"I was disappointed defensively," Slater said. "We made some mental mistakes on defense. It was simple things like looking up on a ground ball to the outfield that allows a ball to pop out of the outfielder's glove. We just need to execute our plays better and be a little bit more fundamentally sound on defense."
This season will be one where the top of the Auburn order will be important to the success of the team in setting the table for power hitter Karl Amonite, but Friday the combined efforts of the top three of Tyler Johnstone, Clete Thomas and Josh Bell came out to just one hit in 14 at-bats. Overall the Tigers got seven hits, including two from Amonite, Slater said that the lack of production at the top was a big part of the game and he credits tough pitching by Florida State hurlers.
"They ran their number one guy out there Hunter Jones and I thought he did a good job," Slater said. "One thing I told our team that I was proud of today, from an offensive perspective, is that we did get into their bullpen. We kind of won the battle of attrition there. You're not always going to win the Friday night game, but one thing you want to do is at least make it tough on the other team so they can't cruise through the game. We continued to put pressure on them all the way until the end.
"Sure, there were a couple of guys at the top that didn't have hits today, but I thought Josh (Josh Bell) had some good hacks today," Slater added. "At the end that was a well-struck ball and the kid made a great play. We didn't have a ton of hits at the top of the order, but I was proud that our guys won the battle of attrition and got into their bullpen for the rest of the weekend."
First baseman Karl Amonite homered for the third time in four games this season.
Both starting pitchers got off to a bit of a rocky start in Friday's game as both Arnold Hughey and Florida State's Hunter Jones struggled in the early going. In the bottom of the first Seminole lead-off man Shane Robinson homered to put Florida State on the board. It was Robinson's first home run of the season and just the third for the team this year. Auburn answered back in the top of the second inning as Amonite hit a bomb over the right field wall and into the circus area beyond the fence.
That was just the start of things for the Tigers as left fielder Ben Sprague singled to right field and moved to second during a strikeout by Russell Dixon. He would move to third just moments later on a single by third baseman Adam Stacey, but a double steal attempt proved costly for Auburn as Sprague was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning. Shortstop Phillip Stringer made the inning pay off for the Tigers though as he singled through the middle to score Stacey and give Auburn a 2-1 advantage. A Tony Thomas Jr. sacrifice fly tied the score at two in the bottom of the second for FSU as Brant Preacher crossed after opening the inning with a single.
Both pitchers settled down in the third with quick innings and the Tigers would go down in the fourth after Sprague was caught stealing following a single. Florida State would not do the same thanks to some spotty defense by the Tigers in the bottom of the fourth. Aaron Cheesman led off the fourth with a double to right field and quickly moved to third on a passed ball by Bell. Following a ground ball by Ryan Malone that failed to score Cheesman, Hughey hit Brant Preacher with a pitch to put runners on the corners. The Seminoles then did some running of their own, sending Preacher on a steal to second. Bell's throw went to Tyler Johnstone at second base who threw back to Bell at the plate. The ball hit Cheesman trying to score and bounced to the backstop. That allowed the run to score and Preacher to reach third base. He later scored on a sacrifice bunt by Bryan Henry to put FSU up 4-2.
The lead would extend to 5-4 in the fifth inning, but not before Auburn would miss a golden opportunity to get back in the game. Stacey led off the inning by reaching on an error by the Seminole third baseman and moved to second on a ground out by Stringer. Center fielder Bruce Edwards then walked to put runners on first and second and bring the top of the order back to the plate. That didn't matter on this day as Johnstone bunted and was thrown out at first for the second out in the inning. Thomas then continued his tough day with his second strikeout to remain hitless and leave the Tigers stranded.
Florida State added to its lead in the bottom of the fifth as a one out single by Ryne Jernigan proved costly for the Tigers as the ball got by Thomas in right field for an error to put the runner on second with nobody out. Robinson made the Tigers pay as he singled to right to score Jernigan and put the Seminoles ahead 5-2. Although that would be it for FSU, Auburn was in a deep hole and it only got tougher with closer Matt DiBlasi on in the top of the sixth for the Seminoles.
In the sixth Auburn got one back and missed another opportunity to score more. Bell led off the inning with a walk and moved to third on a double to left by Amonite. DiBlasi got Sprague on a strikeout, but a walk to pinch-hitter Jeff Boutwell loaded the bases and put a quick end to DiBlasi's day. With veteran Kevin Lynch in to face Stacey, the Tigers got one run on the board on a groundout to the shortstop. That would be it though as, following a walk to Stringer to again load the bases, Edwards flew out to center field to end in the inning and yet another Auburn threat. Auburn did cut the lead down to just two, but that's as close as they would come as a Malone two-run home run in the eighth off Ted Bryant put the game away for the Seminoles.
The two teams play the second game of the series beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday with junior Josh Sullivan on the mound for the Tigers against sophomore Brian Schultz for the Seminoles.