Auburn celebrates Super Regional win, College World Series berth

Auburn's Steven Williams, left, and Will Holland celebrate after the team beat North Carolina 14-7 on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. to punch the Tigers' ticket to the College World Series.

Jack Owen says it hits him over and over.

He might be lost in thought or his mind occupied, when he’ll catch another reminder, and it’ll become real all over again that Auburn is going to the College World Series.

For Owen and his Tiger teammates, it’s a dream come true.

“It’s every time you, like, open up Twitter or something, you see another tweet about it, and it kind of hits you again — that you’re actually going,” Owen said earlier this week with a smile.

That was just before the sophomore pitcher and his teammates loaded up the bus in Auburn and headed off to fly to Nebraska. The team landed in Omaha on Wednesday and practiced at a field nearby Thursday as the team gets set for its College World Series opener set for Sunday.

Auburn plays Mississippi State at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday. For the players, their run out of the dugout and onto the diamond then will make for the realization of a dream that Owen said simply means everything.

“You grow up watching on TV,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine, and now we’re here. It’s going to be awesome.”

For some, it’s simply indescribable.

Shortstop Will Holland was honest on Wednesday when he was asked what it’s going to be like to play in the College World Series.

“I don’t know,” he said, then smiled. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life, I can tell you that. It’s a bigger stage, a bigger crowd, but at the end of the day it’s the same game.

“Hopefully, it’s going to be really fun for us.”

It’s certainly been a fun ride to this point for the Tigers — and a wild one.

Auburn won 15 straight games earlier this season, but flew to Omaha as the team with the fewest wins and the most losses among the eight teams in the College World Series field.

“Earlier in the season, like, we were real good, and then we fell down, and then kind of collected ourselves and got back to it,” Owen said. “And now, you think about the Game 3 in North Carolina — like, unbelievable.”

Auburn was on the postseason bubble at the tail end of the regular season. The Tigers entered their season finale at LSU think they could need a win to get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. They got it and won one in the SEC Tournament to shore up their chances.

Since then, through the Regional and Super Regional rounds, the team has reset. The Tigers’ hitters once slumping were all part of a 13-run in top of the first inning of that winner-take-all Game 3 at the Super Regional in North Carolina.

“Yeah, that’s what you’ve got to do in baseball,” Holland said of erasing the struggles and starting over. “You’ve got to have short-term memory of you want to be a good player. You can’t just hang your hat on something that happened a while ago.

“We’re playing for a championship. That’s all we’re worried about now.”

For the Tigers, none of those past struggles matter now — and in Omaha, there’ll be nothing left for the team to do but take its best shot.

“Right now, I feel like we’re playing our best baseball, for sure,” Owen said. “And the offense is really starting to come around. Some of the guys who were struggling early, have found their footing and they’re starting to swing the bats. Maybe early in the season there was some times that we needed to make sure we kept them off the board and now, it’s like, we put up 13 runs in the first inning.

“We’re as hot as anybody, so why not us?”

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