Auburn, Ala.--Auburn pitchers Chris Dennis, Peter Wiggins and Luke Greinke combined to hold Florida State to just two hits as the Tigers (2-2) defeated the Seminoles 5-2 Friday night at Plainsman Park. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was the hero at the plate for Auburn with three hits and two RBI in the victory.
"Our guys play hard," Auburn coach Tommy Slater said. "They played hard last weekend, they just got outplayed. We talked about that last week. I thought our kids came out tonight and competed once again, enjoyed the moment, and got after it."
The story of the night was on the mound and in the center of things was the junior Dennis. In just his second outing after arm surgery forced him to miss the entire 2005 season, Dennis allowed just two hits and two runs in six innings. Although he didn't earn the victory, Slater said Dennis earned the respect of everyone watching because of the way he pitched.
"Dennis was real good," Slater said. "We've got to find a way to start the game better. A hit by a pitch last week and two walks this week, but Chris settled in and really, really threw the ball well after the first inning. I thought it was huge in that he only gave up one run in the first.
"He saves us that one run and keeps it at 1-0 instead of 2-0. He really did a good job and pitched to 96 pitches tonight.
"In the fifth I said, ‘This is it unless you have a three-pitch inning.' Dang, if he didn't go out and have a three-pitch inning. He came running in and said ‘I want another one.' I said, ‘You've got it.'
"He kind of battled through that sixth, but he got it," Slater added. "I'm really proud of Peter Wiggins bridging the gap there in the seventh and we got the lead. Then what can you say about a freshman that comes in and was as composed as Luke Greinke was?"
Early on it was FSU that got the upper hand as reigning National Player of the Year Shane Robinson walked to lead off the game and Tony Thomas Jr. walked right behind him to put a runner in scoring position. The Seminoles then manufactured a run with a bunt followed by a sacrifice fly to take the early one-run lead.
Both Dennis and FSU starter Bryan Henry cruised from that point forward until the Tigers finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Having retired nine-straight Auburn hitters heading into the inning, Henry got both Russell Dixon and Ryan Stanley to start the inning on hard hit balls before true freshman Justin Bristow got things rolling with a double to left field.
Up next for the Tigers was junior college transfer catcher Jonathan Rasberry. Following up a four-hit outing in Sunday's loss to VMI, Rasberry continued his hot ways with a single to center that scored Bristow to tie the game at one.
Leadoff man Tyler Johnstone then followed with a double off the Green Monster in left field. Off at the ping of the bat, Rasberry scored all the way from first to give Auburn a 2-1 advantage.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson came up big later in the game at the plate with a two-run double that sealed the victory. Here he singles to left.
FSU would tie things up just one inning later. Despite gunning down Thomas to open the inning, Dennis gave up a solo home run shot to Jack Rye that made it 2-2. The junior settled down to retire the final two batters. It would be the end of Dennis' day as he gave Auburn six solid innings before turning things over to Wiggins in the seventh.
Auburn took the lead back in the bottom of the seventh after Wiggins pitched a scoreless top of the inning. With one out and reliever Brian Chambers on for the Seminoles, Bristow worked a walk to bring pinch hitter Josh Stapleton to the plate. Swinging at the first pitch, Stapleton bounced a one-hopper off the glove of FSU first baseman Dennis Guinn for an infield single.
Back to the top of the order, Johnstone singled to left to load the bases with still just one out. That would be it for Chambers as Matt DiBlasi came on for the Noles to face Bruce Edwards. It didn't matter as Edwards drilled a single into left field that scored Bristow easily from third. Hesitating just momentarily while rounding third, Stapleton was thrown out at the plate.
Leading 3-1 Auburn would face yet another Seminole reliever as Brent Marsh came on to face Donaldson. Getting a pitch to hit, Donaldson ripped a double off the left field wall to score both Johnstone and Edwards.
Just like that Auburn was ahead 5-2 with Greinke on to finish things off for his first career save. In two innings he allowed just one baserunner and struck out two FSU hitters.
At the plate Johnstone was the only Tiger other than Donaldson to have more than one hit as he finished with two hits and a run batted in. Edwards and Rasberry had the days other two RBI. For FSU the only hits came from Rye and shortstop Buster Posey. Coming into the game hitting .377 as a team and averaging 11 runs per game, FSU was shut down by the Tigers. Dennis said it was a big win for the confidence of the team heading into the rest of the weekend.
"It's big that we were able to bounce back and get this win," Dennis said. "Credit this team. We were able to flush it (series loss to VMI) really quick. I don't know if there are some guys on the team that think they're too good and forget about it, some guys that are too dumb, there are some guys that are smart enough to know you've just got to flush it because that's baseball.
"We know we're a good team and we've just got to come out and play our game. If we play we can play with anybody, I think."