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Stayin’ alive: Auburn eliminates South Carolina 3-1

Beautiful day, made even more beautiful.

It took 12 innings, but it’s finished: Auburn has defeated South Carolina 3-1 to remain alive in the SEC Tournament. Small picture, Auburn advances to face the loser of today’s Ole Miss-Alabama matchup at 3 p.m. central tomorrow. Big picture, this more-or-less eliminates any chance that Auburn won’t be awarded their own home regional; you can make the argument that by defeating the ‘Cocks head-to-head, the Tigers have vaulted up to No. 2 in the SEC pecking order. (Pending Vandy’s tourney results to-come.)

Trent Mummey was your offensive hero, connecting on a bases-loaded, one-out single in the top of the 12th for the winning runs. But the day belonged to the Auburn pitching staff: first Grant Dayton, who held the ‘Cocks to one run on five hits through 7 1/3rd innings, and then the amazing Austin Hubbard, who held Carolina scoreless through a season-long 4 2/3rds outing … and multiple potential game-ending jams. The Cocks’ only run of the game would come on a solo home run in the seventh.

A few quickie thoughts:

— I know a 7-1 loss followed by a two-run 12-inning win shouldn’t be encouraging, but … am I crazy to feel better about Auburn’s NCAA chances after these last two games? Yes, the offense struggled, but they were facing two lights-out starters and they’re too good to really be held down for that long. The bigger question mark was Auburn’s starters, and Luckie and Dayton both gave them quality starts, Dayton an outstanding one. Then you add Hubbard’s performance today, and really the only thing it looks like Auburn has to worry about going forward is the rest of the bullpen. That’s not so bad. We’ve known Auburn can win shootouts; if they can win 3-1 nailbiters against the likes of Carolina starter Blake Cooper, things look even better.

I think. I might just be crazy.

— A shot at revenge might be nice, but I’m still hoping the Tide downs Ole Miss today. Cole Nelson going against the same third Rebel starter the Tigers battered last week–and that’s been battered all season–should make Auburn a heavy favorite in that game. Still, I’d like Auburn’s chances against the Tide as well–the bats, as I said, should come around sooner rather than later. It’s almost a win-win.

— I might not be so confident if Brian Fletcher can’t go. He left the game today in the second inning with a hand/wrist injury and is day-to-day.

— Poor Carolina. They draw the best pitcher in the league in round 1 in Pomeranz, then the best team in the league throwing their best pitcher in round 2. Still: one run in 21 innings? Yeesh.

— The tournament is wide, wide open after the lower seed won all four first-round games, but I think I’d call Vanderbilt the very tentative favorite at this point–they’re the only one of the SEC’s five “have”s to survive that round and only have to negotiate LSU and the ‘Bama/Ole Miss winner to make the final.

— This is all for today at WBE, unfortunately. But back tomorrow with a morning post and a liveblog of the baseball game. See you then.

Photo by Eric Saninocencio.

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