Advancing to the College World Series final out of the loser's bracket is not an easy task - it's only been done four times in the last forty years. In 1998, Mike Gillespie's Southern California team did it, as did Ray Tanner's 2010 South Carolina team and Pat Casey's 2006 & 2018 Oregon State teams.
Butch Thompson reached out to them from his Omaha, Nebraska hotel room on Saturday night. "I was, like, 'OK, Pat Casey did it in ‘06 and ‘18, and Tanner did it in ‘10,” Thompson discussed on Monday. “How about I call them tonight since I’m sitting here?”
Casey and Tanner were more than happy to oblige, "Both of those men got back and both gave me paragraphs of taking me through the journey with their teams" detailed Thompson on Monday. "Those men, it was like they were excited to hear from me and they're like 'yeah, this is what we did. This is what we talked about. This became our focus' - I'm just hunting for every inch we can for our program."
Auburn used their insight to take care of business on Monday, coming back to defeat Stanford 6-2 behind some timely hitting and yet another clutch pitching performance to hold a powerful Stanford offense to eight hits and two runs with sixteen strikeouts.
Now the attention turns to Arkansas, a familiar SEC West foe that came to Plainsman Park and defeated Auburn in early May, taking two games out of three. Both teams are playing their third game in four days, both having lost to Ole Miss at different points in Omaha.
Auburn will start junior righty Mason Barnett, 3-2 on the season with a 3.98 ERA. Moving from midweeks to the weekend rotation after the loss of Hayden Mullins, Barnett has flashed MLB level stuff this season, most notably in the Auburn Regional clincher against UCLA when he threw 6.1 innings of one hit, scoreless baseball with ten strikeouts before the game was suspended due to weather. Barnett started game one of the regular season series against Arkansas, going four innings with five hits, two runs, two walks, and five strikeouts on 73 pitches, leaving with the lead. Auburn went on to lose that game 11-8 after the bullpen allowed 9 runs over the final three innings.
When he's on, Barnett features a mid-90s fastball with a hard-biting slider to righties as a putaway pitch. His 12-6 curveball is equally effective against both lefties and righties, owing to its straight vertical break. His changeup, typically 83-85, has good velocity separation from the fastball but he sometimes doesn't disguise the arm speed on the CB or CH well, allowing hitters to pick up on it.
Opposing Barnett is believed to be sophomore righty Will McEntire. 1-2 with a 2.81 ERA on the season, McEntire's gone back and forth between the bullpen and rotation for the Hogs. Starting 7 games and appearing in 11, he's thrown 41.2 innings on the season with 22 walks and 40 strikeouts.
Owing to the blowout nature of the first two games in the CWS, Arkansas still has top relievers lefty Hagen Smith and righty Brady Tygart, both freshmen, available, although stud Jaxon Wiggins threw 47 pitches against Ole Miss and is expected to be unavailable. Smith, 6-2 with a 4.85 ERA on the season, started 14 games early in the season before moving to the bullpen and is a threat to start Tuesday as well; he has not thrown since the final game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional. If he does go, look for him to heavily feature his firm low-90s fastball against both lefties and righties, along with a slider and a change that both profile as above-average.
Auburn, similarly, is expected to be without closer Blake Burkhalter, who threw 39 pitches to finish the last 2.1 innings against Stanford, with one hit and five strikeouts. If Auburn advances, senior lefty Carson Skipper is planned to be the Wednesday starter, so ostensibly he is unavailable on Tuesday as well. In their place, look for Auburn to use the bullpen combo of Carson Swilling (2 scoreless innings against Arkansas and the win on May 7th), Chase Isbell (2.1 IP, 1H, 1R, 3 Ks on May 7th), and Chase Allsup (0.2 IP, 1H, 1R, 2Ks on May 8th) to finish out the game behind Barnett, with freshman John Armstrong (who has warmed up in both CWS games to this point but not entered either contest) to be a fallback to escape an inning, if needed.
Offensively, Arkansas has a team .277 batting average, with only three lineup regulars batting over .300. Michael Turner and Chris Lanzilli lead with batting averages of .318, while Cayden Wallace (.300/.393/.562) is one of three players with more than 15 homeruns, leading the team with 16. On the basepaths, they're not prolific stealers but are very efficient at picking their spots, going 49-59 on attempted steals on the season and paced by Wallace's 12 steals in 13 attempts.
Auburn continues their quest for the College World Series championship tonight at 6PM against Arkansas in an elimination game, the 2nd for Auburn of this College World Series. The game is being televised on ESPN and broadcast on Channel 84 on Sirius XM as well as the radio call, with Voice of the Tigers Andy Burcham and producer Brad Law, being available on AuburnTigers.com and locally on 93.9 FM.
Engage with Auburn Daily on Socials!