OMAHA, Neb. — Auburn’s arms will have their chance again today.
It’s ‘all hands on deck’ for Auburn in its elimination game with Louisville.
The Tigers are set to start their emerging young leftie on the mound facing elimination, but several battle-tested Auburn pitchers who threw Sunday are available again, as Auburn gets set to take on Louisville at 1 p.m. CT Tuesday at TD Ameritrade Park on ESPN.
Redshirt sophomore Bailey Horn will start, riding momentum from a stellar performance against Georgia Tech earlier in the NCAA Tournament. Elliott Anderson and Richard Fitts, who all threw during Auburn’s Sunday night war with Mississippi State, could be back for more and for redemption at the College World Series.
Together, the staff will face a Louisville team that, before anything else, Auburn head coach Butch Thompson described as ‘athletic’ — and a team that has experience in Omaha, after coming to the College World Series in 2017.
“These guys have been here before,” Thompson said Monday, looking ahead to Louisville. “All of these teams have done this before and we’re in the process of trying to figure that out.
“They are extremely athletic, opportunistic offensively. They’ve got a couple of guys that can really swing it.”
Louisville, the No. 7 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, lost to the No. 2 seed, Vanderbilt, 3-1 on Sunday to fall to today’s losers’ game. The game was tied 1-1 in the seventh before Vanderbilt used a two-run rally in the bottom of that frame to win it.
Auburn is one of the three out of eight teams in the College World Series that ran through the NCAA Tournament without a national seed, and without hosting in the Regional round.
It was in that Regional round, at Georgia Tech, that Horn established himself as a starter in Auburn’s rotation during this postseason push. He fired six scoreless innings in Auburn’s regional-clinching win. In the Super Regional round, he gave up two runs in three and a one-third innings against North Carolina.
Auburn turns to him now for Tuesday's start, but Anderson and Fitts have more fight left in them if needed, and Cody Greenhill may as well.
Auburn went through five pitchers in its opening loss to Mississippi State on Sunday. Jack Owen pitched into the sixth and is burned. Anderson threw nine pitches, Greenhill threw 17 pitches and Fitts threw 22 pitches as Auburn’s bullpen worked to make it to the finish line.
Would-be starter Tanner Burns, limited with injury, came on in the ninth to try to salvage Auburn’s puncher’s chance with his experienced hand on Sunday night before that chance unraveled, and he’ll be out for today’s game, Thompson said.
“At the end of the day, I thought Coach (Steve) Smith designed a good enough plan, not only to have a chance to win last night, but to allow guys a chance to come back,” Thompson said at Monday’s practice. “Elliott Anderson, 100 percent, I think Fitts, 100 percent can come back and help us in the ballgame tomorrow. Of course, Greenhill would be a check and see and Tanner will be out for tomorrow.
“That’s how it lines up. Two of the pieces that pitched last night should be able to go tomorrow.”
They’ll throw to Louisville — the team that, as Thompson pointed out, Auburn will have to study the most. Auburn’s side of the bracket at the College World Series is loaded with three SEC teams, namely Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, and Louisville is the other team and the only one that Auburn hasn’t played several times this season.
“Just athletic — a perennial club,” Thompson said. “Nothing we haven’t seen, but maybe a little more athletic, a little more small-ball out of their club. They’ve definitely got some guys that can swing it. ”