ATHENS, Ga. – In front of 2,800 fans at Foley Field—mostly decked in Garnet and Gold—Florida State defeated No. 2 seed Florida Atlantic 13-7 in the Athens Regional on Friday. The Noles looked relaxed and loose all day, playing error free baseball and mashing six home runs on their way to 20 hits on the afternoon.
Graduate student Tim Becker and junior Drew Mendoza combined for four home runs and eight runs batted in against FAU. For Becker, who joined the Seminoles after three seasons on the club team, the two home runs were the first of his collegiate career.
FSU got the party started with a solo blast from J.C. Flowers in the 2nd inning. The junior took the very first pitch he saw from Blake Sanderson (8-3) over the wall in left-center field, a majestic shot that gave the Noles an early lead.
Two batters later, Carter Smith singled, setting the stage for Becker. The senior hammered a ball off the scoreboard in right field, his first career blast, extending the lead to 3-0.
“Every time he does anything when he plays, the whole dugout freaks out and gets excited,” Mendoza said on Becker’s big afternoon.
“For him to do that, it’s awesome.”
The Noles weren’t done, as the long ball continued. After Mike Salvatore reached on an error, Mendoza annihilated his 15th home run of the season, a no-doubter to right-center field that cleared the trees beyond the wall, giving FSU a 5-0 advantage.
In the 4th, the Owls got on the board after a double and a two-run home run from Bobby Morgensen to cut the lead to 5-2 off of Drew Parrish (8-5).
Parrish went five solid innings for FSU, giving up five runs and striking out seven hitters.
The Noles got one of those runs back in the 5th inning on a Smith RBI single that dropped into center field, scoring Mat Nelson from second base and giving FSU a 6-2 lead.
But, FAU continued to battle as they cut the lead to three yet again via a home run from Joe Montes in the bottom of the inning. However, with runners on the corners, Parrish struck out Pedro Pages to end the threat.
In the 6th inning, Mendoza hit his second home run of the game, another shot that was gone as soon as it left the bat to right field. The 16th of the year for the junior pushed FSU’s lead to 8-3. It was Mendoza’s third multi-homer game of 2019 and his 16 bombs are the most by a Seminole since Mike McGee hit 17 in 2010.
The Owls once again applied pressure as they added two runs in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 8-5. Chase Haney and Antonio Velez did a good job of limiting the damage after coming into the game for Parrish, with the bases loaded and 0 outs.
Velez finished with 3.1 innings of relief work, giving up just two runs on one hit, while walking one and striking out three on 43 pitches for his first career save.
Every time FAU threatened to get back into the game, the hot-hitting FSU lineup responded.
The 7th inning was no different as Becker joined Mendoza in hitting his second homer of the afternoon, a two-run drifter to centerfield that just cleared the wall to extend the lead to 10-5.
“That was surreal,” Becker said. “This (big game) will probably sink in tomorrow, but I was just trying to not do too much and keep my swing short.”
The Owls, the regular season champs of Conference USA, would not go away as they scored two more runs in the bottom of the inning with Morgensen hitting his second home run of the game, a two-run blast, cutting the lead to 10-7.
In the 9th, the Noles added three big insurance runs thanks to a two-run home run to center field from Reese Albert, his 6th of the season, and another run via an error by the Owls that scored Mendoza.
Velez retired the side in order for the final three outs and Florida State improved to 37-21 on the season, moving into Saturday night’s winner’s bracket game. The Seminoles will play the winner of No. 1 seed Georgia and No. 4 seed Mercer at 7 PM.
CJ Van Eyk (9-3, 3.74 ERA) is scheduled to start for FSU on the mound.
For more information on Florida State baseball, check Seminoles.com for the latest news and scheduling information, or keep up with the team on social media through Twitter (@FSUBaseball), Facebook (/FSUBaseball), and Instagram (@NoleBaseball).