0612 Auburn baseball

Auburn freshman reliever Richard Fitts (43) pitched from the third inning into the eighth during the Tigers' 14-7 victory over North Carolina Monday in Game 3 at Chapel Hill, N.C.

AUBURN – Auburn’s going all the way to Omaha.

The Tigers’ long, winding ride through the year is ending at college baseball’s final stop, far from the Plains and at college baseball’s mountaintop.

But it’s only fitting, at the pinnacle of an up-and-down season, that the team will be greeted at the College World Series by some familiar faces from series past.

Auburn is one of four SEC teams headed to Omaha to make up half of the eight-team field.

Auburn opens its play there against an all-too-familiar foe in Mississippi State on Sunday night (6:30 p.m., ESPN2). Vanderbilt looms on the same side of the CWS bracket.

The Tigers have been through battles with them both, taking bumps and bruises all through the rigors of what’s proven itself to be the country’s best conference this season.

Now, on the biggest stage, there’s more of those battles left to fight — and Auburn might not have ever wanted it any other way.

Auburn meets Mississippi State and Vanderbilt meets Louisville with those pairings crossing one another on one side of the tournament bracket.

Those games are set for Sunday. The winners and losers will meet Tuesday.

Auburn is 38-26. Mississippi State stands 51-13 after beating Stanford in the Starkville Super Regional.

On the other side of the bracket in Omaha, Arkansas will meet Florida State and Texas Tech will meet Michigan as those four teams work to find their representative in the CWS championship series.

The only way Auburn can meet Arkansas is in the finals. The two halves of the brackets are separated. The four teams on either side play a double-elimination tourney. The winners advance to a best-of-three series for the national championship.

Mississippi State beat Auburn two games to one in the teams’ three-game series earlier this year in the regular season in Starkville, Miss., in late March.

Auburn stole the opening Friday game 6-5 on March 22, before the Bulldogs charged back to win 15-2 and 20-15 in the next two games.

Auburn’s been swept by Vanderbilt in four games this season, losing all three in a rough weekend in Nashville in late April and falling to Vanderbilt 11-1 in the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

Auburn and Mississippi State are scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT start Sunday, after Vanderbilt and Louisville meet at 1 p.m. CT.

If Auburn wins, the Tigers will meet the Vanderbilt-Louisville winner at 6 p.m. CT Tuesday.

If Auburn loses, the Tigers will play the Vanderbilt-Louisville loser in an elimination game set for 1 p.m. CT Tuesday.

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