Needing one more win to advance to the College World Series, Auburn battled Florida for 11 tension-filled innings Monday before losing 3-2 in the decisive third game of the Gainesville Super Regional.
“An unbelievable college baseball game,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “I’m proud of my eight seniors and my entire ballclub for battling their heart out.”
The defeat ended an historic season for Auburn (43-23), one in which the Tigers won a super regional game for the first time in program history, along with two SEC Tournament games and a NCAA regional.
Florida’s Austin Langworthy led off the bottom of the 11th with a walk-off home run to send the Gators back to Omaha.
After turning three double plays in Sunday’s 3-2 win, Auburn’s defense dazzled again in game three.
Jay Estes’ running catch in right-center of another Langworthy liner started an 8-4-3 double play in the sixth inning, saving a run and energizing the sizeable Auburn contingent at McKethan Stadium.
Auburn capitalized on the momentum in the seventh, with Luke Jarvis reaching second on a single and outfield error, advancing to third on a wild pitch and scoring with a headfirst slide on Josh Anthony’s sacrifice fly to right to tie the score, 2-2.
In the eighth, left fielder Judd Ward preserved the tie with a diving catch, denying Langworthy of extra bases.
Jonathan India homered to right center in the first inning to give the Gators a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, shortstop Will Holland backhanded a hard hit ball, did a 360 and fired to Jarvis who relayed for a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
Holland’s athleticism helped Auburn even the game in the top of the third. After his two-out infield single, Holland stole second and scored on Steven Williams’ single to right.
In the fourth, Holland made another highlight play, saving a run with a diving stop up the middle on an infield single, preventing Blake Reese from scoring from second. After the next batter struck out, Reese stole home to give the Gators a 2-1 lead.
Andrew Mitchell started for Auburn, striking out four while allowing two runs in 4.1 innings. Davis Daniel relieved Mitchell in the fifth, striking out the first two Gators he faced to end the inning.
On his 21st birthday, Daniel pitched 5.1 scoreless innings, striking out six while allowing only one hit.
“I went out there ready to pour my guts on that field tonight for those boys,” said Daniel. “It’s the greatest team I’ve ever been a part of. Those guys put it on the line for us every night. Just did everything I could to put us in a spot to win the game.”
Cody Greenhill relieved Daniel with two outs in the 10th, stranding two runners on base to end the inning before giving up Langworthy’s game-winning homer the following inning.
After the game, Thompson thanked Auburn’s seniors for the legacy they’re leaving.
“I told them I love them for the rest of their life. They’re part of me. They’re part of my family forever,” he said. “This 2018 version at Auburn has left an unbelievable legacy within our program and on our university that I think is noteworthy.”
COURTESY AUBURN SPORTS INFORMATION