Omaha, neb. – With a stomach bug and nearly seven decades of history working against them, the Auburn Tigers fell to two options on Monday when they slipped from second place at Stanford in the Men’s College World Championships. Attack or go home.
“My job is [help] “A group of players and coaches are leaving without any regrets,” Tiger coach Butch Thompson said after his team’s 6-2 win, their first MCWS win in 25 years. What are we going to do, fail something or get it wrong? I want them to attack as much as they can.”
Stanford was the top seed in the MCWS, and never, in 17 previous MCWS trips dating back to 1953, had he left Omaha without a victory. But it was sent home 0-2 on Monday after Cole Foster hit a hat-trick in the sixth inning to put Auburn in Tuesday’s elimination game against Arkansas.
After it was likely to be the biggest hit of his life, Foster, according to Thompson, barely moved to second base because he was so ill. Thompson said Foster did not appear at the post-match press conference because he was supposed to receive intravenous fluids after the match.
Foster had departed in the fourth game of Saturday’s match against Ole Miss, with a 5-1 loss due to illness. In a pre-game interview with Andy Burcham, The Voice of the Auburn Tigers, Thompson said he “has had seven or eight guys on the toilet a lot and isn’t comfortable from a tough week”. But he didn’t want to make any excuses.
Thompson confirmed to ESPN late Monday that the tigers were handling a stomach bug.
But as he sat in his hotel room on Sunday night, Thompson seemed more preoccupied with history. He knew that only four teams had won a national championship after losing their first game in the past four decades, so he reached out to two coaches from those teams: Pat Casey of Oregon State (2006 and 2018) and Ray Tanner of South Carolina State (2010).
He asked them to accompany him during the trips of those teams. Contacted by phone Monday night, Tanner said he exchanged texts with Thompson around 9 p.m. EST on Sunday. Tanner told him that baseball is a failed game, but that you can’t be afraid of failure. You can’t wait for something to happen; You have to achieve it.
Auburn came in as an attacker in the fifth inning on Monday, trailing 2-0. You did not get them anything. The Tigers attempted a double robbery, but Foster got into a pickle between the third and the house.
But in the next inning, they hit hard. Back-to-back singles, batsman and walker gave Auburn his first run in the sixth. Then Foster removed the plinths with his double from the wall of the central square.
“They got off,” Tanner said. But they were pressing buttons and making moves.
Auburn added two more times in the seventh game of the doubles from Blake Rambush and Bobby Pierce. Stanford’s last real chance to rally at the bottom of seventh came when the Cardinal carried the rules, and Auburn Bullpen’s Blake Burkhalter was called up.
Burkhalter hit Brett Barrera, the top hitter at Stanford, on the cutter to end the rally.
“You know the rules are loaded, but you have to get rid of them,” said Burkhalter, who scored five and only allowed one hit in the second half and the final.
“I don’t think I’ve had my fastball order all day, but the cutter was working and the change was working and that’s what I had to rely on. I was about to walk with it, but luckily I got that hit and it knocked us off the field.”
Beating a Stanford-caliber program is an important step in the history of baseball at Auburn, Thompson said. He said he followed the Cardinal’s success as a kid growing up in Mississippi.
As Stanford was preparing to leave Omaha, Cardinal coach Dave Esker said he wouldn’t spend much time reflecting on Monday’s historical significance.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Esker said. Nothing will be taken away from what we have accomplished this year.
“I mentioned to them at our gathering that when the time passes, no one will remember the result of any of our games or what we scored here in Omaha. I think what I will remember is having the opportunity to go to the College World Series with a team that I love and spend about a week trying to play for National Championship.
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