RALEIGH, N.C. — The Auburn offense everybody expected throughout the 2018 season has arrived in Raleigh.
One day after blistering Northeastern pitching for 13 runs in an NCAA regional opening-round game, Auburn's lineup ripped apart Army pitcher Daniel Burggraat in a nine-run fifth inning on the way to a 12-1 victory Saturday. The back-to-back blowout wins put Auburn (41-21) in the regional final round for the second consecutive year under head coach Butch Thompson."I do feel it because I sense a calmness. I sense a feeling that they've been there before," Thompson said Saturday night. "Things can change on a dime in college baseball, but I have sensed that for a while. There has always been a little bit more of a peace centered around it that it's going to be O.K. I think our team is playing loose, especially if you watched these two games here. I would just hope that they continue to do that because I have seen just a mature, been-there-before approach that you would like to see carry you to the finish line."
Auburn's 25 runs matched the 1989 Tigers for the school's second most in the first two games of an NCAA regional. The nine-run fifth was the most runs scored by Auburn in a single inning since scoring 11 on April 21 in a 20-5 victory at Alabama. In single inning, Josh Anthony hit a solo home run and a run-scoring double, while 13 Auburn batters walked to the plate.
Casey Mize, in his final start before he's selected Monday night in the pro draft, was the beneficiary of three home runs and eight extra-base hits. The junior right-hander and two-time All-American gave up one run on four hits and two walks in seven innings.
Despite an early downpour that made gripping the ball difficult, Mize (10-5) struck out 11 in a 95-pitch effort. His 151 strikeouts this season match Brent Schoening for third all-time in school history. It is his 11th career double-digit strikeout performance and marks the second straight year Mize has pitched the Tigers into the regional final.
"The rain was tough. The ball was slipping out of my hand," Mize said. "I threw a lot more fastballs and I had a bunch sail on me and I didn't locate well but I was just trying to shove fastball in the strike zone."
Along with Anthony's effort at the plate, Auburn's 17-hit offensive burst included multi-hit efforts Saturday night from Will Holland, Brendan Venter, Edouard Julien, Jay Estes and Luke Jarvis.
"We always want to do our best for Casey. Casey is our bulldog," Anthony said. "Anytime he gets on the mound, we just want to show him that we have his back. We did an unbelievable job of that tonight."
The Black Knights (37-23) have given up double-figure runs seven times this season.
"Mize was as advertised tonight and I really, really respect him after seeing him throw (live)," said Army head coach Jim Foster, who was the head coach at Rhode Island from 2006-14. "He's a special, special player. In my head, once they got to four or five (runs) I knew it would be real tough to come back on him. He has some great stuff and the guy he reminded me of is (Justin) Verlander when he was at Old Dominion, we played him."
Auburn will play at 6 p.m. Sunday against either Army or N.C. State. Those two play at 1 p.m. in a rematch of Friday's first round that Army won 5-1. The Wolfpack eliminated Northeastern earlier Saturday 9-3. Auburn is likely to pitch fifth-year senior Andrew Mitchell (2-2, 4.01 ERA), who has 18 strikeouts in his last two starts.
This article is written by Matt Stevens from The Montgomery Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.