Story by Wyatt Vaughn
Photos by Robert Noelke
Mother nature didn’t plan on letting up for day two of the College World Series in Omaha, not even for the elimination game between the Auburn Tigers and Louisville Cardinals. It got so bad that a rain delay stopped the game in the fifth inning, but it was the Cardinals who came out of this muddy matchup clean, and relatively unscathed.
Up to this point in the season, these two teams could not have had a more different path. Louisville was the seventh overall seed in the country and was all but promised a spot in the College World Series. They met that fate by winning their regional and then sweeping Eastern Carolina in the super regional before losing to Vanderbilt in the first round of the CWS.
Auburn, on the other hand, was not even a top 16 seed in the tournament, which meant they would have to go on the road in the regional and super regional. But the Tigers defied the odds by getting out of the Atlanta regional, hosted by Georgia Tech, the third overall seed in the country. Then the Tigers went on the road again, to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina, who they defeated in three games to advance to the CWS. In the first round, they lost to Mississippi State after giving up a four-run ninth inning. Louisville and Auburn was a classic setup for a David vs. Goliath storyline.
The Cardinals started off the scoring in the top of the first inning with a Tyler Fitzgerald solo home run off of Auburn starter Bailey Horn. Then the Tigers quickly struck back with a run in the bottom of the second after two one-out hits and an RBI groundout. But the Cardinals took the lead right back, as they scored three runs in the top of the fourth with a bases-loaded walk and an Auburn fielding error, giving the Cardinals a three-run lead.
At this point, the downpour was too heavy to continue the game, and the umpires ushered the players and coaches back into the clubhouses with Louisville leading 4-1. It was a whole 21 hours before the game resumed on CWS day three. When it finally started back up, the Tigers came out strong, not ready to give the Cardinals the win just yet. They came right out of the rain delay with a run in the bottom of the seventh, courtesy of a Conor Davis RBI double, cutting the Louisville lead to two.
With the momentum shifting toward Auburn, the Cardinals dealt yet another dagger with a run in the top of the eighth, pushing the lead back to three. Auburn tried to make a comeback in the bottom of the ninth with a Conor Davis home run. Auburn had a second wind with the restart, but in the end, it was too little too late. Auburn took the L and headed back home to the plains.
For the Auburn Tigers, their Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament had come to an end. But the Tigers shouldn’t hang their heads about their whole season, which finished at an impressive 38-28.
For the Cardinals of Louisville, this elimination game victory gives them their 50th win of the season putting them at 50-17 overall. The Cards will return to action on Thursday at 6 pm Central in another elimination game to take on the loser of Vanderbilt vs Mississippi State.