April 18, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
Auburn won on a Saturday in Columbia, S.C., for the first time since 1997, picking up a 6-4 win over South Carolina to even the Southeastern Conference series at a game each. Bradley Hendrix picked up his staff-leading seventh win while Austin Hubbard nailed down his league-leading ninth save, all with Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski's daughter, Mary-Louise in attendance.
"The team responded after a tough loss last night and on a personal note, my daughter was here today. It was her first game of the year, which was a special game for her and it's just really exciting," Pawlowski said. "It's never easy, home or on the road in the SEC. Jon Luke Jacobs pitched out of some trouble, Bradley Hendrix pitched in and out of some trouble and then Austin Hubbard, when the chips were down, he made pitches in a big spot."
Hendrix, who relieved Jacobs in the fifth with two on and two out, retired the first hitter he faced in the inning and continued on to pitch three total innings before giving way to Hubbard. Hendrix has now won his last seven decisions, all out of the bullpen, and is second in the SEC in wins with a 7-2 mark, one behind LSU's Louis Coleman. The sophomore finished the day allowing two runs on three hits without issuing a walk while striking out one.
"I just wanted to keep the momentum in our dugout and keep their hitters off balance," Hendrix said. "Coach stresses that we make big pitches in big situations and I just focused and it worked out for me."
Hubbard needed to throw 1 1/3 innings to pick up the save, entering with runners on first and second and two down after Jackie Bradley, Jr., had smacked a leadoff home run to narrow the gap to 6-3 in the eighth. Hubbard walked the first hitter he faced to load the bases and then walked in a run with a full-count walk to Whit Merrifield before getting DeAngelo Mack to ground out to second to end the inning. He then worked around a one-out hit batter to collect his second save of the week and fifth of the month.
"I had to battle tonight. I didn't have much control over my slider but I tried to put the fastball in play and I got a couple of ground balls and that really helped out a lot," Hubbard said.
The win not only evened the series at a game each but also gave the two teams identical 25-14, 8-9 SEC records.
Three straight singles ignited a five-run top of the third for Auburn, which was highlighted by Casey McElroy's fifth home run of the season. The top three in the order all singled to start the inning with Joseph Sanders collecting the game's first RBI when he plated leadoff man Justin Hargett with a single through the left side of the infield. A Hunter Morris groundout to first scored Trent Mummey before McElroy deposited the team's 81st home run of the season into the visitor's bullpen in left-center, a three-run shot to put Auburn up 5-0 going to the home half of the third.
"What a big at bat by Casey, a two-strike home run. We knew it was never going to be easy but I am excited for these guys and now we have a chance, going into Sunday with the series on the line," Pawlowski said.
Morris' ninth home run of the season, a two-out solo shot to the palmetto trees beyond the fences in right, put Auburn ahead 6-0 in the top of the fifth. Only a stellar grab by the South Carolina center fielder Merrifield prevented Auburn from hitting back-to-back homers as he brought back a Ben Jones liner to center for the inning's second out.
Jacobs pitched around four walks and a base hit for the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. The redshirt freshman allowed a leadoff single to start the game and issued at least one walk in each of the first three innings before giving up three singles and a walk in the top of the fifth, leaving after a Bradley, Jr., single made it 6-2 Auburn with two on and two out in the fifth and costing himself at a chance at his first win since late March.
South Carolina starter Nolan Belcher (2-2) threw into the eighth before departing in favor of Michael Roth having allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out six
After the game the entire team went up to the top of the stands behind the Auburn dugout to greet Pawlowski's daughter, who has battled cancer over the past year and just recently spent 93 days in the hospital following an infection.
"That was huge for her being here. Everything she has been through and everything that Coach Pawlowski has been through. For her to be here and for us to give her the shirt and put a huge smile on her face was meaningful for us as well," Hubbard said.
Auburn will attempt to win its first series in Columbia since the 1997 season when the two teams square off at 12:30pm CT on Sunday. Auburn has yet to decide on a starting pitcher while South Carolina will send So. RHP Blake Cooper (4-3, 4.57) to the mound.
Auburn 6, South Carolina 4 (Apr 18, 2009 at Columbia, SC)
Auburn.............. 005 010 000 - 6 8 2 (25-14, 8-9 SEC)
South Carolina...... 000 020 020 - 4 7 1 (25-14, 8-9 SEC)
Win-Bradley Hendrix(7-2) Save-Austin Hubbard(9) Loss-Nolan Belcher(2-2) T-2:52 A-7723
HR AU - Hunter Morris (9); Casey McElroy (5).
HR SC - Jackie Bradley, Jr. (7).
Weather: 77 degrees; Partly Cloudy
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