06/16 23:41 CDT Gilbert gets bases-loaded hit, Bulldogs beat Auburn 5-4
Gilbert gets bases-loaded hit, Bulldogs beat Auburn 5-4
By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) --- Marshall Gilbert turned a mostly forgettable night at the
plate into a memorable one.
The No. 9 batter hit a bases-loaded single up the middle that capped a four-run
ninth inning and gave Mississippi State a 5-4 walk-off victory over Auburn in
the College World Series on Sunday.
Gilbert had been 0 for 4 before he came to bat, following six teammates who had
kept the line moving.
"First of all, I was in awe by everybody that was able to get the job done
before me," Gilbert said. "It was incredible, the fact we could get to that
point to where I was coming up to the plate, and all the at-bats prior to that
I had kind of been a little off, missed some pitches. I kept getting
encouragement from my teammates saying, 'Keep going, keep going, don't quit.'
Gilbert ripped a shot past pitcher Tanner Burns and just out of reach of second
baseman Ryan Bliss. Dustin Skelton came home from third and the Mississippi
State dugout emptied, with players running into right field to mob Gilbert
after the Bulldogs' third walk-off win of the season.
"The bond we have is something that is hard to break," Gilbert said. "So
believing in one another, going out there leaving it out there on your team, it
pays off in the end. And we work every pitch to the last. You're never out of a
ballgame and we all know that, so when we all believe in each other, good
The No. 6 national seed Bulldogs (52-13) threatened time and again before
finally breaking through for their sixth straight win in the NCAA Tournament.
Auburn (38-27), making its first CWS appearance since 1997, was within an out
of wrapping up the win. But third baseman Edouard Julien's wild throw to first
on Dustin Skelton's grounder allowed Elijah MacNamee to score the tying run.
"For eight and two-thirds I just thought everybody associated did a nice job,"
Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. "Then we had a chance to win the baseball
game --- I don't think there's any doubt about that --- and just one play away
Burns (4-4) intentionally walked Rowdey Jordan and Josh Hatcher beat Julien's
throw to first on a soft grounder to load the bases for Gilbert.
"We fought to the last out and just kept competing," first-year MSU coach Chris
Lemonis said. "We had a couple opportunities to drive in runs and didn't, but
at the very end the grit of our ballclub played out and we were able to put
some balls in play."
Cole Gordon (5-0) pitched one inning for the win.
Before the ninth, it had otherwise been a mostly frustrating night for the
Bulldogs, who stranded 11 runners and had bases loaded in the fifth and sixth
innings but came away with only one run.
Julien, who put his hands to his face and looked skyward after his off-target
throw let in the tying run, had stood to be the Tigers' hero. He homered and
drove in three runs against SEC pitcher of the year Ethan Small.
Small opened with five straight strikeouts before Rankin Woley singled and
Julien drove a fastball 418 feet into the top row of the bleachers in
right-center for a 2-0 lead. After Small issued three walks in the fourth,
Julien singled in another run to make it 3-0.
Small, the Milwaukee Brewers' first-round draft pick two weeks ago, left after
facing two batters in the sixth. He struck out eight to run his nation-leading
season total to 176 in 107 innings, and the three earned runs he allowed
matched his season high.
Auburn left-handed starter Jack Owen worked five shutout innings and left with
no outs and two runners on base in the sixth. The Bulldogs finally broke
through when Gunner Halter singled off reliever Elliott Anderson to cut it to
Auburn turned to closer Cody Greenhill, who struck out Marshall Gilbert to end
the sixth but was pulled after the Bulldogs' first two batters reached in the
Richard Fitts came on and induced a double-play ball and got Dustin Skelton to
ground to second baseman Ryan Bliss, who was playing right behind the bag on a
shift and threw him out at first.
Bliss made another big play during Fitts' 1-2-3 eighth inning, but Jake Mangum
doubled leading off the bottom of the ninth, and Thompson brought in Burns to
relieve for the first time in 33 career appearances.
"I remember being on defense with Cole pitching, and I had the weirdest feeling
about this inning," MacNamee said. "When Jake hit that double, I said, 'Here we
go.' When we had that first dude on, even though we were down there was a
little confidence from having our leadoff man on base. He's the best leadoff
man in the country."
Mississippi State plays a Bracket 2 winners' game Tuesday night against
Vanderbilt, which beat Louisville 3-1.
Auburn meets Louisville in an elimination game Tuesday afternoon.