Auburn completes sweep of South Carolina with shutout
AUBURN, Ala. - Joseph Gonzalez turned in seven scoreless innings as No. 19 Auburn completed a sweep of South Carolina with a 2-0 win Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.
The win was Auburn's first shutout in SEC play this season and capped off the team's first SEC sweep since opening weekend against Tennessee in 2019.
"The mentally tough expect adversity and are prepared for it," head coach Butch Thompson said. "We did a great job of that this weekend."
Gonzalez's performance marked his fourth straight quality outing in as many conference starts this season. The sophomore righty didn't walk a batter for the third straight start and struck out four while scattering seven hits.
"It just seems so easy to Joseph Gonzalez," Thompson added. "He throws at ease, and Nate (LaRue) handled him so well. They've got a great rhythm going."
Gonzalez (6-0, 1.71) faced only two over the minimum in his first four innings and needed just 44 pitches to record the first 12 outs. The Humacao, Puerto Rico native didn't allow more than one baserunner in an inning until back-to-back singles start the eighth and ended his outing.
"I'm always ready for whatever problem or situation we have," Gonzalez said. "My mindset is always the same."
Following today's start, Gonzalez has allowed six earned runs in 30 innings in SEC play, including three in his last three starts and 24 innings pitched.
With two on and nobody out, senior Carson Skipper entered in relief and was able to leave the two batters on with a strikeout and ground out into a double play, keeping the Gamecocks scoreless through eight innings.
Similar to the previous two games, junior Blake Burkhalter closed the game on the mound for the Tigers and recorded his 11th save this season. As far as statistical records indicate, Burkhalter is the first Auburn player to record three saves in one series.
"Skipper and I told coach, 'If it comes down to it and you need us in the ballgame, we're ready to throw.'" Burkhalter said.
Nate LaRue started the scoring with an RBI-double to bring in Cole Foster in the second inning.
Auburn (29-12, 11-7 SEC) extended its lead to two in the bottom of the fifth after three straight singles by LaRue, Mike Bello and Blake Rambusch, whose RBI scored LaRue from second.
South Carolina (19-20, 6-12 SEC) threatened to tie up the ball game in the top of the sixth, but Bello brought what would've been a two-run home run back into the park and kept the Gamecocks scoreless.
"Mike knew eight minutes before the game that he had the start today, but what a catch he made," Thompson said. "That was one of the biggest plays of the game."
"We practice that all the time, just getting to the wall and catching the ball," Bello added.
Rambusch matched a season-high with four hits, both of which have come in SEC play. LaRue also recorded multiple hits with two, one of which was for multiple bases.
Auburn is on the road this next week for a midweek matchup at Jacksonville State (17-19) and a Friday-Sunday series at No. 1 Tennessee (36-3, 16-1 SEC). Tuesday's first pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT.