OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Wins are always hard to come by for Louisville at the College World Series, and this one was no different.
Two relievers had to survive anxious moments to hold Auburn to two runs over five innings before the 5-3 victory was secure Wednesday, completing a game suspended by rain one day earlier.
The No. 7 national seed Cardinals (50-17) improved to 32-1 all-time when scoring five or more runs in an NCAA Tournament game. But they are just 3-10 overall at the CWS.
“As I’ve learned, it’s not easy winning out here, and they don’t give you anything,” said Dan McDonnell, the coach for all five of Louisville’s CWS appearances. “You’ve got to earn it. We talk about toughness and playing with an edge, and our guys really showed that yesterday and today being in the elimination game.”
Auburn (38-28), which squandered a three-run lead in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, went 0-2 in its first CWS since 1997.
“Hate that it ends today,” Tigers coach Butch Thompson said. “I think our players, just right up to the end, you could see that our guys are pretty resilient and continued to fight.”
Louisville led 4-1 when the game was suspended after four innings Tuesday.
It was 5-2 in the eighth when the Tigers mounted their biggest threat against closer Michael McAvene, who took over for Adam Elliott (3-2) to start the seventh inning.
The bottom of Auburn’s order produced three straight singles to load the bases with two outs, and McAvene ran the count full against leadoff man Judd Ward. But Ward swung and missed on a 96-mph fastball on the outside half of the plate and finished 0 for 10 in the CWS.
“It was pretty deflating, but at the same time, all year long we faced a ton of adversity throughout our games and we’ve always battled back and we’ve always responded well,” Auburn’s Steven Williams said. “We tried to go back out in the ninth, get a shutdown inning, get back in here and have some good at-bats and see what happens.”
Michael Kirian came on in the ninth and gave up Conor Davis’ one-out home run off the top of the fence in left center, cutting the lead to two. Williams hit a two-out double into the right-field corner before Kirian struck out Rankin Woley to end the game and record his fifth save.
Louisville’s celebration on the field was muted.
“We’re looking for the next game, like we’re not done yet,” the Cards’ Drew Campbell said.
The Cards’ first four runs came before play was suspended. Tyler Fitzgerald homered in the first, and the Cardinals converted one hit, three walks and two errors into three runs in the fourth against Bailey Horn (4-2) and Elliott Anderson.
“It’s something I wanted to do as a 3-hole hitter, get our lineup started early, and something I wasn’t able to do the game before,” Fitzgerald said. “So just to get the momentum in our favor, top of the first inning, was huge for us and just set the tone early on.”
Once the teams returned Wednesday, Davis’ two-out RBI double got Auburn within 4-2 in the seventh. The Cardinals got back that run the next inning on Campbell’s base hit with none out. The Tigers escaped further damage when Justin Lavey popped out trying to bunt, Ryan Watson picked off pinch runner Trey Leonard at second and Henry Davis struck out.
“Just to get here and to make a mark like we have, it’s been 22 years and we’ve been working really hard,” Auburn’s Conor Davis said. “I just can’t wait to see where the program goes with Coach Thompson at its head.”
THAT HAD TO HURT
Auburn catcher Matt Scheffler took a warmup pitch off his right knee before the game restarted. He writhed in pain, was checked by trainer and went back to work.
Louisville plays another elimination game Thursday against Mississippi State.