dropping just their second series of the season.
The series loss is a rare brush of adversity for the No. 3 Gamecocks (34-8, 13-5 SEC), who had vaulted up the national rankings after sweeping then-No. 3 Florida last weekend.
Auburn’s (25-17-1, 9-11) bats picked up where they left off from Friday’s eight-run effort against USC ace Will Sanders, pounding right-hander Jack Mahoney for six runs — including two home runs — in the first two innings. The explosion put the Gamecocks in an imposing hole out of the gate, and USC didn’t have the hitters it needed to spark a comeback.
Head coach Mark Kingston had no choice but to trot out a new-look lineup Saturday after the Gamecocks lost shortstop Braylen Wimmer to a hamstring injury late in Friday’s game. The timetable for his return remains unclear. In past weeks, USC lost second baseman Will McGillis (broken arm) and third Talmadge LeCroy (hamstring), sapping the lineup of much of its top-of-the-order punch.
With all of the injuries, catcher Cole Messina started at third base Saturday, Jonathan French started at catcher, Michael Braswell moved from the third to short and freshman Will Tippett got the nod at second base. Much like Friday, the lineup seemed overpowered against Saturday starter Christian Herberholz.
The right-hander mimicked the formula teammate Tommy Vail employed in Game 1, using his fastball up in the zone to generate swings and misses. Touching 94 miles per hour, Herberholz struck out six and allowed just one run on three hits in four innings before giving way to the bullpen.
The Gamecocks showed hints of life in later innings, thanks in large part to the efforts of Messina at the plate. The sophomore drilled a two-run double in the fifth inning, then added a two-run homer in the seventh to cut the deficit to three runs. But Auburn first baseman Cooper McMurray hit his second homer of the game in the ninth to take an insurance run back.
With rain in the forecast Sunday morning, Game 3 will start at 3 p.m. instead of its original noon first pitch. The Gamecocks will try to avoid their first sweep of the season. Their only other series loss came on the road against No. 4 Vanderbilt earlier in the month.
Next four USC baseball games
Sunday: vs. Auburn, 3 p.m. (SEC Network)
Wednesday: at Winthrop, 6 p.m. (ESPN Plus)
Friday: at Kentucky, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
Saturday: at Kentucky, 2 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)