Freshmen Julien stars in Auburn’s tournament-opening win over Northeastern
By George Nunnelley
RALEIGH, N.C. – No. 19 Auburn jumped out to a first-inning lead behind a three-run home run from Edouard Julien and never looked back as the Tigers ultimately defeated Northeastern, 13-4, in the first game of the Raleigh Regional at Dail Park Friday afternoon.
Freshman right-hander Tanner Burns (7-4, 3.12) picked up his third straight win on the mound, while Julien and freshmen roommate Steven Williams combined for six runs, seven hits, two home runs and seven RBI in the game.
The win was Auburn’s 40th of the season, marking the 12th 40-win season in program history, and was the 100th win of head coach Butch Thompson’s career. He is just the fourth head coach in program history to notch his 100th win in his third season at the helm.
Auburn’s (40-21) nine-run margin of victory is also tied for the team’s fourth largest in NCAA postseason play.
“I just thought the first inning was huge,” Thompson said. “They had bases loaded and we wound up getting out of the inning with a pop-up and ground ball. Then (Edouard) hitting a home run, going up 3-0 in the first inning was huge in the ball game even though it was early in the ball game. We’re thankful to get this first win.”
Burns became the first freshman since 1998 to start a regional opener for Auburn and pitched an effective 6.0 innings. The Decatur, Ala., native allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with just one walk and two strikeouts.
Left-hander Welby Malczeski relieved Burns in the seventh and earned his second save of the season after tossing the final 3.0 innings and surrendering just one run on two hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
After Burns stranded the bases loaded in the top of the first, Julien stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs and launched his team-leading 16th home run of the season over the wall in left-centre. The home run pushed Julien’s RBI total to 65, matching assistant coach Gabe Gross and Todd Faulkner for the second most by an Auburn freshman in program history.
Northeastern got a pair back on a RBI double and a couple of Auburn fielding miscues in the third, but the Tigers answered in the bottom half as Jay Estes ripped a RBI single back up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded.
Burns trotted back out and retired the Huskies in order in the fourth before Williams broke the game open. Already 2-for-2 on the day, the Albany, Ga., native stepped to the plate with two on and one out and sent the seventh pitch of his at-bat over the wall in right field to extend the Auburn advantage to 7-2.
Auburn put at least one base runner aboard in each inning and added six more runs over the last three frames to run away with the game. Will Holland and Williams traded RBI doubles during a three-run sixth inning, and the Tigers added two more in the seventh on a RBI single from Williams and a wild pitch. The team concluded its scoring in the game as another wild pitch brought home its 13th and final run of the game in the eighth.
The Tigers went 8-for-19 with runners in scoring position en route to collecting 17 hits. The teams 17 hits are the most in the NCAA Tournament since also recording 17 hits in a pair of games during the 2010 Auburn Regional.
Williams finished the game 4-for-4 with a walk, four runs scored, one home run, one double and four RBI. He tied the program record for runs scored in a NCAA Tournament game. Brett Wright and Julien added a trio of hits, while the latter scored twice and drove in the aforementioned three runs. Holland and Josh Anthony both collected two hits apiece and scored twice.
The second-seeded Tigers advance to the winners’ bracket in a regional for the second straight season and will face the winner of tonight’s game between No.1 seed N.C. State (40-16) and No. 4 seed Army (35-22) Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.