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NCAA BASEBALL

Auburn climb out of the basement to beat Stanford

Down by two in the middle innings of an elimination game, the Auburn Tigers suddenly came to life and put together a rally to send Stanford back home

Update:
Down by two in the middle innings of an elimination game, the Auburn Tigers suddenly came to life and put together a rally to send Stanford back home

Auburn looked to be done. They were in a three-game offensive slump, barely putting up any runs in Corvallis, although their defense helped them out in the must-do third game at Oregon State, and mustering only one run against Ole Miss.

Word around the campfire is that several of their players are struggling with some kind of gastrointestinal bug, leaving them listless and dehydrated. It was a good run, more than anyone expected out of the Tigers, if we are honest, but it seemed to be over for them.

Stanford, the best in the West, were rolling along, having put up a run in each of their first two innings, and their pitching was holding Auburn at bay. And then something happened. In the sixth inning, Auburn bats suddenly came to life.

It all kicked off with back-to-back singles from Mike Bello and Blake Rambusch, breaking a 31-inning stretch where the Tigers failed to get the leadoff man on base. When Sonny DiChiara was hit by a pitch to load the bases, it looked for the first time as if Stanford lefty Quinn Mathews was shaken up. He lost Bobby Peirce on a borderline ball four to give Auburn their first run. He then gave up a two-out double to Cole Foster that cleared the bases and put Auburn up 4-2 at the end of six.

Small-ball and aggressive play began to pay dividends for Auburn, “goofy” baseball as Auburn coach Butch Thompson referred to it after the game. “It made me happy. It was goofy baseball but we scored four runs.”

In the seventh inning, the Tigers did it again, and with the same personnel. Mike Bello led off with a walk, and Blake Rambusch followed him up with a double. A sac fly by Brody Moore scored the run from third, and a Bobby Peirce double scored Blake Rambusch to give the Tigers a 6-2 lead.

Stanford was never able to recover their composure. Two singles was all they could muster in the final three innings of the game as the College World Series door closed on the Cardinal for a final time.

With the incredible dominance that Stanford showed in the Pac 12 this year, it is perhaps surprising that their bats were so muted in Omaha.

Auburn, on the other hand, was the team picked to come in last in the SEC, and has had a phenomenal amount of success when compared to where everyone thought this team should be. Their work on the mound is not to be discounted when talking about Stanford’s lack of offense. Trace Bright went five innings, allowing only two runs on five hits, striking out eight Cardinal hitters for no walks.

Tommy Sheehan came on in relief in the sixth and gave up two hits, while Blake Burkhalter slammed the door shut, giving up just one hit in two innings pitched.

Auburn is back in action at 6 p.m. facing the Arkansas Razorbacks in yet another sudden-death match, with the loser heading home. Whatever happens, the Auburn Tigers should hold their heads high. And who knows? Maybe there is more life left in them yet.

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