Tigers Can't Hold Lead In Loss To Seminoles

Florida State came back from a four-run deficit to defeat the Auburn Tigers in game two of a three-game series in Tallahassee.

Tallahassee, Fla.--The Auburn baseball team couldn't take advantage of an early 5-1 lead and five Florida State errors as the Seminoles scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to win the second game of the series by a score of 6-5 Saturday afternoon at Dick Howser Stadium.

Auburn starting pitcher Josh Sullivan pitched five innings, giving up just one run off two hits, and Auburn held a 5-1 lead after five innings when he was pulled because of a pitch count. After Sullivan's departure, the Seminoles chipped away and scored in each of the final four innings of the game to pull out the victory.

With the game tied at five and one out in the bottom of the ninth with Aaron Cheesman at third base for the Seminoles, Jack Rye hit a high bouncer just in front of home plate which allowed Cheesman to race home and beat the tag from Auburn's Josh Bell for the game-winning run. Sullivan said that despite the loss the Tigers can learn from a game like Saturday's on the road in hostile conditions.

"I think everyone can get something out of this type of loss," Sullivan said. "Not only me but everyone can--the hitters and the pitchers in the bullpen. You learn a lot more out of a loss in a game like this than you do any other way. We've learned a lot and we'll definitely be ready for tomorrow.

"It happens to everybody," he added. "We'll be back. We played a close one to the end and we've got 52 games left. All we can do is wash it out of our hands tonight and get ready for tomorrow."

Josh Sullivan pitched well in his second outing of the season.

Despite the second consecutive loss to the Seminoles Auburn coach Tom Slater was still pleased with his team's aggressiveness.

"I was proud of how we played today," Slater said. "We came out and really got after them and played extremely hard. We had good at bats all game long and we had a lot of hard-hit balls. I thought for the most part we defended the field well today and we pitched well. I couldn't be more proud of our team's effort."

After a quiet inning from the top of the Auburn line-up in the first, the Tigers were able to draw first blood in the second. Karl Amonite started the inning with a double to deep left center and later scored on a single by Ben Sprague, who got the start in left field for the second straight day. Sprague advanced to second on an error by center fielder Shane Robinson.

A single by Adam Stacey put runners at the corners for Phillip Stringer, who brought Sprague home on a sacrifice bunt. On the next at bat shortstop Ryne Jernigan mishandled a roller deep in the hole by Bruce Edwards which allowed Stacey to come home and make the score 3-0 Tigers early in Saturday's contest..

Florida State got on the board in the third with one run as lead-off man Robinson was hit by a pitch and later in the inning came home on a sacrifice fly by Cheesman.

Jeff Boutwell started off the fourth inning for Auburn with a single to left and was still at first after fly-outs by Stacey and Stringer. However, more Florida State mistakes helped the Tigers push two runs across the plate. After a balk by Brian Shultz, an Edwards double into the right field corner, a Johnstone single to left and fielding error by Gibbs Chapman, the Tigers had built a 5-1 lead after four innings with Sullivan solid on the mound.

Following another scoreless inning from the former quarterbac, freshman pitcher Cliff Mullins took over in relief for Sullivan in the sixth and had a rough two-thirds of an inning. An error by Stringer put Cheesman at first to start the bottom half. Then Ryne Malone followed with a single to right and Rye doubled off the right field wall to score Cheesman. Bryan Henry drew a full-count walk and Florida State brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Tony Thomas, Jr.

Mullins was able to strike out Thomas, but the next batter Josh Spivey hit a liner off Mullins' back which was fielded by Stacey, who threw to first for the out. Malone scored on the play and Auburn's lead was cut to 5-3. Auburn reliever John Madden came in for an injured Mullins and recorded the final out of the inning.

Auburn went down quietly in the top of the seventh and Florida State tacked on another run with a pair of singles and a wild pitch to cut the lead to 5-4 going into the eighth.

The Tigers went down one-two-three in the eight and turned to Michael Nix to try to hold on to the one-run lead. Nix struck out the first two batters, but allowed a walk to Thomas, a single to Spivey and a single to Jernigan, which scored Thomas and evened the score at 5-5. Still in a jam, Nix walked Robinson but was able to get out of the inning without any further damage as Chapman flied to center.

Auburn's Clete Thomas, who was 0-5 Friday and 0-4 Saturday, was hit by a pitch to start the Tigers' half of the ninth. Bell singled to put runners at first and second with no outs, but Amonite flied out and pinch hitter Derek Sain grounded into a double play to end the threat and give Florida State a chance to win it with a run in the bottom of the ninth.

With Nix still in the game in the ninth, Cheesman led the inning with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Malone executed a perfect sacrifice punt to move Cheesman to third with one out and give Rye the opportunity to win the game.

"Michael had great stuff and he's going to be our guy at the end of the game," Slater said of Nix, who gave up two earned runs in an inning and a third. "The two-out walk led to their run in the eighth. He had a 3-2 count on the guy and he tried to go a little too hard with the fastball. Michael's tough, he's our guy and he'll be back out there if we need him."

Box Score

The loss drops Auburn to 3-2 on the year, and Florida State improved to 8-0. The Seminoles will go for the sweep tomorrow at Noon, CST as Auburn's Mike Felix is expected to get the start against Michael Hyde of Florida State.

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