June 10, 2012

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Super Regional Notes


Timely hitting, defense propel Florida State past Stanford

Seminoles earn spot in College World Series


By Andrew Krause



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In what many considered to be a rebuilding year for a team reliant on freshmen starting pitching, four veteran infielders - senior first baseman Jayce Boyd (right), junior second baseman Devon Travis, junior shortstop Justin Gonzalez, and senior third baseman Sherman Johnson - led Florida State to Omaha with a series-clinching 18-7 victory over visiting Stanford on Sunday night.


“[Early in the fall] James Ramsey got all the older guys together and he said ‘a lot of people don’t expect much out of us this year, but we know what we can do,’” Johnson (3 for 6, 2 R, 5 RBI) said. “So we came to the field every day in the fall, even before baseball started, and started working out and we thought we were going to go back [to Omaha] and it’s been like that since Day 1. It didn’t really matter what other people were saying about us because we could always count on each other.”


The Seminoles (48-15) got started early, striking for two in the first inning. After Brett Mooneyham retired the first two hitters, he issued a walk to Ramsey and Boyd (2 for 5, 2 R) followed up with a two-run homer to right center field. The homer was Boyd’s fourth of the season and his sixth career postseason home run.


“He made some great pitches in that at-bat,” Boyd said. “I knew he probably wanted to go back to a changeup 3-2 with the runner on first and try to get me to roll over it, but I was able to put a good swing on it and luckily it got out.”


The Cardinal (41-18) threatened in the bottom half of the first as Jake Stewart and Stephen Piscotty both singled, but Mike Compton was able to strike out Brian Ragira and get Austin Wilson to ground out to second base to preserve the two-run lead.


Mooneyham (1 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K) ran into some more trouble in the second inning. He walked Justin Gonzalez to lead off the inning and surrendered back-to-back singles to Josh Delph and Stephen Spradling. Spradling’s base hit brought home Gonzalez (2 for 5, 3 R, 2 RBI) to give the Seminoles a 3-0 lead and forced Stanford to go to the bullpen early.


A.J. Vanegas recorded a quick out, getting Jose Brizuela to pop up a sacrifice bunt attempt. Johnson came through with a three-run home run, also his fourth of the season and sixth career postseason homer.


Vanegas (5 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) settled in and struck out the side in the top of the third and it appeared to give the Cardinal some momentum. In the bottom half, Compton (4 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) retired the first hitter before allowing four straight singles to Danny Diekroeger, Stephen Piscotty, Ragira and Wilson as the Cardinal finally put a run on the scoreboard. However, a potentially big Stanford inning was not realized, as Compton got Alex Blandino to ground into an inning-ending double play.


“Every single day we take ground balls, and we do a lot of them,” Travis (left) said. “11 [Mike Martin] likes to say this ground ball takes you back [to Omaha], and with every groundball hit to me I was thinking ‘this ground ball takes you back.’ A lot of those plays were very big plays—they were nothing spectacular but they were plays that needed to be made.”


The double play saved Compton again in the bottom of the fourth, as the Cardinal had runners on first and third with one out before Jake Stewart hit a sharp ground ball to Travis that the Seminoles converted into another rally-killing double play.


“They’re wanting the ball hit to them,” Martin said of his veteran infielders. “Every one of these guys are special, in their own way—they’re special.”


Compton was not so fortunate in the bottom of the fifth, as he allowed back-to-back singles to Diekroeger and Piscotty (4 for 5, 2B, R) before Ragira hit a ground ball in the hole that shortstop Justin Gonzalez reached but threw away in trying to get the force out at second base. Diekroeger (2 for 4, 2 R, RBI) came around to score the second Cardinal run, and Compton was relieved by Gage Smith.


Smith recorded one quick out before walking Blandino (2 for 4, R, RBI) to load the bases. However, the Seminole defense came through yet again, as Travis fielded a high chopper, tagged Blandino and threw to first to convert yet another crucial double play.


Florida State answered in the top of the sixth for two runs. Stephen McGee led off with a walk, Gonzalez singled, and both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Delph. Vanegas walked John Holland intentionally to load the bases and set up a double play, but Johnson came through yet again, singling through the right side to plate two and give the Seminoles an 8-2 lead.


In the top of the seventh the Seminoles added two more runs. McGee (1 for 4, 3 R, 2 RBI) drove in James Ramsey, who had walked and stolen second base, with a single and Delph (3 for 3, 2 R, RBI) delivered a two-out double to bring in McGee.


Stanford answered with four runs of its own in the bottom of the seventh to cut into the Florida State lead. 


“The seventh inning got a little interesting,” Martin said. “They had us on the ropes, so to speak. Things I thought were pretty comfortable going into that inning and all of a sudden they had the bases loaded and were only four runs down.”


Piscotty led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a Wilson double down the left field line. Blandino followed up with a single that plated Wilson. Smith (2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K) appeared to get out of the inning when he got Eric Smith to hit a hard groundball to the shortstop, but Justin Gonzalez was not able to handle a tough hop and was charged with an error. Smith walked Tyler Gaffney to load the bases and made way for freshman righty Luke Weaver.


Weaver got Kenny Diekroeger to pound a ball into the ground down the third base line, but he was unable to field it cleanly and Diekroeger earned an RBI single. After Weaver regrouped to strike out Jake Stewart, Danny Diekroeger worked a walk to make it 10-6.  Hunter Scantling came in to face a red-hot Piscotty, but he was able to get him to ground out to third base to end the threat.


“I got a little out in front,” Piscotty said of the Scantling’s crucial pitch. “I would’ve traded all four of those [previous] hits for that at-bat. It’s tough. I am just so proud of the way that our team played.”


However, the Seminoles quickly responded in the top of the eighth. Johnson led off with a single and Travis walked before Ramsey (left) moved both over with a softly hit ground ball.  After an intentional walk to load the bases, McArdle (1.1 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K) walked McGee on four pitches before being replaced by Sahil Bloom. The first batter Bloom faced, Justin Gonzalez, came through with a single that brought in Travis and Boyd. Delph laid down a beautiful bunt and an errant throw allowed another run to score.  Things unraveled from there for the Cardinal as Holland appeared to pop up, but was awarded first base for catcher’s interference. The following batter, Seth Miller, who had come in off the bench in the fifth, delivered a grand slam to cap off an eight-run inning and make it 18-6.


“I was real proud of the way we came back,” said Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. “We got guys on base. We got close and then they came up with a couple of hits and ran away from us.”


In the bottom of the eighth Wilson (3 for 5, 2 R, 3 RBI) hit his tenth home run of the season.


In the ninth, Martin brought in his closer Robert Benicasa, who struck out the side to send the Seminoles to Omaha for their 21st appearance in the College World Series.


(photos courtesy of FSU Media Relations Office)