OMAHA, Neb. -- Marshall Gilbert turned a mostly forgettable night at the plate into a memorable one.
The No. 9 batter hit a bases-loaded single up the middle that capped a four-run ninth inning and gave Mississippi State a 5-4 walk-off victory over Auburn in the College World Series on Sunday.
Gilbert had been 0 for 4 before he came to bat, following six teammates who had kept the line moving.
"First of all, I was in awe by everybody that was able to get the job done before me," Gilbert said. "It was incredible, the fact we could get to that point to where I was coming up to the plate, and all the at-bats prior to that I had kind of been a little off, missed some pitches. I kept getting encouragement from my teammates saying, 'Keep going, keep going, don't quit.'
Gilbert ripped a shot past pitcher Tanner Burns and just out of reach of second baseman Ryan Bliss. Dustin Skelton came home from third and the Mississippi State dugout emptied, with players running into right field to mob Gilbert after the Bulldogs' third walk-off win of the season.
"The bond we have is something that is hard to break," Gilbert said. "So believing in one another, going out there leaving it out there on your team, it pays off in the end. And we work every pitch to the last. You're never out of a ballgame and we all know that, so when we all believe in each other, good things happen."
The No. 6 national seed Bulldogs (52-13) threatened time and again before finally breaking through for their sixth straight win in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn (38-27), making its first CWS appearance since 1997, was within an out of wrapping up the win. But third baseman Edouard Julien's wild throw to first on Dustin Skelton's grounder allowed Elijah MacNamee to score the tying run.
"For eight and two-thirds I just thought everybody associated did a nice job," Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. "Then we had a chance to win the baseball game -- I don't think there's any doubt about that -- and just one play away tonight."
Burns (4-4) intentionally walked Rowdey Jordan and Josh Hatcher beat Julien's throw to first on a soft grounder to load the bases for Gilbert.
"We fought to the last out and just kept competing," first-year MSU coach Chris Lemonis said. "We had a couple opportunities to drive in runs and didn't, but at the very end the grit of our ballclub played out and we were able to put some balls in play."
Cole Gordon (5-0) pitched one inning for the win.
Before the ninth, it had otherwise been a mostly frustrating night for the Bulldogs, who stranded 11 runners and had bases loaded in the fifth and sixth innings but came away with only one run.
Julien, who put his hands to his face and looked skyward after his off-target throw let in the tying run, had stood to be the Tigers' hero. He homered and drove in three runs against SEC pitcher of the year Ethan Small.
Small opened with five straight strikeouts before Rankin Woley singled and Julien drove a fastball 418 feet into the top row of the bleachers in right-center for a 2-0 lead. After Small issued three walks in the fourth, Julien singled in another run to make it 3-0.
Small, the Milwaukee Brewers' first-round draft pick two weeks ago, left after facing two batters in the sixth. He struck out eight to run his nation-leading season total to 176 in 107 innings, and the three earned runs he allowed matched his season high.
Auburn left-handed starter Jack Owen worked five shutout innings and left with no outs and two runners on base in the sixth. The Bulldogs finally broke through when Gunner Halter singled off reliever Elliott Anderson to cut it to 3-1.
Auburn turned to closer Cody Greenhill, who struck out Marshall Gilbert to end the sixth but was pulled after the Bulldogs' first two batters reached in the seventh.
Richard Fitts came on and induced a double-play ball and got Dustin Skelton to ground to second baseman Ryan Bliss, who was playing right behind the bag on a shift and threw him out at first.
Bliss made another big play during Fitts' 1-2-3 eighth inning, but Jake Mangum doubled leading off the bottom of the ninth, and Thompson brought in Burns to relieve for the first time in 33 career appearances.
"I remember being on defense with Cole pitching, and I had the weirdest feeling about this inning," MacNamee said. "When Jake hit that double, I said, 'Here we go.' When we had that first dude on, even though we were down there was a little confidence from having our leadoff man on base. He's the best leadoff man in the country."
