Feb. 10, 2005
Tallahassee, FL – For the 15th-ranked FSU baseball team, this weekend’s series with SEC power Auburn will serve as yet another test for head coach Mike Martin’s young club. The Tigers have been to an NCAA Regional seven of the last eight years and are off to a 3-0 start under first year head coach Tom Slater. Florida State (6-0) is off to its best start since the 1999 season but Martin knows his team will have its hands full this weekend.
“Auburn is a good team and this is going to be a very exciting series,” said Martin. “This will be a good measuring stick for both teams. Auburn returns some very good players and they are a dangerous ball club.”
“I think everybody is pumped up when a team of Auburn’s caliber comes to town,” said Friday starter Hunter Jones. “I would say the excitement is building. It is a big series.”
Jones will be making his first start since surgery ended his 2004 campaign after an elbow injury. The leftie spent much of last season as FSU’s No. 1 pitcher. Jones made his first appearance since the surgery when he pitched three scoreless innings without issuing a walk Sunday against VMI. He is taking Mark Sauls’ spot in the rotation. Sauls started the first two Friday’s of the season but is out due to tendonitis.
“I appreciate everything I have and everyone who helped me recover from the surgery,” said Jones. “I am ready to go. I want to step up and be a leader. Bring it on. Auburn is a great team but with the guys behind me, I think we are ready for this weekend.”
Florida State’s starting pitchers have been one of the biggest positives so far in 2005. In 29 innings of work, FSU starting pitchers have allowed just three earned runs for an ERA of just over 1.07. Sauls, Barret Browning and Michael Hyde came into 2005 with 17 total starts and all of those starts were made by Sauls. That hasn’t stopped the Florida State starters from limiting opponents to a .167 batting average and giving up just one extra base hit so far this season. Overall, the FSU pitching staff has an ERA of just 1.83 and is holding opposing batters to an average of .190.
“I feel really confident about this staff,” said Jones. “I told one of my buddies that this may be one of the best pitching staff’s ever at FSU and I believe that. That is just the way I feel. We have a lot of guys who throw hard, who are intelligent and who hit their spots. We have it all. We aren’t lacking anything as a staff. It is just a matter of who is going to go in. We have the guys who can get the job done.”
The Seminole pitching staff was expected to be a strength coming into 2005 according to Martin but one of the biggest questions was how FSU was going to produce runs. That question has been answered early in the season as Florida State is averaging 8.5 runs per game. Early on it has been the top of the FSU order that has been the catalyst.
Shane Robinson, Gibbs Chapman, Aaron Cheesman, Ryne Malone and both DH’s, Brant Peacher and Josh Spivey, have been tearing it up. The Seminole’s 1-5 hitters hold the top six batting averages on the team and as a group they are hitting .406. The top of the Seminole order has 14 of the team’s 20 doubles and 25 of the 47 RBIs. They are slugging .588 and in 106 at bats they have combined to strike out just 16 times.
“We don’t have a lot of power on this team but everybody is coming through in the line-up,” said Peacher. “We are getting the clutch hits when we need them. There is talent on this team and our hitters are really doing their job so far. We are playing the way we are capable early on.”
The Seminoles come into this year’s meeting with Auburn leading the all-time series 61-38. The last nine meetings between the two schools have been in post season play with FSU going 7-2 in those games and winning the last five. The last meeting was in 2001 with the Seminoles winning an NCAA Regional in Tallahassee in two games, 10-6 and 9-6. The Seminoles haven’t played Auburn in a regular season game since 1984 when FSU took two games at home from Auburn (10-4 and 12-2). The Seminoles have recorded five shutouts in the series and have only been shut out once by the Tigers.
Auburn is off to a 3-0 start after a sweep of Hofstra. Clete Thomas is off to another great start for the Tigers with seven RBIs and a .400 average. Arnold Hughley, who is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, gave up four unearned runs in his first start and is expected to throw Friday. Josh Sullivan is slated for Saturday. The junior gave up a couple of runs in four innings of work against Hofstra. Sunday, Auburn is scheduled to throw Mike Felix. The leftie started last week and gave up seven hits and a run in 3.1 innings.
After starting things of Friday at 3:30, the three-game series with the Tigers continues Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and will conclude Sunday at 1:00 p.m. All three games will be available via Game Tracker. Fans in Tallahassee can listen to the game on WFLA 1270. Every game this season will also be available via an exclusive Internet radio broadcast as well available only at the official athletic website for Florida State seminoles.com.
World Series champion Doug Mientkiewicz will be taking photos with FSU license plate owners before Saturday’s game and will then throw out the first pitch. Seminole Fans, if you’re the owner of an FSU license tag, don’t miss the chance to get your free, instant photo with former FSU star. Mientkiewicz will be taking photos with FSU tag owners prior to the Saturday Auburn game on February 12th. Just bring your driver’s license and we’ll be able to tell if you Brag With The Tag.
Sunday, fans are being asked to arrive early as FSU will hold a special pre-game ceremony to dedicate the home radio booth in the memory of Lee Bowen. A special presentation will be shown on the video board and Lee’s wife Adrienne will be presented with a replica of the plaque that will be displayed outside of the new “Lee Bowen Radio Booth”.