Auburn, Ala.--Florida State scored two runs in each of the second, third and fourth innings and used a strong pitching performance to hold off a furious Auburn comeback and win 6-5 Friday at Plainsman Park.
Despite a solid outing by reliever Scott Shuman, Auburn couldn't overcome early mistakes in the loss and falls to 4-2 on the season while FSU moves to 5-0.
Trailing 6-2 heading to the ninth, Auburn got production from the bottom of the order and almost pulled out the win. Leading off, Joseph Sanders singled up the middle and Kevin Patterson followed with a single of his own to right field to put runners on the corners. Shortstop Matt Hall then hit a slow roller to third that was thrown away at first. The error allowed a run to score and put two more in scoring position.
Florida State brought in closer Jimmy Marshall at that point, but Auburn freshman catcher Tony Caldwell did his job as his fly ball to center scored Patterson to make it 6-4 Seminoles.
Freshman second baseman Justin Hargett followed with a single to right field that scored Hall and suddenly Auburn was only a run down with two chances to tie or take the lead. It wasn't to be though as the comeback came to a halt on consecutive strikeouts by Ben Jones and Trent Mummey.
Despite the loss Coach Tommy Slater said he saw some positives out of his club at the end of the game, but that was about it.
"Offensively we were not good today," Slater said. "I thought we had some pitches we should have hit. Credit our kids because there at the end we do get the winning run to the plate. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, but Scott Shuman did that by the way he pitched out of the bullpen for us."
A crowd of 3,012 was on hand to watch Friday's game.
Perhaps the biggest story of the day for Auburn was the performance of the sophomore Shuman in relief of Luckie. Trying to find a home on this pitching staff, Shuman was absolutely dominant to close the game for the Tigers as he retired the final 14 batters he faced and 17 of the last 18. All told he allowed just one run on three hits in six innings on just 68 pitches.
"Scott Shuman was the story today," Slater said. "Scott gave us a chance to win the game. He was outstanding out of the bullpen. He really threw the ball well. He had a lot of sink on his fastball, a lot of ground balls, not a lot of hard contact. I thought he gave us a chance to win the game."
It was the Tigers that got on the board first as Luke Greinke reached on an error in the first to bring Mike Bianucci to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Bianucci hit a ground rule double into the wind to put runners in scoring position for freshman Hunter Morris. The Huntsville native did his job with a ground ball to the right side to put Auburn up 1-0.
Unlike his first outing of the season, Auburn starting pitcher Cory Luckie struggled with consistency and the Seminoles made him pay beginning in the second. Third baseman Stuart Tapley's one out single got things going for FSU, but it appeared Luckie would escape the jam the Ruairi O'Connor hit a ground ball to second base. Ranging to his left, Hargett couldn't get a handle on the play, leaving runners on the corners with still just one out. Back-to-back hits by the Seminoles pushed across two runs, but it could have been worse. Tyler Holt‘s single to center field scored O‘Connor, but Posey was gunned down by Greinke from center field to keep the Tigers within striking distance at 2-1.
Ryan Jenkins puts the tag on at the plate after Greinke's throw from center field.
With Luckie continuing to struggle to find a groove, FSU added to the lead in the third thanks to help from the Auburn defense. Leading off Buster Posey reached on an error by Sanders at third base. Following a fly ball out, Dennis Guinn singled to left field. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch to set the table for Mike McGee. The left fielder singled to score both runs and put FSU in front by three.
The lead swelled to five in the fourth as the Seminoles added three hits, the first off Luckie before giving way to Shuman, to score two more runs and take a 6-1 lead. Auburn got one back in the bottom of the fourth as a two-out double by Sanders was followed by a Patterson double to cut the Florida State lead down to 6-2. That's the way it would remain until Auburn made things interesting in the ninth.
Matt Fairel got the win for FSU, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. Quinn was the only Seminole to record two hits as they finished with 10 hits on the day. For Auburn Luckie gave up seven hits and two earned runs in three innings to get the loss. Offensively Sanders and Patterson both had two of Auburn's seven total hits for the game.
Auburn and FSU will play 1 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee as the Tigers try to even the series before returning home for a long week with games Tuesday-Sunday at Plainsman Park.