Auburn Baseball 2019 Season Review
Auburn baseball shares a common trait with this year’s men's basketball team: a regular season filled with ups and downs followed by a dazzling postseason that came to an abrupt end. The Tigers reached the College World Series for the first time in 22 years, creating a Cinderella story-like narrative for the team. And while they didn’t have the fairytale ending that fans would have liked to see, there’s lots to be proud of this Butch Thompson led 2019 Auburn baseball season.
After starting the season with a 5-2 record, the Tigers went on a tear by winning their next 15 games, reaching as high as #12 in the national rankings. In that span, Auburn outscored their opponents 105-43 and the winning streak is tied for third longest in program history. Pitching was key early on for the Tigers, led by Elliott Anderson, who started off 4-0 with a 0.46 ERA, and Tanner Burns, who accumulated a 1.41 ERA.
Riding the wave of success, Auburn was all set to take off and compete with the elite teams in the SEC. Things would take a turn for the worse, however, as the Tigers would finish the regular season winning only 12 out of their last 30 games and finishing with an overall record of 32-23. Injuries also hampered the team, as Burns dealt with shoulder problems. With their sputtering end, they entered the SEC Tournament having to compete as an eight seed in Hoover. The fate of the season was looking bleak at the moment for Auburn.
With the SEC Tournament in sight and their NCAA Tournament appearance on the line, the Tigers knew they had to step up their performance. After an impressive opening game performance against Tennessee and a disappointing loss versus Vanderbilt, the team was faced with the task of defeating LSU to stay alive in the tournament.
Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners in scoring position, Auburn pitcher Brooks Fuller threw a wild pitch allowing the LSU runner to score the tying run, and during the same sequence, first baseman Rankin Woley committed a throwing error, allowing LSU to score the winning run. The loss knocked Auburn out of the SEC Tournament and now all they could do is wait to see where they would be playing in the postseason.
Auburn was placed in the Atlanta bracket, earning the number two seed in the regional. After taking care of business with a win versus Costal Carolina, the Tigers stunned host and No. 3 national seed Georgia Tech by winning two in a row to advance to the Super Regionals against North Carolina.
In a gritty series, both teams were tied at a game apiece heading into a pivotal game three in Chapel Hill. Auburn showed no mercy from the start, scoring 13 runs in the first inning, leading them en route to a 14-7 victory and most importantly a trip to the College World Series in Omaha.
Reaching the College World Series was a big step in the right direction for Thompson and the Tigers, and their first opponent was a familiar foe in SEC West rival Mississippi State. Another familiar scenario presented itself in this game: Auburn in the lead in the ninth with the chance to advance. After coming within one out of their first opening round CWS win since 1967, Auburn blew a 4-1 lead to lose to the Bulldogs 5-4, a crushing blow for a team that now had to win their elimination game to stay alive.
A matchup with Louisville was all that stood in the way of the Tigers being able to still advance in Omaha. The game was delayed after the fourth inning due to weather, with the Cardinals leading 4-1. When play resumed a day later, Auburn put up a good fight but ultimately it was not enough. The Tigers lost 5-3 to the Cardinals, and now their season was officially over with a final record of 38 wins and 26 losses.
Despite the tough outcome, there is plenty to look forward to in 2020 if you’re an Auburn baseball fan. Key players on the roster are coming back, including third baseman Edouard Julien and pitcher Jack Owen, who both passed on the MLB after getting drafted. Freshmen such as infielder Ryan Bliss and pitcher Richard Fitts will now have experience to lean on heading into next season, and Burns will have the whole offseason to get his shoulder fully healthy.
Along with familiar faces, there is a strong 2019 recruiting class coming into the Plains, as Baseball America ranked the Tigers as high as ninth in the country.
After getting a taste of Omaha and the College World Series, there’s no doubt the Tigers will be hungry for more success heading into the 2020 season.