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Auburn advances to Super Regional

The Auburn University baseball team swept the NCAA Atlanta Regional and advanced in the Division I Tournament – with some help from a couple of former Russellville Golden Tigers.

Playing at Russ Chandler Stadium on the campus of Georgia Tech, the Auburn team won three games in three days to claim back-to-back regional championships for the first time in school history. Leftfielder Judd Ward and pitcher Cody Greenhill have played key roles on both of those Auburn squads in their first two seasons at AU.

Ward went 5-for-12 at the plate in the regional and continued his strong defensive play in the outfield, while Greenhill came on in relief during the regional clincher and picked up the save to send the Tigers to the next round.

Ward also received the honor of being named to the Atlanta Regional All-Tournament Team.

The Tigers opened regional play May 31 with a 16-7 win over Coastal Carolina. All nine starters got hits for AU as they outhit the Chanticleers 18-10.

Ward went 3-for-5 at the plate in the leadoff spot. The sophomore also walked once, scored twice and had an RBI on a single in the game’s eighth inning.

In a sign of big things to come for Steven Williams, he went 4-for-5 with five RBIs to lead the Tigers to victory. Ryan Bliss had three hits for Auburn, while Will Holland and Rankin Woley added two each. Conor Davis, Matt Scheffler, Edouard Julien and Kason Howell had one hit apiece. Williams and Davis had home runs for the Tigers.

Jack Owen got the start on the mound, and he went 3.2 innings before Elliott Anderson came on and worked 2.2 innings of relief to get the win. Ryan Watson finished things off by pitching the final 2.2 innings.

June 1, Auburn faced Georgia Tech, and the Tigers shocked the Yellow Jackets with a four-run ninth inning to grab an exciting 6-5 walk-off win on a three-run Williams’ home run – on an 0-2 count with two outs.

Decatur’s Tanner Burns got the start on the mound for Auburn, and he went three innings, throwing 58 pitches and allowing five runs on five hits – with one of the runs being earned.

Richard Fitts came on in relief and got the win by pitching the next six innings, allowing no runs and four hits.

Connor Thomas was the only Yellow Jacket pitcher, and he got the loss, which dropped his record to 9-2 on the season.

Ward went 2-for-4, including a double, and Bliss added a home run for the Tigers. Julien and Howell pitched in with two hits apiece.

Sunday Georgia Tech defeated Coastal 10-8 to eliminate the Chanticleers and set up a rematch with Auburn. Tech would need to beat the Tigers twice to advance, but Auburn took care of business and moved to the next round with a 4-1 win without needing a deciding game Monday.

Seeing his first action of the regional, Greenhill was well-rested and ready to go out of the Auburn bullpen. The sophomore right-hander came on in relief of starter Bailey Horn and worked the game’s final three innings to pick up his team-leading, 11th save of the season.

Horn got the win to improve his record to 4-0. Greenhill allowed one a hit and a run on a Tristin English homer, and he struck out four Yellow Jackets.

Williams added a double and two RBIs to his regional total. Woley and Howell also had extra-base hits, and Ward reached base twice on walks.

Auburn (36-25) will now travel to take on North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in the Chapel Hill Super Regional. Coach Butch Thompson’s Auburn team will need to win two of three games against the Tar Heels (45-17) to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.