Auburn Did Everything It Could to Make it to Omaha—Despite the Actions of the Selection Committee
Auburn coach Butch Thompson has brought his team a long way in three years on the Plains (photo: Matt Stamey/AP)
If you’re a baseball purist, you had to love the display put on by Auburn and Florida Monday night. The third game of the Gainesville Super Regional had everything from great pitching to clutch hits to base stealing gems to highlight-reel defensive plays. It had it all. It was a thing of beauty—except for the ending if you’re Tiger fan.
The game was full of intensity and drama all night long, none more so than in the 11th inning ending. With the game tied at 2-all, Florida’s Austin Langworthy hit what appeared to be a possible home run. However, Auburn right fielder Steven Williams had a chance to rob Langworthy of the homer, but the ball hit his glove and bounced over the wall to give Florida a 3–2 victory and send the Gators to their 12th College World Series.
Edgar Thompson who covers the Gators for the Orlando Sentinel tweeted afterwards, “It’s a shame somebody had to lose that game.” Auburn Coach, Butch Thompson said, “[It was] an unbelievable college baseball game. I’m proud of my entire ballclub for battling their heart out.”
Thompson knew beforehand it would take good pitching and a great defensive effort to beat the No. 1 seed and defending National Champions. And that’s what his players delivered with outfielders Judd Ward and Jay Estes making diving catches and Luke Jarvis and Will Holland making MLB caliber plays in the infield, including turning double plays.
And, there was dominating pitching on both sides, especially that of freshman Davis Daniel who on his 21st birthday had the best performance of his career, striking out six batters and allowing only one hit in 5.1 scoreless innings.
The team left everything on the field. “I thought it was a great baseball game,” Thompson said. “It was going to end eventually, somehow, some way. We did everything we could.”
The loss ended one of the best seasons in Auburn history. The Tigers won 43 games, including playing in an NCAA Regional and a Super Regional. But it should not have come down to playing in Gainesville where the Gators haven’t lost back-to-back games all year.
It was an exciting game, one that would have befitted the final round of the College World Series. But, truthfully, these two teams should have never been paired in a Super Regional. You can be sure there will be teams playing in Omaha that Auburn would have handily beat in its own super regional.
It’s still mind boggling that Auburn was not selected to host a regional. Without a doubt the Selection Committee got it wrong. Auburn belonged in the top 16. The Tigers had the No. 13 RPI, No. 8 strength of schedule and a 19–19 record against RPI top 50 teams. Auburn’s RPI was stronger than four teams selected to host, its strength of schedule was stronger than eight of the 16 and the Tigers had more Tier 1 wins that 11 of the 16 regional hosts.
But, for some unknown reason, the committee went against its own metrics and snubbed the Tigers. It’s a travesty for the young men who play the game by the rules to only have the rule makers not follow the rules.
It’s particularly painful because it makes the second year in a row that an Auburn season ended in heartbreak. Last year the Tigers were one pitch away from winning the Tallahassee Regional, and this year were one bounce of the ball away from a trip to Omaha. Instead, they are left with thoughts of what might have been if not for the actions of an unfair selection committee.
The Tigers played their hearts out and made the Auburn family proud. Butch Thompson will probably lose seven players this year to the major leagues, including No.1 Draft pick Casey Mize. But one thing’s for certain, Auburn baseball is in good hands with Thompson. They will be back, and eventually they will make it to Omaha.
That, you can bet on.