Auburn baseball is headed to the College World Series, but their foe upon arrival in Omaha will be a familiar one. The Tigers are set to take on Ole Miss in the first round of the tournament.
The team returned from the Corvallis Super Regional late Tuesday night, then departed midafternoon on Wednesday. In between, players and staff had an opportunity to get laundry done, pack and sleep in their own beds.
“We got in the weight room today like we needed to. Got some swings in and now we've got to start figuring out what are these new challenges, this new setup,” said head coach Butch Thompson on Wednesday. “The guys have done an amazing job with the with the no excuses.”
The tournament is double-elimination style, mirroring the Regional and Super Regional formats. Teams will play through a four-team side of the bracket to advance to a three-game series for the national championship.
Auburn is in “bracket two,” along with No. 2 Stanford, Arkansas and Ole Miss. The winner of Auburn’s game will face the winner of Stanford versus Arkansas, with the losers dropping into an elimination bracket to face each other.
“We are probably dusting up our Ole Miss stuff,” Thompson said. “If you win or lose, there's a possibility we probably spend a little more time the next couple of days on Stanford because we know the least about that program.”
The winner from bracket two will advance to the national championship series against the winner of bracket one. That bracket houses No. 9 Texas, Notre Dame, No. 5 Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
On Thursday, teams had an opportunity to practice on the playing surface at Charles Schwab Field. Other remaining time was spent in press conferences and other media sessions before the opening ceremonies Thursday night.
Auburn’s last meeting with Ole Miss was the opening series of SEC play, a weekend in March where the Rebels took games one and three. It was a high scoring affair from both teams.
In Friday’s opener, Ole Miss won 6-13, but Auburn came roaring back to win 19-5 on Friday, the largest margin of victory that weekend. The Tigers dropped the series, though, in a 2-15 loss on Saturday.
Rebel pitcher Dylan DeLucia (6-2) was key in game one that weekend, relieving for three innings and earning the win. He will get the start in the first game in Omaha, entering with a 4.35 ERA and a season high of 12 strikeouts.
Rebel senior Tim Elko will be a large challenge. Elko has a .302 batting average coming into game one, with 22 home runs on the season. He is the Sonny DiChiara of Ole Miss and has gotten hot in the postseason. His season-high hits, triples, doubles, home runs and runs scored came in the month of June.
On the Auburn side, Thompson has named sophomore Joseph Gonzalez (7-3). He was absent during the Ole Miss series due to a lingering finger issue, so he may be a mystery for the Rebel batters. Gonzalez heads to Omaha with a 2.95 ERA and a zero-hit outing from March.
Gonzalez is a pitcher than can go the distance, but the Auburn bullpen will likely be the key in Omaha. When the Tigers finished their third Super Regional game with just three hits, relievers like Carson Skipper and Blake Burkhalter were the reason the team advanced.
The offense, though, has gotten hot in the postseason. The Tigers poured in 51 runs in the Auburn Regional, but timely hits from the likes of DiChiara and Mike Bello.
Auburn’s batters will likely not see pitching as talented as in Corvallis, where Oregon State’s Cooper Hjerpe is collecting a laundry list of National Pitcher of the Year awards. Hjerpe took the mound in game two and was key in the Beavers defeating Auburn.
The Tigers will begin their College World Series journey on Saturday night at 6 p.m. CST against Ole Miss. The game will air on ESPN2 and Auburn’s second game will be Monday, June 20 with the time determined by the results of game one.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman