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Auburn erupts for 13 first-inning runs, headed to World Series for first time since 1997

(Auburn)

Auburn (38-26) exploded for thirteen runs in the top of the first inning to advance to the College World Series for the first time in 22 years by defeating host North Carolina 14-7 on Monday to capture the Chapel Hill Super Regional.

The first inning outburst was the second most runs scored in an inning in NCAA tournament history, exceeded only by an 18-run seventh inning by LSU in a 29-13 win over Georgia Tech in 1996.

It was also the most runs scored by Auburn in an inning since April of 2000 when the Tigers erupted for fourteen runs in the first inning of a 19-2 seven-inning rout of Mercer.

Auburn, which finished with a losing record in the Southeastern Conference during the regular season, sent 17 batters to the plate in the first inning on Monday, pounding out nine hits and drawing four walks with another player reaching base on a fielding error.

One of those hits was a three-run blast by sophomore outfielder Judd Ward, increasing Auburn’s lead to 8-0. It was Ward’s fifth home run of the season.

“We were sitting there at the hotel last night, on the bus today, saying, ‘Let’s swing it. Let’s score first,’” said junior Rankin Woley, who was 3-for-6 with two RBIs in the blowout. “We put up 13. We didn’t want to stop because we knew they’re a great hitting team and they could come back at any point. I’m just so happy. This is awesome.”

It was North Carolina’s first loss at home in a Super Regional since the NCAA implemented the current format.

Freshman Aaron Sabato homered twice — his 17th and 18th home runs of the season — and junior Ashton McGee belted a three-run shot in the losing effort. Sabato’s two blasts are three more than any other freshman has hit in UNC program history.

North Carolina finished the 2019 season with a 46-19 record.

Auburn, which rallied from behind to defeat UNC 11-7 in Saturday’s opening game in the best-of-three series before losing a 2-0 pitcher’s duel on Sunday, is one of four SEC teams to advance to the College World Series this year.

“To see our players celebrate is special to me,” said Auburn head coach Butch Thompson. “To see the perseverance, and to see these young men rally around one another, I am proud to be their coach.”

Auburn has appeared in Omaha on four previous times in program history — 1967, 1976, 1994 and 1997 — but has never captured the national championship.

Auburn will face conference opponent Mississippi State on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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