‘Hoos take home Jax Classic belt, handing Auburn first loss

The 'Hoos hoists the championship belt, celebrating winning the Jax College Baseball Classic in right field following Sunday's late game. Photo courtesy of @jaxcbc via twitter.The 'Hoos celebrate by hoisting the Jax College Baseball Classic belt above their heads in right field following Sunday's game. Photo courtesy of @jaxcbc via Twitter.

By: Nicholas Leo

The perfect script for the Inaugural Jax College Baseball Classic championship, as unbeaten Auburn and Virginia faced off in the final game of the tournament. Virginia (7-0) remained undefeated, trickling in enough runs to deal Auburn (6-1) their first loss of the season on Sunday.

Tournament MVP honors were bestowed upon Tigers right fielder Bobby Peirce, playing stellar defense and recording four runs, four hits and six RBIs over his 13 at-bats at Jacksonville’s 121 Financial Ballpark.

“I think we feel a tick better about ourselves than when we rolled in,” Auburn Head Coach Butch Thompson said. “But we’re going to have to work for everything and that’s the taste we got out of looking at the entire weekend.”

This game had a different feel than the rest of this tournament, no big innings for either team to jump out to a lead, a defensive lead game that made every run that much more valuable. Pitchers dueled to open as Auburn and Virginia traded empty-handed innings.

The second inning was highlighted by SportsCenter Top 10 level stops from the backing defenses. Virginia second baseman Henry Godbout used a backhanded glove flip to shortstop Chris O’Ferral, who’d barehand the ball as he stepped on the bag and fired to first base for the run-saving double play.

“I thought Virginia made an above-average double-play to erase that first real opportunity so we weren’t able to capitalize or have that big inning,” Thompson said.

The Tigers found their own defensive magic the next inning, Peirce swiped a two-run homer before it exited the ballpark. Igniting the crowd as he flashed the glove in their direction, ball-in-webb. 

Virginia opened the game’s scoring, slumping O’Ferrall used a bunt to get on base. He’d find himself on third following a hit batter and a sac-fly, with Henry Ford knocking in the first run of the game with a ground out.

“They were playing him back, Griff can run, he can handle the bat, he’s bunted plenty times in his career. It’s a play to win,” Virginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor said. “You’re trying to win a championship and that’s what this was this weekend and that’s the way we approached it. So the opportunity was there and he took advantage of it.”

The Hoo’s in the stands had little time to enjoy the lead, in the bottom half of the inning Auburn returned the favor. A throwing error by third baseman Luke Hanson allowed Caden Green to reach second on a routine ground-out. Getting bunted to third and knocked home in a similar fashion the game would be nodded at one through three.

Another Tiger crossed home plate in the fourth and Virginia starter Owen Coady’s day came to an end. Walking Cooper McMurray, the top of Auburn’s order moved him around the bases and Mason Manners singled to bring him home. Kevin Jaxel from the Virginia bullpen did damage in the fifth and sixth, putting down six of the eight batters he faced.

Third baseman Deric Fabian takes takes a lead as he awaits the pitch in the 4th inning on Sunday. Photo courtesy of auburntigers.com.

The ‘Hoos put another O’Ferrall run on the board in the fifth, getting on base by way of a single to left field for his second hit of the tournament. Anthony Stephan then walked, he and O’Ferrall successfully pulled off a double steal to get them both into scoring position with no outs. The next three at-bats would result in outs, O’Ferrall crossed home by way of a sac-fly and tied the game again at two a piece.

Virginia took the lead when Harrison Didawick crossed home in the sixth on a Hanson double. Auburn escaped a Virginia rally by ending the inning with an emphatic O’Ferrall strike out, with Hanson on third base and a full count the standing Virginia crowd took a seat.

“The difference in the ballgame, for me, I thought Virginia pitched just a little bit better. And their two-strike and two-out hitting, I thought they were a little more timely,” Thompson said.

Both teams added a run to their total in the seventh, Cavalier Ethan Anderson singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Casey Saucke doubled down the left-field line advancing Anderson home.

Corralling the Virginia lead back to one run, Auburn responded in the bottom half of the inning. Leadoff man Cooper Weiss advanced after being hit by a pitch and Ike Irish singled to put him on third base. Peirce grounded into a fielder-choice getting Weiss across home.

The back-and-forth game swung in Virginia’s favor as they gained the biggest lead of the game in the eighth. Godbout hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a ground out, and a Bobby Whalen ground-rule double advanced Godbout home. O’Ferrall sac-flied advancing Whalen to third, and Stephan hit a ball through the left side of the infield that brought Whalen home, making it 6-3 in favor of Virginia.

“That speaks to the depth of this lineup, you have guys like Bobby Whalen that had a great weekend, certainly Anthony Stephan, and the amount of times that he got on base and his ability to battle,” O’Connor continued. “So even though your marquee players don’t have great weekends, and that’s going to happen, we’re talented throughout the lineup.”

Virginia’s final looks in the bullpen held Auburn to a last-ditch effort. Both Angelo Tonas and Aidan Teel allowed a single hit to the four batters they’d face in the closing innings. Tonas allowed a Deric Fabian solo shot in the eighth, cutting the lead to two. Teel recorded the save, closing the game with three straight defensive outs.

“We have a lot of work to do and things to figure out, mainly on the pitching staff standpoint, but I liked what I saw this weekend and we’ll continue to grow after this,” O’Connor said.

The Jax Baseball Classic champion ‘Hoos celebrated on the field following the win, hoisting the belt high into the night. The 3-day tournament featured college baseball programs from Virginia, Wichita State, Auburn and Iowa; and will return to Jacksonville next year.


Cooper McMurray, Auburn
Henry Godbout, Virginia
Henry Ford, Virginia
Deric Fabian, Auburn

Bobby Peirce, Auburn
Davin Johnson, Wichita State
Casey Saucke, Virginia

Ike Irish, Auburn

Brody Brecht, Iowa

Jay Woolfolk, Virginia

Designated Hitter
Jaden Gustafson, Wichita State
Anthony Stephan, Virginia

Tournament MVP
Bobby Peirce, Auburn

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "‘Hoos take home Jax Classic belt, handing Auburn first loss"

Leave a comment