April 29, 2012
by Koby Padgett
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Another overcapacity crowd of 921 fans packed into Beckham Field for the final home game of 2012, trying to cheer South Carolina (23-29, 3-22 SEC) to victory on Senior Day, but Auburn (31-19, 10-15 SEC) spoiled things with a 4-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
Auburn scored twice with two outs in the fourth, as Brooke Lathan started the rally with a single. Branndi Melero came up next and drove the 1-1 pitch deep to center that the Gamecock centerfielder leaped and touched at the top of the wall but could not hold. However, the ball stayed in the park, allowing Lathan to score and Melero to tally a triple. A wild pitch moments later allowed Melero to score to make it 2-0.
The Tigers added another pair of runs in the fifth. Lauren Guzman started the inning with a double and moved to third on Amber Harrison's single. Elizabeth Eisterhold plated Guzman with her sacrifice fly to right center, and Harrison, who stole second during the at bat, moved to third on the play. Caitlin Schultze followed with a ground ball to short that scored Harrison, giving Auburn a 4-0 advantage.
South Carolina threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth, getting two base runners on errors before senior centerfielder Lauren Lackey dropped down a bunt single to load the bases with two outs. Junior Samie Garcia, making her first career pinch-hitting appearance for the Gamecocks, drew a four-pitch walk to force in senior third baseman Sam Arbaugh to make it 4-1. Auburn went to the pen for Lauren Schmalz for the third-consecutive game, and she got out of the inning with a fly ball.
After a spotless sixth and getting the first two outs in the seventh, Schmalz gave up back-to-back singles to Gamecock freshman pinch hitter Kristen Struett and Lackey. But Schmalz closed the door with a fly to right, capping her third save of the weekend.
Auburn starter Jenee Loree (11-7) got the win, giving up one unearned run on two hits and two walks. In 4.2 innings, she struck out five. Gamecock senior pitcher Kierstyn White (6-9) took the loss, allowing four earned runs on seven hits without a walk while fanning three in 4.1 innings.
Prior to the contest, the nine Gamecock seniors, the most in NCAA Division I this year, received framed jerseys from the team. All nine started, including the first starts of the year for Arbaugh, Kylie Morin and Jackie Slawson. Morin posted a single, the first in her two-year Gamecock career. Lackey also had two hits in her last appearance at Beckham Field. Also making its curtain call on Sunday was the grandstand at Beckham Field. The current stands, batting cage and press box will be removed from the site so the new 1,350-seat facility can be built for the 2013 season on the same site that has hosted the team since 1983.
South Carolina wraps the 2012 season on the road next weekend, facing Ole Miss in a three-game set starting on Friday, May 4 at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Sunday's game from Oxford, Miss., will be televised on SportSouth at 2 p.m. EDT.
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