Foster, Burkhalter lead Auburn past Stanford in Omaha

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

Auburn sent Stanford to an early exit in the College World Series.

Cole Foster photo courtesy of Grayson Belanger/Auburn athletics.

Auburn got a huge start from Trace Bright, a big relief outing from closer Blake Burkhalter and one huge hit from second baseman Cole Foster in a 6-2 win over Stanford in the College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., on Monday.

Foster, who’s been ill this week, continued his huge NCAA tournament with perhaps the biggest hit of Auburn’s season. His bases-loaded double in the sixth took Auburn (43-21) from one run down to two ahead, and the Tigers never looked back in eliminating Stanford, the tournament’s top remaining seed.

Burkhalter, who was terrific in shutting the door against Oregon State so that Auburn could get to Omaha, was nails again on Monday. He retired seven of the eight hitters he faced and struck out five to pick up his 16th save. 

Bright went five innings and allowed just two runs, striking out eight against the powerful Cardinal lineup. 

Auburn did little against starter Drew Dowd (four shutout innings) but broke through against Quinn Matthews. The Stanford lefty had a 2.62 ERA in 96 1/3 innings coming in, but was ineffective (three innings, six runs, all earned) against the Tigers. 

With the Tigers trailing 2-0, Auburn’s Blake Rambusch and Mike Bello led off with singles and with one out before Mathews plunked Sonny DiChiara. Bobby Peirce walked to force in a run and then two batters later, Foster just missed a grand slam to left center by about a foot, setting for a bases-clearing double that gave Auburn a 3-2 lead. 

But the Cardinal, one of the country’s top-hitting teams, made it interesting in the eighth. 

Auburn’s Tommy Sheehan loaded the bases with two outs and then coach Butch Thompson went to Burkhalter, who ran the count to 3-2 with strikes on a pair of cutters. Then, on one of the biggest pitches of the Tigers’ season Burkhalter went to that pitch again and got Brandon Barrera to swing through it to keep the lead at 6-2.

Peirce added an RBI double as part of a two-run seventh. 

The Tigers will face the loser of Monday night’s Arkansas-Ole Miss game in a 6 Central game on Tuesday evening. 

Stanford, the tournament's No. 2 overall seed, finished at 47-18. The Cardinal lost to Arkansas, 17-3, in their CWS opener.