Auburn beats UCF in opening game of Tallahassee Regional
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Auburn junior right-hander Keegan Thompson struck out a season-high nine batters, and a 3-run home run by freshman Will Holland provided the difference in a 7-4 win over UCF Friday in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional.
The Tigers (36-24) will advance in the winners’ bracket and will face the winner of Florida State and Tennessee Tech at 6 p.m. CT Saturday.
“Keegan Thompson was really good,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said, “and Central Florida is a very good baseball team. I thought we were a little rusty the first few innings; we hit into four double plays in the first five innings, and I give (UCF starter) Robby Howell a lot of credit for that. We just got a victory against a young man that’s 10-0. We got some base runners, we did some things, we scored a couple of times. We showed resilience, we got to the (UCF) bullpen, and we outlasted them.
“We have an exciting freshman shortstop in Will Holland that gave us a much-needed big swing, and then Keegan gave us eight great innings. And then Cole Lipscomb was able to finish the ballgame for us.”
Thompson (7-4) equaled his longest outing of the season, tossing eight complete innings while allowing just two earned runs on four hits. His nine strikeouts were his most in a game since striking out nine against Arkansas on April 4, 2015. He also had a stretch from the second through sixth innings where he retired 12 consecutive UCF hitters.
With Auburn leading 4-1 in the top of the eighth, Holland provided some much-needed insurance as he launched a 2-0 offering over the left-field wall, bringing home Sam Gillikin and Jay Estes to increase the Tigers’ lead to 7-1. Those three runs would prove to be huge as the Knights scored one in the eighth and two more in the ninth to cut the final margin to 7-4.
Senior Daniel Robert led the Tigers at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a walk. Josh Anthony provided two crucial hits, a pair of RBI singles that gave the Tigers their third and fourth runs of the game. And Holland was 2-for-4 on the day with the 3-run homer and a double.
Auburn struck first in the second inning as Jay Estes’ team-leading 18th double of the season brought home Blake Logan from first to make it 1-0. Estes would then score one pitch later as Sam Gillikin reached on an error to push the Tigers’ advantage to 2-0. A UCF solo homer in the bottom of the second would cut the Auburn margin to 2-1.
It would remain 2-1 until the top of the sixth, when a pair of singles from Luke Jarvis and Robert, plus a sacrifice bunt by Dylan Ingram where he reached on an error, loaded the bases with no outs for Josh Anthony. He delivered with a single through the right side, scoring Jarvis to increase the lead to 3-1.
Anthony came through again in the seventh, making it 4-1 with a 2-out RBI single that brought home Holland, who had led off the inning with a double.
UCF starter Robby Howell (10-1) gave up a season-high 10 hits to Auburn in seven full innings of work, striking out four and walking five while giving up four runs (three earned). Rylan Thomas and Kam Gellinger each hit home runs for the Knights.
Auburn has now won at least one game in a regional in 18 of 20 all-time postseason appearances. The Tigers are now 43-41 all-time in NCAA Regional play, including an 18-11 mark in games played in Tallahassee.