COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 20/20 Auburn Tiger softball team could never find the big hit it needed Sunday afternoon as it was defeated by South Carolina, 4-2, to drop the series and regular-season finale at Beckham Field.
The loss drops Auburn's overall record to 38-16-1 overall and 11-13 in conference play, giving it the nine-seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament, which starts Wednesday. The Tigers and Gamecocks will face each other again in the eight-nine seed matchup on Wednesday at Beckham Field with first pitch at 5:30 CST.
"We just have to play better on Wednesday," Auburn head coach Clint Myers said. "The bottom line is you have to go out there and take the opportunities that are given you. Games are mostly lost, not won. In the past, we've been getting those people up to hit groundballs and put it into play. For us to continue to play, we have to score those people when we have opportunities."
The Tigers either had the lead or tied it twice in the game, but each time allowed the Gamecocks back into the game as the opposition scored one run in the second and third innings, followed by a two-spot in the fifth inning.
Auburn wasn't able to capitalize on three Gamecock errors in the game, scoring only once in the second and fifth innings.
Auburn notched six hits in the loss, two coming off the bat of junior Morgan Estell. She scored one of the Tigers' two runs to finish up her tenth multi-hit game of the year.
Lexi Davis got the call for the Tigers in the circle on Sunday, giving up six hits, as well, with four runs coming across, but only two earned. Both Carolina runs in the fifth ended up unearned as a costly throwing error by Davis after a groundball that should've been the second out, kept things alive for the Gamecocks.
Auburn got the first run of the game for the third time this series, scoring one in the second without recording a hit. A Gamecock error along with a couple of timely sacrifices which included a sacrifice fly by Tiffany Howard gave the Tigers the early 1-0 lead.
However, South Carolina answered back in the next half inning with an RBI single by Codee Yeske to tie the game at one after two innings of play and then took the lead in the third on a solo home run by Ashlyn Masters. The long ball was Davis' second given up in the series.
Auburn tried to re-take the lead multiple times in the third and fourth innings, but left the bases loaded both times to come away empty. It finally broke through in the fifth after USC's third error of the game allowed Morgan Estell to score all the way from second to tie it at 2-2.
The game resembled a see-saw as with every Auburn run, South Carolina responded with runs of their own scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-2, re-taking the lead for the second time in the game.
Auburn and South Carolina will rejoin at Beckham Field for the fourth time in a week when the two teams face off on the conference tournament's first day at 5:30 p.m. CST. The winner will face top-seeded Alabama on Thursday. All games will be televised on ESPNU, with the championship being carried by ESPN2. Brit Bowen will be on the call and fans can hear the radio call on WEGL 91.1 or on AuburnTigers.com.