No. 9 Auburn takes on No. 1 Florida with trip to Omaha on the line
AUBURN, Ala. – When Auburn heard its name called for the NCAA Tournament this year, there wasn’t a huge ovation. The reaction was somewhat subdued. When the Tigers won the Raleigh Regional last weekend, the team was excited, but there wasn’t a giant dog pile or celebration on the field like the way some teams do when they win.
That’s because Auburn expected to make a regional. They expected to win the regional. And now, even though the Tigers are traveling to No. 1 Florida for the super regional this weekend, the confidence remains high.
“We expected to win that (regional) and we expect to win this (super regional) and we expect to go to Omaha and perform really well, maybe win that,” pitcher Casey Mize said. “There are higher expectations, and I think that’s why we didn’t go absolutely nuts when we won the (regional). I think this team knows that we’re capable of more.”
“We’re definitely in a groove right now offensively and defensively, too,” added shortstop Will Holland. “I think our pitching looks really good right now. I think we’re set up as good as we can be right now.”
In the Raleigh Regional, Auburn outscored its opponents, 40-12, in three games. The offense, in particular, got hot at the right time as the Tigers totaled 40 runs on 50 hits and turned in a .424 team average against the likes of Northeastern, Army and North Carolina State.
The task this weekend will be much more difficult as the Auburn hitters will face first-round picks Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar on Saturday and Sunday.
But the Tigers aren’t ready to see their season end in Gainesville. The goal from the beginning of the year has been Omaha and the College World Series, and now they’re just two wins away from turning that goal into a reality.
“We’re trying to aim as high as we possibly can,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “That’s what you should do if you’re at Auburn. That’s what anybody should do at any level they’re at. We take a ton of confidence into Gainesville, and our best is required. It has been, it will be and will continue to be no matter what our next chapter is.
“Omaha is so special. That park, that area, it is so special. If I can do anything in my power to make that possible for these Auburn baseball players to get to experience that and run out onto that field, I’m going to do whatever it takes these next few days.”
• Saturday: 11 a.m. CT (ESPN)
• Sunday: 11 a.m. CT (ESPN)
• Monday (if necessary): 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
• Auburn’s 42 wins are the most in a season since 2010 (43) and tied for the eighth most in program history, marking the 12th 40-win season all-time.
• Auburn is 48-43 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 45-33 in regionals, 0-2 in super regionals and 3-8 in the College World Series.
• The Tigers are 5-2 in the postseason this year and are hitting .303 with a 3.66 staff ERA.
• Jay Estes has hit in 24 of the last 26 games and has 17 games with two or more hits during the span. He is 45-for-105 (.429) with 25 runs score, 11 doubles and 15 RBI since Apr. 17.
• Josh Anthony went 9-for-13 (.692) with six runs, three doubles, one home run and seven RBI in three games in the Raleigh Regional and was named the regional MVP.
• Last Friday’s win in the regional opener vs. Northeastern marked the 100th win of Coach Thompson’s Auburn career. He is the fourth head coach in program history to notch his 100th win in his third season as the helm.
• Casey Mize has had a big week as he became the first No. 1 overall pick in program history Monday and was named a finalist for both the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy.
• Tanner Burns is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his last three starts, two of which have come during the postseason. He has pitched at least 6.0 innings in each of his last three appearances.
Scouting the Gators
• Florida entered the postseason as the No. 1 national seed and won the Gainesville Regional with a 5-2 win in a winner-take-all matchup vs. FAU Monday. The Gators have a 45-18 overall record and won the SEC after posting a 20-10 mark in conference play.
• Offensively, Florida ranks ninth in the SEC with a .280 team batting average and is led by SEC Player of the Year Jonathan India, who ranks second in the SEC with a .360 average and has added 19 home runs and 47 RBI.
• On the mound, the Gators rank third in the league with a 3.54 team ERA. SEC Pitcher of the Year Brady Singer leads the conference with a 2.27 ERA and has racked up an 11-1 record to this point in the season.
Series History vs. Florida
• Auburn holds a 132-115-2 all-time record in the series against Florida, but the Gators are 71-63 in games played in Gainesville, including a 2-1 series win at McKethan Stadium earlier this season.
• This weekend marks the first time Auburn and Florida have met in the NCAA Tournament. It is just Auburn’s second ever NCAA Tournament game against a SEC opponent.