FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - No. 10 seed South Carolina's Jordan Fabian blasted a two-out two-run homer in the seventh inning to snag the 3-2 semifinal win from No. 3 seed Auburn, becoming the lowest seed in history to earn a spot in the SEC Tournament Championship.
Fabian stepped up to the plate with the game on the line as the Gamecocks were down to their final out. With two outs and Hannah Hawley waiting on first base after her leadoff walk, Fabian took the game-winning hack, powering the ball over the left center field fence.
"You know, I've been struggling over the last few days so I was really just trying to see the ball over the plate and hit the ball, stay through the inside of the ball, because that's where I've been struggling," Fabian said about her at bat. "I got it down."
South Carolina scored its only other run of the game in the first inning, taking advantage of a leadoff walk and throwing error followed up by Aniyah Black's RBI line-out to set up an early one-run lead.
The Tigers responded shortly after, scoring what would be their only runs of the game in the second. They strung together singles by Jessie Blaine and Makayla Packer along with an RBI sac fly by Rose Roach to establish a 2-1 lead that would last them almost the entirety of the game.
After those lively first two innings, both lineups fell quiet. Auburn stranded nine runners, five of which were in scoring position. The Gamecocks left six on bases with four of them in scoring position, but still managed to pull out the win in the end with Fabian's last-minute two-run bomb.
All-SEC First Team member Donnie Gobourne guided the Gamecocks through the final 3.1 innings after entering in the fourth frame to earn the win. She recorded six strikeouts while only allowing two hits and two walks against 14 batters.
"She just gives us so much energy and so much life and we just love when she's out there with us," Fabian said about Gobourne.
Karsen Ochs started on the mound for the Gamecocks, but only threw 1.1 innings after facing nine batters while giving up a walk, four hits and two earned runs. Bailey Betenbaugh took over when the going got tough in the second frame, tossing 2.1 innings while logging one strikeout with no hits allowed against nine batters before passing the ball to Gobourne.
"I am kind of just doing it for my team," Gobourne said. "Every inning they are going at it. They're trying their hardest to get me a hit."
SEC Pitcher of the Year and All-SEC First Team member Maddie Penta started in the circle for the Tigers, striking out four and walking three. Shelby Lowe endured the loss, throwing four innings as she struck out four, walked one, and gave up only three hits including the final blow by Fabian.
Both teams were in pursuit of their third SEC tourney title.
South Carolina earned its two championship wins back in 1997 and 2007 while Auburn won the crown in 2015 and 2016. South Carolina will appear in its fifth tournament final, with its most recent taking place in 2018 when they fell short against Florida.
How It Happened
T1 | With one out and Zoe Laneaux waiting on first, Riley Blampied safely reached the base after sending a grounder to third baseman Denver Bryant as she made an attempt at the lead runner. Unfortunately, the Tigers hadn't shaken the errors from the day prior, Bryant's throw heading wide of second and into the outfield. Both runners advanced on the wild throw before a run scored on Black's line out to right field, giving the Gamecocks an early lead. South Carolina 1, Auburn 0
B2 | Blaine singled through the left side to lead off the second, starting Auburn's offensive surge. Skylar Elkins entered as a pinch runner, using her speed to score off Packer's single that leftfielder Lindsey Garcia misjudged, allowing the ball past South Carolina's last line of defense. Roach kept the rally going with a deep fly ball to the warning track in right center, scoring Packer to jump ahead before the Gamecocks put Betenbaugh on the mound to close out the inning. South Carolina 1, Auburn 2
T4 | After Black's leadoff walk, Kyye Ricks entered as a pinch runner to put pressure on the Tigers with a stolen base. Giulia Desiderio fought her way back from an 0-2 count, fouling off four pitches and earning a free base to force a pitching change. With Lowe now in the circle, Marissa Gonzalez's sac bunt moved both runners before South Carolina ended the threat. Pinch hitter Hawley popped up behind first base and Emma Seller's sky-high fly ball fell into the glove of camped-out centerfielder Packer to end the third. South Carolina 1, Auburn 2
B4 | Brooke Blankenship's fielding error seemed to spell out trouble for the Gamecocks in the beginning of the fourth, but Betenbaugh struck out the next batter and Roach lined out to shallow left center as Blampied fired the ball to first, nearly doubling up the runner on her retreat. South Carolina then inserted Gobourne to seal the final out of the frame. South Carolina 1, Auburn 2
T7 | Hawley started the last-minute comeback with a leadoff walk, but Auburn sat down the next two batters to come within one out of a championship appearance. With the game on the line, Fabian had other plans for South Carolina, blasting a game-winning homer into left center. Laneaux tacked on a double to the wall before the Tigers got the last out. South Carolina 3, Auburn 2
B7 | Bryant attempted to start an Auburn rally with a leadoff single to right field, but Gobourne switched into high gear, striking out the next two batters before a pop up to Fabian at first sealed the Gamecocks' comeback. South Carolina 3, Auburn 2
On what the home run chain meant.."That's our version of the savage chain. We strive for it. We want to pass it around as much as we can throughout the game. That's our little victory in the game."
On how she gets past the struggles..."Every pitch has a life of its own. So, just move on from every pitch to the next. Learn from your other at bats and not dwell."
On why the Gamecocks keep on believing and delivering..."Because we love each other. We're having a great time. We just want to keep shocking the world."
South Carolina (36-19, 9-15 SEC) will face the winner of Game 11 between 1-seed Tennessee and 5-seed Alabama in the SEC Tournament Championship on Saturday, May 13 at 4 p.m. CT as televised on ESPN2.
Auburn (40-16, 15-9 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament and awaits the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night. The bracket for the NCAA Tournament will be released at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.