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FSU vs. UCLA: Regional game thread, preview, how to watch

Up next, the Bruins of UCLA

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Charles Mays

For their 44th straight NCAA postseason appearance, the Seminoles (33-23) will travel to the Auburn regional. After a shaky end to the regular season, FSU ended up a three-seed in the region. The host Auburn Tigers are the one seed, with FSU’s first opponent UCLA Bruins as the second seed, and the Southeastern Louisiana Lions as the fourth seed.

On Friday, Florida State took down UCLA 5-3, while Auburn blew out Southeastern Louisiana 19-7. The Seminoles then faced off against the Tigers on Saturday, falling behind by 7 runs in the fourth inning en route to a 21-7 blowout win — a trend in the regional, with UCLA beating the Lions 16-2.

The Seminoles and Bruins now face off at 2 p.m. on Sunday with the loser earning elimination and the winner securing at least one game against Auburn. Should the winner of FSU vs. UCLA beat Auburn, they’ll have to take down the Tigers again in a successive game on Monday.

Breaking down the Auburn Regional

Auburn Tigers (38-19)

Auburn top performers

  • 1B Sonny DiChiara: .378 AVG/ .787 SLG/ 18 HR
  • 3B Blake Rambusch: .349 AVG/ .457 SLG/ 16 SB
  • RF Bobby Pierce: .312 AVG/ .584 SLG/ 7 HR
  • RHP Joseph Gonzalez: 6-2, 2.74 ERA, 3.9 K/BB
  • RHP Blake Burkhalter: 4-2, 3.76 ERA, 13 saves

Auburn boasts the best offense in the regional showing good pop and average throughout the lineup and not a ton of strikeouts. DiChiara is easily the highlight of the Auburn offense. The senior does everything you could want from somebody at the plate. He hits for average and power but walks much more than strikes out. The key to dealing with DiChiara is to make sure the bases or empty when he comes to the plate.

The pitching is another matter with Auburn. They don’t really have a great pen but have a few pieces here and there. Burkhalter is probably their best arm out of the pen with a high K rate and low average. However, he has been susceptible to the long ball. Auburn will be throwing their Friday night starter Trace Bright on Friday, meaning If FSU were to face Auburn on Saturday they’d likely face Gonzalez. Gonzalez isn’t a big strikeout guy but does a good job of playing to his defense and the Tigers have one of the best in the country.

UCLA Bruins (39-23)

UCLA top performer

  • SS Cody Schrier: .293 AVG/ 70 H/ 9 HR
  • RF Michael Curialle: .326 AVG/ 72 H/ 25 XBH
  • 1B Jake Palmer: .314 AVG/ .395 SLG/ 69 H
  • RHP Max Rajcic: 8-4, 3.08 ERA, 5.1 K/BB
  • RHP Kelly Austin: 4-3, 4.33 ERA, 4.2 K/BB

The Bruins might be the best team top to bottom of the regional if not for their injury issues. UCLA brought in a very good class to start the year and was seeing some good production from that class before losing players here and there. The lineup isn’t likely to wow fans but they are a typical west coast team that can play some good small ball and provide difficult outs one through nine. Freshman shortstop Schrier is probably their most dangerous batter but did miss the Pac-12 tournament with an injury. He is expected back this weekend.

Another player to miss the Pac-12 tournament sophomore Rajcic was having an impressive season. He’s expected to start against FSU and will make up the other half of what is expected to be the best pitching match-up of the day as he’ll face Parker Messick. UCLA has a good pen and they’ll be a tough out but they could struggle as the regional goes on due to injury holes in their staff.

Southeastern Louisiana Lions (30-31)

SE Louisiana top performers

  • 1B Preston Faulkner: .343 AVG/ .685 SLG/ 17 HR
  • 3B Shea Thomas: .294 AVG/ .435 SLG/ 6 HR
  • SS Evan Keller: .259 AVG/ .455 SLG/ 10 HR
  • RHP Will Kinzeler: 4-2, 3.60 ERA, 1.9 K/BB
  • RHP Gage Trahan: 4-4, 4.15 ERA, 11 save’s

The Lions were not going to make the tournament on their record alone but they were able to take both elimination games from conference headliner McNeese State to secure a spot in the postseason. Ace Kinzeler is likely to throw against Auburn and their starting pitching tends to fall off after that.

Similarly, their hitting falls off after Faulkner but he’s a good batter. Southeastern Louisiana will try and cause issues on the base paths as they run quite a bit. Anything can happen in a regional and the Lions are certainly hot right now.

Friday Schedule

FSU vs. UCLA

Florida State wins 5-3

From TomahawkNation.com:

The Seminoles scored in the first and Parker Messick pitched five strong innings to give FSU an opening game win in the Auburn regional, 5-3.

