Image credit: Auburn outfielder Steven Williams (Photo by Wade Rackley, Auburn Athletics)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In the first game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional, Auburn found itself trailing by three after just one inning. And with North Carolina righthander Tyler Baum seemingly in control, the situation could have seemed pretty dire.
“There’s no panic in our team,” Auburn DH Conor Davis said. “We could be down five or six runs in the ninth and still think we’re right there, a hit or two away.”
The Tigers didn’t mount that extreme of a comeback, but they did rally from a two-run deficit, feasting on the North Carolina bullpen for nine runs in the final two innings of an 11-7 win. With the late rally, Auburn is one win away from its first trip to Omaha and the College World Series since 1997.
Once Auburn lefthander Jack Owen settled down at the end of the first inning, the Tigers were locked in, refusing to let an early Tar Heel lead erase their confidence. After giving up four hits and three runs in the first, Owen conceded four hits in the next four innings.
Auburn first baseman Rankin Woley capped off a five-run eighth inning for the Tigers with a three-run double to left-center field, giving Auburn its first lead of the afternoon, 7-5.
“I knew [UNC righthander Hansen Butler]’s curveball is his pitch,” Woley said. “[…]I knew he was gonna come back to it, especially with runners on. It was down where I like it, got a bat to it and it was a pretty fun swing.”
The top of the ninth was highlighted by a three-run homer over the right field wall by Auburn sophomore Edouard Julien. Heading into today’s game, Julien was hitting just .239 for the season.
North Carolina attempted to muster up a late comeback in the bottom of the ninth, but fell short.
With the bases loaded, UNC shortstop Danny Serretti singled to left field, scoring Dylan Harris and keeping the bases loaded. Third baseman Ike Freeman walked to cut the Auburn lead to four with two outs, but Tar Heels second baseman Ashton McGee flied out to center field to bring the game to a close.
“What’s important now is for us to have a great meeting tonight to get prepared for the challenges ahead tomorrow,” Thompson said.