Last season was a similar start to the schedule for Auburn and it ended with bad results as the Tigers lost all four games to the Seminoles, the first three by close margins. That put the count at 21-4 in the last 25 games for FSU against Auburn on the diamond. First-year coach John Pawlowski said that's not something he's talked about with his team too much because anytime you face a team like Florida State that should be enough reason to come ready to play.
"The first time I mentioned Florida State to our guys was yesterday after our game with Lipscomb," Pawlowski said. "I just quickly jogged their memory as to what happened last year. Today we've got our scouting report meeting and that will certainly be a major point of emphasis because the guys that were here last year certainly have a bitter taste in their mouths. That provides incentive for our club. It will be a great challenge though. They won't need a lot of motivation. They'll look forward to the challenge."
Looking to break through against the Seminoles, who have won four in a row against the Tigers in Tallahassee and are 31-6 head to head in the series under coach Mike Martin, Auburn will send sophomore Ty Kelley to the mound on Thursday against sophomore Jeff Parker for FSU. It will be Kelley's first outing of the season while Parker is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA this season. Friday Auburn sophomore Grant Dayton (0-0) takes the mound after a solid first outing last week against Elon. He'll square off against freshman Sean Gilmartin for the Seminoles. Gilmartin is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA this season.
The series will move to Auburn for the Saturday and Sunday games with the Tigers' starters still up in the air. It will be senior Paul Burnside and freshman Jon Luke Jacobs going with the days to be decided closer to game time. Both started last weekend for Auburn. They'll face sophomore John Gast on Saturday. Gast is 1-0 with a 10.38 ERA. Sunday's starter for the Seminoles is the talented Mike McGee. In addition to hitting .545 with a home run and five RBI the opening weekend, McGee also earned a win on the mound and pitched six scoreless innings in the process.
At the plate Florida State is scorching hot to start the 2009 season. In four games against Hofstra to open the year, the Seminoles hit .373 as a team and scored 43 runs. The team hit just four home runs, but had 12 doubles. In addition to McGee, Ohmed Danesh (.583) and Tyler Holt (.571) will be players to watch for as the Tigers try to slow down an imposing FSU offense.
For Auburn offensively the story has been the long ball. In four games the Tigers have hit 10 home runs, the most to start the season for an Auburn team dating at least back to 1979. Pawlowski said while that is nice, it's not something they're focusing on as an offense.
"Home runs come and go," Pawlowski said. "We certainly didn't expect to have that many this early in the season. Unfortunately for us in that first series against Elon it seemed like we had home runs with nobody on or one guy on. We would love to have some guys on base ahead of them. It's certainly not something we preach an awful lot. It's not something we talk about an awful lot, but it's something we'll take. We just have to get better as an offensive club and I thought we took a step in the right direction yesterday. We had a lot of quality at-bats."
In Auburn's 17-4 pounding of Lipscomb on Tuesday, the Tigers hit four home runs and pounded out 15 hits led by Ben Jones' four-hit, five RBI day. Pawlowski said Jones will continue to be a part of the offense after his early start in 2009. That's important because of the question marks surrounding the health of sophomore Hunter Morris. Injuring his back while lifting weights, Morris is day to day for the weekend series according to Pawlowski. If he's unable to go then Jones would likely start in right field with sophomore Kevin Patterson at first base.
Game times for the series are 5 p.m. on Thursday in a game televised by Fox Sports Net Florida and 3 p.m. on Friday, both in Tallahassee. Back in Auburn game times for 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday are scheduled.