Martin's 2 HRs lifts Vanderbilt over Louisville 3-1
Vandy's Martin takes first pitch over the wall
Vanderbilt 3B Austin Martin hits the first leadoff homer in the CWS in four years to put the Commodores on the board after one pitch.
Austin Martin is best known as Vanderbilt's .400 hitter. He is starting to get a reputation for his power.
Martin homered on Reid Detmers' first pitch of the game, and he went deep again in the seventh to break a tie in the Commodores' 3-1 victory over Louisville on Sunday in the CWS.
The sophomore homered twice for the second consecutive game. Before he hit two against Duke on June 9, he had a total of seven in 115 career games.
"I don't try to think about it too much,'' Martin said. "I try to separate every at-bat into a different AB. At the end of the day, you just don't try to do too much when you're at the plate. The results will happen.''
Those results were the difference. He became the first player since Florida's Harrison Bader in 2015 to lead off a CWS game with a homer when he drove Detmers' initial offering out to left. Martin's two-run homer off Bryan Hoeing (3-4) in the seventh barely cleared the wall in left center, but it was long enough to break a 1-all tie.
No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt (55-11) set a program record for wins and improved to 4-0 in its CWS openers.
"I think it's the toughest one all teams have to play. To start off in this environment, we've done it four times, but it's not easy,'' Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. "I told them when they got through that game, that might be the most difficult game they play, regardless of what happens after this. But it's real. There's an adrenaline rush.''
Martin, who raised his batting average to .411 after going 4-for-7 over his previous two games, admitted to feeling jittery when he went to the plate in the first. Detmers gave him a perfect pitch to drive.
"Austin in that moment right there, his ability just to center on the baseball, not understanding the rhythm of the pitch and the speed, that's a clutch moment,'' Corbin said. "Those are different people that do those things. That's not common.''
Vandy starter Drake Fellows (13-1), a sixth-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres this month and the national wins leader, bounced back from a rough outing in an 18-5 loss to Duke in the super regional opener June 7.
No. 7 Louisville (49-17) had baserunners in six of Fellows' seven innings but found a semblance of rhythm only in the fifth. No. 8 batter Justin Lavey started things with a double and scored on Henry Davis' base hit to tie it. Lucas Dunn and Logan Wyatt followed with singles to load the bases with one out, but Fellows got the Cards' 3- and 4-hole batters to fly out and ground out to snuff the threat.
"That was definitely the turning point in the game where we missed out on an opportunity,'' Davis said, "but I still felt like we could win. I think everybody still felt like we could win after that point. Everybody seemed like they were seeing the ball, getting good swings, putting good at-bats together.''
Fellows allowed six singles and a double, walked one and struck out six before the bullpen took over. All-SEC closer Tyler Brown worked the ninth for his 15th save.
Detmers labored through the first three innings, and he left with two out in the sixth. Vanderbilt managed only one hit off the sophomore left-hander after Martin's homer and JJ Bleday's single in the first, but the ACC pitcher of the year walked a career-high six during his 102-pitch afternoon.
"I mean, you've just got to work through it,'' Detmers said. "I kind of struggled finding the zone early on, and you've just got to go out there and compete and give it your best.''
Vanderbilt caught a break in the sixth when Louisville's Lavey popped up in the grass behind first base. Running with two out, Danny Oriente came around from second. Infante, the Commodores' first baseman, couldn't make the catch, but the ball had floated just foul, and the call was upheld on a video review.
Lavey ended up striking out, and the Cardinals had only three other batters reach base the rest of the way. They were just 3-for-16 with runners on base.
Vanderbilt has allowed a total of 11 runs in six wins in the NCAA tournament. The Commodores gave up 18 in their one loss, the Duke debacle.
Louisville is just 2-9 in five CWS appearances, fifth worst among teams that have been to Omaha at least three times, and the Cardinals have scored just 22 runs in their past nine games here.