Messick’s line of five innings pitched, two runs, four strike outs and two walks doesn’t look great but until the fifth inning he was dominate. UCLA is a talented team and not one that’s going to strike out a lot but Messick induced a lot of weak contact. All in all he ended the game with a quality start and handed his pen the game with the lead and you can’t ask much more of a pitcher than that.

From UCLA:

UCLA right-hander Max Rajcic (8-5) absorbed the loss, allowing four runs and five hits in six frames.

“It was a hard-fought game, I thought both teams did a really good job of putting two pretty good pitchers into some tough situations,” said UCLA head coach John Savage. “We had some opportunities, but [Florida State] did a little bit more with their opportunities than we did.”

Box Score

Auburn vs. Southeastern Louisiana

Auburn wins 19-7

From Auburn:

Cole Foster crushed three of Auburn’s seven home runs and drove in nine to lead the Tigers to a 19-7 victory Friday in the opening day of the Auburn Regional at standing-room-only Plainsman Park. In the buildup to Auburn’s first home regional in 12 years, head coach Butch Thompson referred to the Tigers’ recent offensive woes as “the elephant in the room.” Auburn quickly addressed that concern by scoring 11 first-inning runs, equaling in just one inning the Tigers’ combined output in their previous four games. ”Great night for us,” Thompson said. “The entire lineup came out swinging. We’ve been looking for that. When you see them invest in something and then get rewarded for it, that’s a good feeling.”

From Southeastern Louisiana:

Evan Keller and Tristan Welch led SLU at the plate with two hits apiece. Keller and Shea Thomas each drove in a pair of runs, while Tyler Finke hit a solo home run for the Lions. The Tigers jumped on top versus SLU starter Adam Guth (4-2) in the bottom of the first inning. After a leadoff single by Blake Rambusch, Cole Foster launched a home run high over the 30-foot left field wall to give AU the early advantage. Two batters later, Bobby Peirce padded the lead with a two-run shot over the centerfield fence. Later in the frame, Foster cleared the bases with a grand slam, while co-SEC Player of the Year Sonny DiChiera followed with a solo home run of his own. All told, the first eight Auburn batters reached and SLU fell in an early 11-0 hole in an inning that saw 14 Tigers come to the plate.

Southeastern put up a crooked number for the second straight inning in the top of the third. A two-run single by Thomas pulled the Lions within, 13-3. SLU added to its tally in the top of the fourth, as consecutive doubles by Christian Garcia and Welch trimmed the Auburn advantage to 13-4. Auburn added to its tally in the bottom of the fourth inning. Foster’s third home run of the contest – a three-run shot over the right field fence – pushed the Tiger advantage to 16-4. Nate LaRue’s second home run of the game extended Auburn’s lead to 17-4 after six innings of play.

Saturday Schedule

Southeastern Louisiana vs. UCLA, 1 PM ET

From UCLA:

The No. 2-seed UCLA baseball team totaled 19 hits in a 16-2 victory against No. 4-seed Southeastern Louisiana in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon at Auburn’s Plainsman Park.

Five UCLA pitchers combined to limit Southeastern Louisiana (30-31) to two runs and three hits over nine innings. In addition, UCLA’s 16 runs were the program’s most in an NCAA Tournament game since a 17-7 triumph over Oklahoma on Jun. 5, 2004.

“It’s an elimination game, so you have to come out firing,” said UCLA head coach John Savage. “We did a good job of swinging the bats. I thought we put a lot of good at-bats together, we hit some balls hard. I thought we were patient when we needed to be patient, and we were aggressive when we needed to be aggressive.” The Bruins scored in six of nine innings and reached base in each of the first eight frames. In all, four UCLA players finished Saturday’s game with at least three hits.

Florida State vs. Auburn, 7 PM ET

From TomahawkNation.com:

The Florida State baseball team struggled from the start and never seemed to find their footing in the Auburn Tiger’s rout of the Seminoles. Auburn plated seven runs in the fourth inning on their way to an 21-7 blowout of Florida State.

It was clear from the first batter that Bryce Hubbart’s control was not there tonight. He looked to be struggling with his grip and his off speed pitches were either down the middle or way out of the strike zone. Auburn was able to sit on the fastball and make Hubbart pay. The sophomore only lasted 2.1 innings with a line of 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 K, 3 BB.

After Hubbart, the bullpen did not fair better. Whittaker lasted 0.2 innings, Dunn allowed three hits and four runs without recording an out, and McMullen walked five batters. Armstrong walked three and plunked two and finally Simmons allowed two home runs in the ninth. An overall disaster of a night for the FSU pitchers.

Saturday Schedule

Florida State vs. UCLA, 2 PM ET

UCLA/Florida State vs. Auburn, 7 PM ET

Tomahawk Nation will have updates in the game thread and on our Twitter.