LB Dantzler saw the baseball hooking sharp toward the right-field foul pole, its destination seemingly inevitable.
Too many promising blasts have ended as warning-track outs recently for South Carolinas cleanup hitter to get high hopes. This one, Dantzler thought, was doing the same. Or it was going foul.
With a runner on third, Dantzler said he would have been satisfied with a sacrifice fly. By a foot, and with a smattering of Auburn fans waving foul to share their opinion with the ump, he got a game-changing home run instead, helping push the No. 9 Gamecocks to a 5-3 win Saturday at Auburn.
With the way things have been going, Dantzler said, I was a little surprised it actually did stay fair. But it felt good, for sure.
South Carolinas victory was its seventh in a row in SEC play and its 13th consecutive series win against Auburn. The last time the Gamecocks dropped a series to the Tigers was 1997. Dantzler was starting elementary school.
Saturday, the junior third baseman was helping South Carolina to a four-run sixth inning that seemingly came from nowhere.
The Gamecocks (29-11, 10-7 SEC) were scoreless through five innings against Auburn senior starter Jon Luke Jacobs, who allowed one hit in that time. But first baseman Christian Walker tripled in two runs, giving South Carolina its first lead.
Then Dantzlers hooking homer cleared the bases.
We dont do the quick-strike very often, coach Ray Tanner said. We dont have too many big innings. Weve had some better at-bats lately. Weve been a bit more consistent, although we only had five hits today.
That inning was really good to us.
On its own, the inning almost wasnt enough.
Auburn (21-18, 7-10 SEC) battled back, pulling within one run with first baseman Garrett Coopers solo home run to center off Matt Price in the eighth inning. For Cooper, Auburns hottest hitter of late, it was his second homer in the series.
Despite the homer, Tanner said his team didnt panic.
Youd be concerned if it was anybody other than Cooper, Tanner said. That guy can swing the bat. Hes an imposing hitter in their lineup, and hes had good hacks these two games almost every at-bat. We got him one time today where we were able to get it off his fist a little bit, but hes an outstanding hitter.
South Carolina tacked on an insurance run in the ninth inning, and Auburn went quietly in the bottom half.
The Gamecocks will try to win their eighth straight in SEC play and second consecutive series sweep at 2 p.m. today. After a sluggish start to the SEC season, Walker said his teams recent run has been special.
Its fun, he said. Were playing some good baseball right now, and everything is clicking.