Auburn continued its offensive onslaught in the NCAA Regional at Plainsman Park during a 21-7 rout Saturday night against Florida State. The Tigers are 2-0 in the regional. Auburn awaits the victor of the elimination game Sunday at 1 pm CT between the Seminoles and UCLA, who eliminated Southeast Louisiana a few hours before Auburn blasted FSU in front of a sold-out crowd.
Auburn head coach Butch Thompson declined to name a starter for Sunday’s 6 pm CT game since he doesn’t know who the opponent will be until a couple of hours before the game. Winning the first two games puts the Tigers in a prime position to win the regional. Either Florida State or UCLA would need to win two games on Sunday and defeat Auburn on Monday in an elimination game.
“We won’t know who we’re going to compete against until we get started in our pregame, so that’s going to be a big challenge for us tomorrow, whether it’s Florida State or UCLA,” Thompson said. We’ll have to wait a while to figure that out. Thankful for the significance of the standpoint we’re at. Florida State and UCLA are absolutely equipped and can get back through this thing and win this regional. The significance of the game we just played gives us a chance to play for it.”
The Tigers need one win to advance to the super regional on either Sunday or Monday. Let’s get into how Auburn scored 21 runs against Florida State. In honor Auburn’s seven-run fourth, we’ll go with seven observations from the Tiger win.
1. Auburn’s plate approach against Seminoles starter Bryce Hubbart was magnificent. Hubbart entered the game with an 8-2 record with 94 strikeouts compared to 18 walks. Hubbart had only allowed 63 hits over 73 2/3 innings before facing Auburn.
Hubbart allowed four hits, a homer, a double, and three walks during 2 1/3 innings. Auburn held a 3-0 lead when Hubbart left the game after throwing 68 pitches.
“They fouled off so many pitches against us after going down 0-2,” Florida State manager Mike Martin Jr said after the game. “Guys who can foul off pitches make a lot of money in the big leagues. Their approach at the plate made it very difficult for us.”
2. Broady Moore had seven plate appearances and reached base each time. He was 5-5 with two walks. Moore drove in two runs as well. Moore was one of several Tiger hitters who performed well.
3. Joseph Gonzalez worked through a rough patch in the third inning by allowing only one run. Gonzalez benefitted from a double play on a liner to second baseman Cole Foster to end the frame with runners left on base for FSU.
“Another positive night for us,” Thompson said. “A great pitching performance by Joseph. We played amazing team offense and played together for these two nights, so we at least give ourselves an opportunity to play for a regional championship.”
Gonzalez pitched six innings. He allowed four hits and three earned runs. Two of those runs came after Gonzalez left runners on for relieving Carson Swilling. Pinch hitter Treyton Rank hit a three-run home run off Swilling.
4. Rank’s home run had minimal impact considering Auburn entered the bottom half of the seventh inning with a 15-1 advantage. Auburn scored seven runs in the fourth inning to break the game open.
5. Auburn scored runs in all but two innings while belting 19 hits, including three doubles from Kason Howell. The Tigers also benefited from 16 FSU walks and four Seminole errors.
6. Florida State used seven pitchers compared to Auburn, having used three. John Armstrong finished the final two innings after Swilling pitched the seventh. Auburn had 19 hits, including a ball that soared over the high rightfield fence at Plainsman Park by Sonny DiChiara in the ninth. DiChiara has 20 homers on the season for Auburn.
7. The atmosphere in and around Plainsman Mark was electric for the second night in a row. Over 4,000 fans inside the ballpark, and several hundred gathered on the hill behind the left-field fence. Those who couldn’t get on the hill stood and watched from the parking deck. Fans were loud and were treated to 40 runs over two days by the Tigers.
Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl and several players, including Wendell Greene and Allen Flanigan, were in the crowd. Athletes from several sports joined Auburn alums and fans to root for the baseball team on a steamy June day on the Plains.
“There’s an engagement and interaction now,” Thompson said about the fan support. There’s electricity in the park. This is closer to how we act at our basketball and football games. The fans are part of this now. It’s awesome.”