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Auburn vows to come back 'fighting'

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Facing 'tall order' in College World Series, Auburn vows to come back 'fighting'

By Tom Green | tgreen@al.com
5-6 minutes

Garrett Farquhar scores in CWS

Auburn's Garrett Farquhar (11) scores a run against Mississippi in the seventh inning during an NCAA College World Series baseball game Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/John Peterson)AP

Butch Thompson knows history isn’t on Auburn’s side, so the Tigers will have to create their own if they hope to keep their College World Series hopes alive.

Following Auburn’s 5-1 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, the team is facing the possibility of a short-lived stay in Omaha, Neb. Auburn will face Stanford on Monday at 1 p.m., with the loser sent packing and the winner keeping its championship aspirations afloat.

If Auburn hopes to remain in contention for its first-ever national championship, it will have to fight its way back through the losers’ bracket—something that, historically, has been difficult to do. As Thompson pointed out in his postgame press conference Saturday night, only four of the last 40 College World Series champions have lost their first game in Omaha.

“It’s a tall order, but that’s what’s good about the way the tournament is set up,” Thompson said.

The Tigers will try to become the fifth team since 1982 to accomplish that task. Standing in their way is No. 2 seed Stanford—one of the three national seeds in Omaha to lose its opening game this week. Stanford was dismantled by Arkansas, 17-2, on Saturday afternoon.

Auburn’s result wasn’t nearly as discouraging, but the Tigers were still understandably disappointed following the opening-game loss to Ole Miss. Auburn couldn’t crack Ole Miss starter Dylan DeLucia, who twirled a gem over 7 2/3 innings of work — just one run on four hits while striking out 10 and walking none. The Tigers also struggled to get finish off innings defensively, with four of the Rebels’ five runs coming on two-out hits.

“It’s just kind of how the whole year has been, too,” said right fielder Bobby Peirce, who drove in Auburn’s lone run against Ole Miss. “We’ve battled back a lot, and one loss isn’t going to kill us. We’re going to come back Monday fighting. I know for sure we’re a team that’s going to fight every game, no matter what. If we’re down five, if we’re up 10, whatever it is, we’re going to fight, so I can promise you we’re going to come out Monday fighting.”

It will be a quick turnaround for Auburn after playing the late game Saturday. The Tigers returned to their hotel shortly before 9:30 p.m. and will regroup Sunday with a team meal, meetings and then practice ahead of Monday’s early afternoon elimination game—which happens to be against one of the best teams in the country.

Stanford is 47-16 on the season, won the Pac-12 regular-season title — finishing just ahead of the Oregon State team Auburn toppled in the Super Regional — and won the Pac-12 Tournament before earning the No. 2 national seed.

“Just over the last couple of years, (Stanford is) a very offensive ballclub,” Thompson said. “We just went through Oregon State, and Stanford kind of squeaked them out, so we know exactly what we’re going to face. As far as the players and the scouting report and watching video and prepping, we’ve not done that, and we haven’t done that all year. The SEC teams are familiar, but we still have to do a lot of work for each team. There’s just no putting the cart in front of the horse.”

While Auburn will have to quickly brush up on Stanford, the Tigers feel like the last four months, particularly the grueling slate of a conference that produced half the College World Series field, have adequately prepared them for the challenge ahead.

“The league we played in is one of the top leagues in the country,” reliever Carson Skipper said. “For 10 weekends straight, it was going through a gauntlet. You’re going to lose a game here, you’re going to lose a game there, but it’s how you respond and bounce back that really defines who you are.”

Auburn is confident it has that response in it, even if the Tigers again find themselves as an underdog Monday. It won’t be the first time they’re counted out, of course; remember, they were picked to finish seventh in the SEC West and second-to-last in the league heading into the season, and few gave them a chance at knocking off Oregon State — which had never previously lost a Super Regional on its home diamond.

“It just shows [that] nobody’s really believed in us,” Peirce said. “Nobody’s believed in us on this side of our bracket, nobody’s picked us to win. And that’s OK with us, because we believe in ourselves. We believe that we’re going to win even after one loss.”

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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