Baseball Tigers Going Back To Tallahassee

If this year's Auburn baseball team hopes to accomplish its goal of making it to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., then it will have to go through Tallahassee and the Florida State Seminoles to do so.

Auburn, Ala.–-Just like so many Auburn teams in the past, the 2005 Tigers were sent to Dick Howser Stadium on the campus of Florida State for a NCAA Regional. In the first game the Tigers will face a familiar opponent in South Alabama. While it's a different year, team and program from his first trip in 1997, Coach Tommy Slater says he wouldn't have it any other way in his first year as the Tigers' head coach than going back to Tallahassee.

"I ought to get an apartment in Tallahassee as much as I've been there in my career," Slater jokes. "In all the years at Auburn we were there in 1997, 98, and 99 with the Super Regional. I know in 01 Auburn was back there, but I wasn't here then. Last year at Florida we were up there.

"It's obviously a place and a team we've played a lot and we were there again this year," Slater adds. "I think it's a good rivalry and we've got them here at the beginning of the year next year. Coach (Mike) Martin has done such a great job and has so much class with the way he does things. We're excited to be a part of it."

Coming into Monday's announcement the Tigers (32-24) were considered one of the teams potentially on the bubble for the field of 64, but in the end it wasn't that way at all. Playing one of toughest schedules in the country and finishing the season with a RPI in the Top 20 had Auburn cruising into the NCAA Tournament as a solid number two seed. Slater says he knew if his team was in the field they would have a solid seeding because of the year they've had.

"I think seeding has a lot to do with RPI," Slater notes. "If we were going to get in I knew we would be a good seed just based on our RPI. The tough thing was going to be would we get in? I don't ever want for us to be in a position where we're waiting on somebody to decide our fate. We've got to get better so we can put ourselves not in that position.

"I want to be sitting around talking about are we going to get a host site or not? That's the position I want to be in. That's the position I think Auburn should be in is there. This is a great step forward for these kids and this program that wasn't in postseason play a year ago to be in postseason play this year. I'm just so excited and happy for these guys."

To take care of business the Tigers must go through two teams that have defeated them already this year. In the first round Auburn squares off against a South Alabama (35-25) team that shut down the Tigers earlier this year in a 3-0 loss. Jaguar starter P.J. Walters allowed just seven hits and struck out 11 in the complete game win and Slater says Auburn is likely to see him for the second time this season on Friday.

"I thought P.J. Walters was just outstanding against us," Slater says. "He threw a complete game shutout victory against us. Obviously, he dominated us. He threw great. I'm sure he'll be licking his chops to get at us again. After the performance he put on us in late February or early March I would be surprised if we didn't (see him again)."

It will be Auburn's second trip to Tallahassee this season as the Tigers have already played the Seminoles in a three-game series. Despite the fact that they lost two of three to FSU, Auburn played well the entire series and had a chance to win all three games. Slater says that having played two of the three teams in the regional is an advantage for his club as it gets ready for postseason play.

"Anytime you have already competed against somebody that helps you in your preparation for the weekend," Slater says. "We have competed against South and we've competed against Florida State. I don't know much about Army. We played them last year while I was at Florida and I witnessed first-hand how tough they are. It helps in preparation that you've already played these teams."

Auburn is one of a record-tying nine SEC teams to get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament and becomes the third team in as many years to receive a berth despite missing out on the SEC Tournament the week before. Slater says that the strength of the conference continues to shine through every year and this season is no different.

"I think we got nine in and there's plenty of arguments for 10 or 11," Slater says. "I'm very proud of our conference and of this ballclub that, not only are we in, but as a two seed obviously it's recognizing the schedule we've played."

The Tigers will work out this week in Auburn before heading to Tallahassee on Thursday for a practice at Dick Howser. The regional begins Friday at noon CST with Auburn's game against USA first followed by FSU (50-18) against Army (38-12) six hours later.. Slater says that he's just happy to be taking his team back to the NCAA Tournament after a tough year when the Tigers fought hard every game to make this happen.

"I'm just very proud of the ballclub," Slater says. "These kids played a tremendously tough schedule this year, rated one of the best in the country, and obviously the NCAA rewarded us by putting us in a regional and as a two seed."

Tickets for the regional can be ordered online at FSU Ticket Office or by calling 888-FSU-NOLE (toll free).

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