College baseball: Auburn clinches super regional bid for first time in 19 years
RALEIGH, N.C. – Who needs or wants a Monday game, really? Apparently not the 2018 Auburn Tigers.
For the first time in 19 years, the Auburn baseball program will participate in a super regional round following a 15-7 blowout victory over host North Carolina State on Sunday night and avoiding a Monday winner-take-all contest.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm still full of emotion right now. I knew what it was going to take to win this game tonight. It was going to take a battle until the last pitch of the game, the very last pitch of the game," Auburn first baseman Josh Anthony said. "There were a couple of times throughout the game I would just keep saying to keep their heads in the game because I knew that once we lost them, we probably wasn't going to be able to get them back in this type of game."
After N.C. State was forced to battle back from the losers bracket following an opening round loss to Army Friday night, the Wolfpack (42-18) basically ran out of pitching depth by Sunday night. After using its last quality starting pitcher in a 11-1 win over Army Sunday afternoon, N.C. State pitching coach Scott Foxhall was forced to turn to freshman left-hander David Harrison (1-4) and the freshman who had a 11.57 ERA in Atlantic Coast Conference, got only four outs in the midst of allowing four runs.
Once Auburn jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, N.C. State had little choice but to turn to All-ACC closer Joe O'Donnell for some form of relief but the fifth-year senior struggled as Auburn pounded N.C. State's bullpen for 11 runs over the final 7 2/3 innings. The Tigers got multi-hit efforts from Jay Estes and Steven Williams while Brendan Venter had his 11th multi-RBI game.
"Auburn has a great offensive club right now," N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent said. "We knew we'd need everybody available tonight. I thought David (Harrison) started out okay and was a good matchup for them with his changeup."
For the first time in school history, Auburn (42-21) gets through a four-team NCAA Regional undefeated after defeating Northeastern, Army and N.C. State by a combined total of 40-12.
Anthony, who came in to Sunday's game 5 of 8 with four runs scored and two RBIs including a solo home run against Army, continued his torrid pace with the bat by finishing the Sunday finale 4 of 5 with five RBIs. Anthony, who was named Raleigh Regional Most Valuable Player, is one of eight seniors on this Auburn roster who suffered through the back-to-back losses to Florida State one year ago.
"These guys, the whole lineup was just unbelievable the whole weekend," Auburn senior Luke Jarvis said. "It did just show when everybody is locked in, all nine guys, what we're capable of. To have it at this time of the year is awesome, especially going into supers."
N.C. State got some momentum and the partial Doak Field crowd involved in the fourth inning with a trio of runs but were unable to solve the puzzle of Auburn freshman closer Cody Greenhill. The Russellville native worked the 4 1/3 innings of relief for his fifth win of the season after Auburn was able to save its quality bullpen pieces in back-to-back blowout wins in the NCAA Raleigh Regional.
"I think we had a poor matchup to be honest because of the two relievers that we were committed to throw tonight were right-handed with good fastballs and these guys eat these great fastballs for breakfast," Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. "I think we just beat a solid ball club that won 42 games and we have a ton of respect for them."
Davis Daniel, a former N.C. State verbal commit who has family and friends in the North Carolina and South Carolina area, finished the final four outs of the game to clinch the regional title.
Auburn scored in each of the first three innings giving fifth-year senior Andrew Mitchell six runs of support as the New Orleans native had his stuff working early by allowing just a walk in the second inning as the only damage. However, the control and command issues sprung up in the fourth inning causing Auburn pitching coach Steve Smith to signal for Greenhill out of the bullpen after just 3 1/3 innings of work.
N.C. State got the bases loaded in the seventh inning while down just 8-3 but Greenhill struck out Wolfpack home run leader Brett Kinneman to end the frame and what was the Wolfpack's final comeback threat.
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Edouard Julien added to the offensive explosion in the ninth inning with a two-run home run, his 17th of the season and second of the tournament. The Quebec City native ended Sunday night 2 of 5 with two RBIs and three runs scored as he was named to the Raleigh Regional All-Tournament team.
In year three of his tenure of Auburn baseball, Thompson gets his program one step further than the previous year after the Tigers lost back-to-back Regional Championship games in Tallahassee. The last time Thompson coached in a super regional was his last trip to the College World Series as an assistant coach at Mississippi State.
"I'm extremely happy for our program because when you have a vision of seeing this over and over in your head, I thought it would be more and more exciting," Thompson said. "I've just been playing it in my head since I got the opportunity at Auburn and to see it is pretty neat."
Auburn will face the winner of the NCAA Gainesville Regional which is currently being dominated by No. 1 overall seed Florida but has been delayed to at least Monday night due to weather issues. Auburn lost two out of three games in a Southeastern Conference series on April 26-28 to the Gators.
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 email@example.com.