OMAHA, Neb. – At some point, journeys must come to an end, but, for Auburn, it wasn’t without a fight.
Auburn was eliminated from the College World Series after losing to Louisville 5-3 in a game that spanned two days due to a rain delay. The Tigers’ comeback bid came up just short in a game where Auburn struggled to score despite amassing 13 hits.
“I came away thinking that Auburn baseball can play in this deal without having to do anything magical,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “As time goes by, I’ll see that we had the ingredients.
“We have the ingredients with our staff, we have the ingredients with the fan base. We have the ingredients with players. Our players gave us everything they’ve got.”
Left-handed pitcher Bailey Horn got the ball to start for Auburn. In his three NCAA tournament appearances, the redshirt sophomore allowed six runs across 12.2 innings pitched.
Louisville opened up the scoring with a solo home run from Tyler Fitzgerald in the top of the first inning. Auburn had a chance to answer in the bottom half of the inning with runners on the corners, but the Tigers failed to capitalize.
Bobby Miller started on the mound for Louisville. The sophomore had a 3.91 ERA entering the game.
In the bottom of the second inning, Edouard Julien picked up where he left off Sunday with a 10-pitch at bat that resulted in a single. Later in the inning, a groundout from Kason Howell scored Julien to tie the game at 1-1. Julien was 4 for 6 with three RBI in the College World Series, and he went 2 for 2 in the game.
With rain beginning to fall in the top of the fourth inning, Auburn brought Elliott Anderson into a bases-loaded situation with one out. Horn’s day ended with him throwing 3.1 innings and allowing one run on three hits. He had three strikeouts and three walks. Horn was charged with the loss.
Louisville took back the lead after Anderson walked in a run. With two outs, it looked like Auburn would get off the field only allowing one run, but Ryan Bliss fumbled a groundball at second causing two runs to score. Two errors were charged to Bliss on the play. Louisville led the Tigers 4-1 after the three-run frame.
Entering the fifth inning, the game went into a rain delay as the tarp was pulled onto the field. The delay started at 2:55 p.m. on Tuesday, and, after nearly four-and-a-half hours, the game was postponed to Wednesday.
Miller and Anderson would not return for their respective teams. Freshman Richard Fitts restarted the game for Auburn in the top of the fifth inning.
Adam Elliott entered the game for Louisville on the other side of the break and threw two scoreless innings.
Michael McAvene relieved Elliott in the bottom of the seventh for Louisville. It was McAvene’s first appearance since he was ejected in the Louisville Regional against Indiana. With his second double since the restart, Connor Davis knocked in Bliss to bring Auburn within two. Lousiville led 4-2 heading to the final two innings.
The Cardinals got the run back in the top of the eighth with an RBI-single from Drew Campbell. With runners on first and second, Ryan Watson checked into the game to relieve Fitts. Watson picked off the runner at second, and he got the final out with a strikeout to get Auburn out of the inning.
Fitts went 3.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits.
“My slider was working well. I tried to give my hitters the best chance to win and they battled it out all game,” said Fitts
Down 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Auburn strung together three-straight singles with two outs. With the bases loaded, Judd Ward struck out to end the inning. Ward, the leadoff hitter, had four strikeouts.
Watson helped get Auburn to the bottom of the ninth with the game still within reach, allowing no runs in the top half of the inning. Michael Kirian came on to close the game for Louisville.
With one out, Davis hit a 410-foot solo home run to bring the score to 5-3. Davis finished 3 for 5 with two RBI. With two outs, Stephen Williams hit a double to keep Auburn’s College World Series alive, but Rankin Woley struck out swinging to end the game.
“That’s been the story of us all year,” Davis said. “People have counted us out, we’ve been behind, we’ve battled back. This is what we’ve been doing all year.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow that we didn’t get where we wanted to go here, but at the same time we made history by being the first team in 22 years to get here, so it’s very exciting for our team and where it’s going with Coach Thompson.”
Auburn finished the season 38-28 with its longest run in the NCAA Tournament since 1997.