Typically, the hero of a College World Series game is a team’s first choice to attend the postgame press conference.
For the Auburn Monday baseball hero, that wasn’t even an option.
Cole Foster gave the Tigers their first win at the CWS since 1997 with a two-out, three-run brace in the sixth inning. Fly ball from the left center field wall gave Auburn (43-21) the lead in a 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Stanford (46-18) in Omaha, Nebraska, avoiding elimination .
It was a swing that will go down as one of the most decisive in program history, alongside the great homers of Creede Simpson (2010) and David Ross (1997). But Foster was visibly lethargic even as he got to second base. After the game, he was receiving IVs for an illness he had been suffering from since Saturday, when he left in the fifth inning of Auburn’s opener.
“He wasn’t feeling well,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “Shouldn’t he be here (at the Auburn press conference)? He’s got three RBIs and two hits. He should be here right now. So you can imagine he’s probably getting IVs, That’s what I’ve been told. Because he should be sitting here at the table, visiting with us right now. He’s doing all he can.
Foster came to the plate with two outs in the sixth inning, facing Quinn Mathews, Stanford’s terrifying starting weapon turned reliever. Mathews entered the game with a 2.62 ERA and .204 on-base percentage against him in 96 ⅓ innings this season. After nine starts, he had transitioned perfectly into a relief role, racking up nine saves.
“We knew we would see it,” Thompson said. “We had watched a video of him. I mean, he’s their guy. If we put him there that early, it’s hot there. I looked up at the board once and he’s at 56 pitches. And he’s an amazing pitcher.”
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Mathews was on his second run of work. He had walked in the Tigers’ first inning, and only their second of the College World Series in 15 innings. Now Foster, who was hitting the light switch, has stood up, sweating more than heat. Bases loaded, two out, 2-1.
Foster was sixth at bat for the first time this postseason. He had returned from an oblique injury just in time for the NCAA Tournament, and he announced his return to the No. 2 hole with homers on his first two at-bats – one on both sides of home plate in the same inning.
But after that game, Foster went on a 4-for-21 streak entering Monday. His match chances against Mathews were low, especially after he smelled a change.
Mathews attempted the same pitch twice in a row. Foster belted it over everyone’s head.
“He barely finished second and he put his head down,” Thompson said. “Probably the biggest hit of his life, and he’s trying to hold his head high. He’s just done an incredible job.”
Auburn added two more runs on Mathews the next inning. Foster came out of the dugout last between innings, rushing to play second base as if everything was normal.