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A spirit that is not afraid

Pitching propels Auburn to a series sweep over South Carolina

Auburn pitcher Joseph Gonzalez (45) winds up during the game against South Carolina at Plainsman Park on Sunday, April 24, 2022. The Tigers defeated the Gamecocks 2-0. Photo by Daniel Schmidt
Auburn pitcher Joseph Gonzalez (45) winds up during the game against South Carolina at Plainsman Park on Sunday, April 24, 2022. The Tigers defeated the Gamecocks 2-0. Photo by Daniel Schmidt

Auburn baseball finished its weekend with a 2-0 win on Sunday in a defensive, low-scoring win to sweep the South Carolina series. This was Auburn's first shutout of SEC play this season and the first SEC series sweep since opening weekend of 2019.

Joseph Gonzalez got the start on the mound for the Tigers, coming in with a 5-0 record on the season. He has had a strong showing as starting pitcher this season and that success continued in this game.

“My main thing for having success is trusting myself and self-confidence,” Gonzalez said. “My defense is doing a great job, so I am just trying to make pitches, strikes and avoid any walks.”

Gonzalez allowed seven hits in the time that he was in, but he also did not give up a single run or walk during the outing. He struck four batters and never faced more than four batters in any inning.

On the other side of the field, South Carolina sent out Will Sanders, who came in with a 5-1 record. He held steady for much of his outing, despite giving up two runs and seven hits to the Tigers.

Auburn had an interesting day offensively, as they continuously put runners on but did not find many ways to produce more runs.

The scoring started in the second inning for the Tigers. With a runner on second base, catcher Nate LaRue began his day with a double into left field that scored Cole Foster. The inning quickly ended after that as Mike Bello grounded out to third base. 

Auburn had another chance in the middle of the third inning, with Blake Rambusch and Sonny DiChiara sitting on first and third respectively. Things did not end up in their favor though, as Brooks Carlson hit into a double play to end the inning with the Tigers still up 1-0.

It was not until the fifth inning that the Tigers struck on the scoreboard again. LaRue continued his day with a single into left field, followed by a single from Mike Bello that advanced LaRue to second. Rambusch also hit a single into right-center field that scored LaRue from second.

With two runners on, DiChiara got walked on four pitches to load the bases with just one out, but the Tigers were unable to do any more damage after that. The pitching day for Will Sanders ended here, and the scoring ceased from then on out.

South Carolina started the sixth with a single into right field. Two batters later, Josiah Sightler hit a deep fly ball to the right field fence that Bello robbed to save Auburn from a tie game. 

After a lackluster seventh inning, Gonzalez came out for the eighth inning with only 85 pitches. The possibility of a complete game loomed large. The inning started, though, with two Gamecock singles that ultimately took him out of the game. Head coach Butch Thompson went to Carson Skipper and then Blake Burkhalter for the third day in a row to close out the game for Auburn.

“I don’t want to forget the contribution Skipper is making,” Thompson said. “That [the eighth inning] was their moment in the ball game and Skipper set Burky up pretty good today.” 

The Tigers will play Jacksonville State 6 p.m. on Tuesday before heading to Knoxville to face the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers next weekend. 

“It’ll be very interesting. Jacksonville State beat us,” Thompson said. “This is setting up a whole new week of challenges and this looks like a daunting task for the Auburn Tigers this coming week.”

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