OMAHA, Neb. (AP)Cole Foster’s three-run double in the sixth inning gave Auburn the lead, and the Tigers beat No. 2 national seed Stanford 6-2 in a College World Series elimination game for their first win in Omaha in 25 years.
The Tigers (44-21) will play Tuesday against the loser of Monday night’s game between Arkansas and Mississippi.
Stanford (47-18) concluded a short, disappointing stay in Omaha. The Cardinal lost their opener against Arkansas 17-2 – the most lopsided game here in 34 years – and then did next to nothing after taking an early lead against Auburn.
Stanford, which staved off elimination five times in its regional and super regional, went 0-2 in a CWS for the first time in 18 appearances.
Trace Bright (5-4) went five innings for the win and Blake Burkhalter, the Tigers’ star closer, struck out six of the eight batters he faced for his 16th save.
Auburn had been 0-3 in the CWS since beating Rice 10-1 in 1997.
”It’s important for us as we continue to try to build our program and build a brand of respectability, sincere respectability,” Tigers coach Butch Thompson said. ”So it is a big deal and it gives us a chance to compete again.”
The Tigers, who lost 5-1 to Mississippi on Saturday, had managed one run and seven hits in 14 innings before breaking out in the sixth against the Cardinal.
Foster, who doubled twice, was back in the lineup after leaving in the middle of Saturday’s game because of illness and dehydration. Thompson said seven or eight of his players have had a stomach virus and that Foster was getting intravenous fluids after the game.
”He’s doing all he can,” Thompson said. ”He barely pulled into second and dropped his head – one of the biggest hits of his life and he’s trying to keep his head up. He’s just done an amazing job.”
Stanford starter Drew Dowd, who struggled with his fastball command his last few appearances, was dialed in through the first four innings. But he gave up Brooks Carlson’s double leading off the fifth and walked Foster on four pitches to bring on Quinn Mathews (9-2).
Mathews got Stanford out of the inning but ran into trouble in the sixth, giving up two singles, hitting a batter and issuing a walk before Foster’s bases-clearing double off the wall in left center put the Tigers up 4-2. Auburn added two more in the seventh.
”When Cole hit the ball,” Thompson said, ”that was a big exhale for our offense.”
Stanford had an opportunity to cut into the lead in the seventh when it loaded the bases with two outs against Tommy Sheehan. That’s when Auburn called on Burkhalter, and he went to a full count against Brett Barrera before blowing a fastball past him for an inning-ending strikeout.
”When time passes, no one is going to remember what the score was of any of our games or what our record here at Omaha was,” Cardinal coach David Esquer said. ”I think what I will remember is I had a chance to go to the College World Series with a team I love and spend about a week trying to play for the national championship.”
BEST OF THE WEST
The top three teams in the Pac-12 standings were eliminated by Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers previously beat UCLA in regionals and Oregon State in super regionals.
”Obviously all Pac-12 teams we played, I respect them,” center fielder Kason Howell said. ”They have really good players. But being from the Southeastern Conference, having four Western Division teams in here, we just want to play good baseball and try to represent our conference well.”
WE CAN DO IT, TOO
Of the past 40 national champions, only Southern California in 1998, Oregon State in 2006 and ’18 and South Carolina in 2010 came back from a first-game loss to win the CWS title.
The Tigers would have to win three more games to get to the best-of-three finals. Thompson said he spoke Sunday night with former coaches Pat Casey of Oregon State and Ray Tanner of South Carolina.
”Both of those men got back and both gave me paragraphs of taking me through the journey with their team,” Thompson said. ”Like I say, the man or woman or the team that will never quit, they’ve got a chance. And I just want us to fight and I want us to attack. I’m just hunting for every inch we can for our program.”
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