Tallahassee, Fla.--It was as close as you can come to securing a spot in a Super Regional, but Auburn will have to wait another day to try to advance out of the regional round for the first time since 1999 as the Florida State Seminoles got a two-out triple in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game and got a hit by an 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Tigers 8-7 and set up a final game on Monday at 6 p.m. central time.
Fighting back from an early four-run deficit, Auburn got a great performance from senior pitcher Cole Lipscomb to even have a chance in the game as he went seven and two/thirds innings and got within one strike on two different occasions of sending the Tigers into a Super Regional only to come up short.
“It was kind of rough when I came in that first inning,” Lipscomb said of his entrance in the second inning and giving up a three-run homer. “My adrenaline was flowing and I was leaving the ball up. The next inning the adrenaline kind of went away and I started pitching and getting the ball down in the zone, I really started getting some outs.
“At that point I knew I could go deep in the ballgame and save our bullpen. Then our offense did a heck of a job getting us back in it and taking the lead. Baseball is a game of inches and our center fielder was about three inches away from winning a regional. They were on the winning end of it and that’s just how it went tonight.”
Throwing 99 pitches in his outing and tying his career high with 10 strikeouts in his longest outing of the year, Lipscomb said the key for him on the night was to stay in the moment and allow his teammates to get the job done at the plate.
“When I’m in the game I just stay on the bench staying out of the emotion side of it,” Lipscomb said. “My job is to go out there and throw zeros up on the board and it’s our offense’s job to have emotion and the guys on the bench to be rowdy.
“The dugout did a great job and our offense did a great job. They put us in a position to win and that’s all we could ask for.”
Wanting to finish the game, Lipscomb went back out to pitch the ninth inning and secure the win and got the first two batters before walking FSU shortstop Taylor Walls after getting ahead in the count. That brought Busby to the plate, the most dangerous hitter of the night for the Seminoles.
Already with a three-run homer off Lipscomb in the second inning, Busby jumped on a full count pitch and drove it to the deepest part of the park in center field.
On his horse, Auburn center fielder Jonah Todd made a valiant effort before crashing into the wall. Never slowing down, Walls scored easily from first and Busby cruised into third. He would be stranded there to end the ninth, but FSU would win it in the 10th.
Instead of going to someone else to face Busby the second time around Auburn stuck with Lipscomb and Coach Butch Thompson said he never gave it a second thought.
"I told Cole that's the best he's ever thrown in my short time here and I couldn't be more proud of him," he said. "I wanted him on that mound. That would be a coach's decision and a coach's mistake to be second-guessed, but this young man gave us everything he had tonight and threw an unbelievable ballgame. He had some adversity early but steadied the ship and kept battling. He did a phenomenal job."
With two outs and nobody on once again Auburn would find disaster as Andrew Mitchell walked two consecutive batters to give the Seminoles some life. Bringing in Calvin Coker out of the bullpen, Auburn was looking for the ground ball and got one but Stephen Wells’ single off the foot of Coker loaded the bases for number nine hitter JC Flowers. Getting ahead in the count 0-2, Coker left a pitch too far over the inside of the plate and hit Flowers to force home the winning run.
Down 6-4 going to the ninth the Tigers needed some magic after slowly chipping away at the lead and it started innocently enough with Blake Logan reaching on a swinging bunt to get Auburn started. Following that with a double to left field, Will Holland gave Auburn a chance with the top of the order coming to the plate down two.
Getting a pitch he could take the other way, Todd’s single to left field scored Logan to cut the lead to one and put runners on the corners with no outs. Facing closer Drew Carlton, Luke Jarvis reached on a catcher’s interference to load the bases with no outs and the heart of the order coming up for the Tigers.
Still down one, Auburn got strikeouts from Daniel Robert and Jay Estes to bring Josh Anthony to the plate with two outs needing a hit to keep the Tigers alive. Falling down 1-2 in the count, the third baseman ripped a single back up the middle to score both Holland and Todd to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
“The at-bat before I got myself amped up for the at-bat,” Anthony said. “My adrenaline was flowing and I got myself out on pitches I had no business swinging at. I just focused on my breathing and tried to find a pitch I could drive, just put something in play and see what happens.”
Auburn will face Florida State in a winner-take-all game on Monday with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. central time. The Tigers are expected to throw either freshman Ryan Watson or senior Gabe Klobosits and Thompson said it’s all about putting the loss behind them and moving forward.
“I had a blast ; got my heart ripped out, but I had a blast,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “I never had more fun in 25 years of coaching and being the head coach of the Auburn Tigers right now. That’s all I can ask. I don’t know what else I could ask of my ballclub.
"I think they’re giving us everything that they have, and I’ve never been more proud to coach a group of guys. I want them to wipe it clean; they’ve done everything for us. Just come out here and compete for nine more innings, and we’ll have no regrets.”