Wild first inning propels Auburn to first College World Series since 1997

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – They were unstoppable. A whirlwind of gray jerseys crossed home plate creating an insurmountable lead.

North Carolina (46-19) could not end Auburn’s nine-hit parade that saw 13 runs score in the top of the first inning as Auburn routed North Carolina 14-7. Auburn (38-26) advances to the College World Series for the first time since 1997 and the fifth time in program history.

North Carolina starting pitcher Joey Lancellotti walked the first four batters, and, from there, Auburn poured it on. Eight singles and a three-run home run from Judd Ward helped Auburn to build their lead.

North Carolina used four pitchers with two failing to record an out before Will Sandy ended the nearly hour-long inning. Sandy settled in and threw 5.2 innings allowing one run on seven hits.

Sophomore right-hander Tanner Burns received the start for Auburn despite reports of a sore shoulder. Burns allowed no hits with three strikeouts in two scoreless innings of work.

Burns was on a pitch count, and freshman Richard Fitts replaced him at the start of the bottom of the third inning. A wake-up call came in the fourth when Fitts gave up a three-run home run to Ashton McGee that whittled the Auburn lead to 10.

Rankin Woley scored Bliss on an RBI-single to replenish the Auburn lead in the top of the seventh. Woley, Ward and Edouard Julien each had three hits. Auburn had seven batters finish with multiple hits in the 18-hit offensive display.

North Carolina wouldn’t go away without a fight. Aaron Sabato continued his torrid weekend with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to bring the score to 14-5. Sabato finished the series 5 for 13 with five RBI.

After a walk and a single in the bottom of the eighth, Fitts’ day came to a close as Cody Greenhill entered the game. Fitts gave Auburn 5.1 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits and earning the victory. His record improved to 5-3.

With the bases loaded, North Carolina tacked on another run in the eighth with a RBI-groundout from Jackson Hesterlee, but Greenhill escaped the inning with no further damage.

North Carolina made the ninth difficult. They scored one more run off of another Sabato home run, but ultimately Greenhill finished the game to send Auburn to Omaha.

The College World Series begins Saturday, June 15.