It has been a long, grueling week in Omaha for the Florida State Seminoles, but it’s one they’re more than happy to stretch out.
The days in Omaha consistently neared 100 degrees, but the heat didn’t seem to affect the ’Noles, who, after stumbling in extra innings against Arizona, cruised to two straight victories.
Florida State’s games followed suit in what has been a score-first College World Series. The Seminoles entered the CWS with Brandon Leibrandt (8-2) on the mound facing Arizona’s ace Kurt Heyer (12-2). The Wildcats got on the board first in Friday’s opener, scoring two runs in the second inning. FSU answered back, scoring one in the second. Designated hitter John Holland helped further FSU’s cause in the sixth, knocking out a two-out two RBI double and tying the game up at three apiece. The next five frames remained scoreless as the game went to extra innings. The Wildcats scored one in the 12th inning and FSU couldn’t respond, losing the game 4-3. The loss dropped the ’Noles into the losing side of the bracket, causing the club to fight off elimination in all subsequent games.
They staved off the trip home on Sunday in an elimination game against underdog Stony Brook. Freshman Mike Compton (12-2) took to the mound and earned his 12th win of the season, which ties the FSU record for a freshman. Offensive production was in question for the ’Noles coming into game two and their bats responded, striking first and gathering up 12 runs on 11 hits. Relievers Brandon Johnson, Bryant Holtmann and Mack Waugh combined for three scoreless innings in relief.
The momentum continued for the Seminoles and they rolled over UCLA in route to their second straight win. Steady and confident at-bats helped the ’Noles get on the board in Tuesday’s win over UCLA. Zack Weiss walked three of the first five batters and walked in a run before being relieved in the first inning. Scott Sitz (4-3) earned the win after seven impressive innings of one-run ball. Reliever Hunter Scantling and closer Robert Benincasa shut the Bruins down in two innings of relief. Benincasa, who has been lights out in his closing role, earned his 16th save of the season.
“We all know that the pitching was definitely the key to the game,” said FSU head coach Mike Martin. “Scotty was just outstanding. Hunter came in and did a great job and then he finished it up. No question the sixth inning was the big inning that Scotty showed that his nickname is evident because he was the Bulldog.”
Sherman Johnson, Devon Travis and James Ramsey notched two hits apiece in the win and walked four times. UCLA pitchers gave up eight walks in the game.
Patience at the plate has paid off in Omaha and throughout the season. With 67 walks, Johnson is second in the country in base on balls. Ramsey and Stephen McGee are right behind Johnson in walks and rank No. 4 and No. 5 in country, respectively.
It’s that patience at the plate that often gets the Seminoles on the board first—and in Omaha that’s been a must, as well a key to scoring. The Seminoles have scored 162 runs from walks or hit by pitches – 36% of all of their runs.
The Seminoles will face Arizona on Thursday at 5 p.m. and will once again need to fend off elimination, but the club has high hopes and has discovered what it takes to win during their long week in Omaha.
“Day by day, we get better and better, can’t get beat, won’t get beat,” was the mantra chanted by James Ramsey and his teammates prior to Tuesday’s game. It looks like it worked.