FSU reliever Kevin Lynch pitched four and two/thirds innings of scoreless relief to improve his record to 12-0 on the season while Auburn starter Jared Shore lasted just one and one/third innings in the loss. Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said Sunday night's game was just a case of a team that didn't have enough pitching but battling to the end just like they've done all season.
"We thought we would score," Slater said. "I wasn't really too concerned. This team has battled back so many times this year. Obviously we would have like to have gotten a little bit more out of our starting pitcher, but Jared threw 40 pitches yesterday and gave us the first. He just got touched up a little bit there in the second. Nix (Michael Nix) and Madden (John Madden) were just tremendous for us. With the way these guys have played all year being down five didn't mean much. I knew we would score and we did. Michael Nix and John Madden were just outstanding in keeping it right there for us. Credit Lynch when he came in. He's their stopper and he did a tremendous job."
Coming on in relief of Shore, who gave up five runs on four hits in one and one/third innings, Nix was solid as usual. He allowed three runs on two hits in three innings of work. Pitching for the third consecutive day, Madden was tremendous as he gave up just two runs on five hits in four and two/thirds innings.
"We were trying to get Jared through two innings," Slater said. "When they hit the home run that pretty much told us it was time to get him. We were trying to make some pitches there with the bases open, but it didn't happen. We tried to get him through two because we didn't have a lot in the bullpen today. Michael and John just really gutted up for us and really gave us more than they actually had. I'm just really proud of them."
Freshman Josh Donaldson earned All-Regional honors for his play at third base.
In the first Robinson earned a leadoff walk from Shore, not a good idea when facing a player of the caliber of FSU's leadoff man. After moving to third base he would eventually score on a ground ball to give the Seminoles the early lead. Things didn't get any better for Shore in the second as FSU continued to take advantage of mistakes made by the Tigers.
Leading off Danny Wardell doubled off the right field wall. That set things in motion as he would eventually score on an error by Shore that left runners on first and second with Robinson coming to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, the diminutive Robinson bombed it off the scoreboard in left field for his sixth home run of the season. The blast gave FSU a commanding 5-0 advantage.
Auburn made a game of it in the bottom of the third inning against FSU starter Mark Sauls. Leading off the frame second baseman Tyler Johnstone bunted for a base hit and moved to third base moments later on a double by Clete Thomas down the left field line. A ground ball by Josh Bell to short scored Johnstone with Auburn's first run and a Jeff Boutwell walk followed.
One out later Donaldson did his damage. Getting a pitch to hit to the short porch in right field, Donaldson drove it over the wall for his second home run of the weekend and seventh of the year. The blast cut the lead to one, but that was as close as the Tigers would come the rest of the way as Lynch shut the door on the game and Auburn's season.
In the meantime the Florida State offense kept the pressure on the Tigers. In the fifth the Seminoles struck for three runs to push the lead to four. Ryne Malone walked to lead things off against Nix and Gibbs Chapman followed with a walk of his own to put Auburn and Nix in serious trouble. Followed a Aaron Cheesman sacrifice bunt a Jack Rye single to right field scored Malone. Daniel Wardell then bunted for a base hit that easily scored Chapman from third. The final run scored on a groundout by Ryne Jernigan. With the lead back at four the Seminoles put it on cruise control with Lynch dominating on the mound. FSU would add two runs in the ninth off Madden to make the final 10-4.
Auburn was well represented on the All-Regional team as voted on by members of the media. Despite missing much of three games first baseman Karl Amonite was selected as well as Johnstone at second base, Donaldson at third base and both Thomas and Bruce Edwards in the outfield. Rounding out the team was catcher Schuyler Williamson from Army, shortstop Ryne Jernigan from Florida State, Robinson from Florida State and the pitchers were Lynch and Friday starter Bryan Henry, also from the Seminoles. Henry was voted the regional MVP for his complete game victory against Auburn.
The loss closes the door on fantastic careers by seniors Amonite, John Madden, Arnold Hughey, Ben Sprague and Mike Hyntka and likely the careers of juniors Nix, Thomas, Bell and Josh Sullivan. Slater said that this year's team will always be a special one for him because of the groundwork they've laid for the future of the program.
"It's about the players," Slater said. "Everything they did this year, they came out every single time and they played their guts out every single time we played. I'm very proud of every one of these players. They can hold their heads high for a long, long time for the effort they gave the Auburn people and Auburn University this year."
While the future looks bright with players like Donaldson, Dixon, Edwards and Boutwell all back in the field and pitchers Cliff Mullins and Clarence Nicely coming off a strong NCAA Tournament, it's also a tough time with several top players heading to professional baseball. Unless something changes Bell is likely one of those. He said that if it was his last game at Auburn the memories of his career and especially this season will last a lifetime.
"This has been a great team to play for this year," Bell said. "Nobody expected us to do anything and we played Florida State in the championship of a regional. I feel very proud of the whole team, freshman like Donaldson and Dixon and seniors like Madden. I'm just proud to be a part of a team like this."