BATON ROUGE, La. – See you in Omaha!
Mike Martin’s favorite four words came to life as Florida State (41-21) defeated No. 13 National Seed LSU (40-26) 5-4 in a thrilling 12-inning game, punching the Seminoles ticket back to the College World Series for the 23rd time in school history.
Before Drew Mendoza’s walk-off single scored Mike Salvatore from second base, both teams got brilliant performances from its bullpens in the four hour, 13 minute affair. Antonio Velez (5-2) earned his second win of the Super Regional, striking out 6 batters in 4.2 innings without allowing a run. Devin Fontenot (5-4) struck out 11 in 6.1 innings and gave up just two hits – 12th inning singles to Salvatore and Mendoza.
The win guarantees that Martin will wrap his 40-year career in Omaha, his 17th appearance in the College World Series.
“Unbelievable. I don’t think anyone in this room, let alone this country would have put us in this place right now (into Omaha),” Drew Mendoza said following the game.
“We are all blessed, it’s been an incredible ride. We have always believed in each other and we just got on a roll and are going to keep it going.”
In a reversal from game one of the series, when FSU had to rally in the later innings to knock off the Tigers, FSU jumped to a 3-0 led in the second inning and a 4-1 through five innings before LSU clawed back.
In the 2nd inning the Seminoles got the scoring started as they loaded the bases after a walk to Robby Martin, a bunt single from J.C. Flowers, and a single up the middle from Carter Smith with nobody out.
Nander De Sedas got the Seminoles on the board as he grounded out to first. The return throw home was not held on to by the catcher, allowing Martin to score safely to give FSU a 1-0 lead against Landon Marceaux.
Later in the inning, Mat Nelson ripped a single to left field scoring Flowers and Salvatore, followed by a bloop single into center field scoring Smith, as FSU extended the lead to 3-0.
LSU cut into the FSU lead in the 4th inning with a solo home run from Antoine Duplantis off CJ Van Eyk down the right field line. The ball appeared to curl foul before passing the foul pole, but the call was upheld on review to make it 3-1.
Duplantis finished 4-for-6 Sunday with a pair of singles, a double and a home run. He is the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leader in hits with 359.
In the bottom of the inning, the Seminoles answered back as Nelson singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Tim Becker did what he’s done all post-season and brought Nelson home with a scorching double to left field, giving FSU a 4-1 lead.
In the 6th inning, LSU scratched another run across after three straight singles to make it 4-2. Van Eyk buckled down and was able to limit the damage to get out of the inning with the Noles up a pair. Nelson picked off Giovanni DiGiacomo at third base to help limit the damage to just one run in the frame.
In the 8th inning, the Tigers were able to push two runs across with RBI singles from Duplantis and Zach Watson to tie the game at 4-4 against Van Eyk. Watson was out at second base on his game-tying single, again helping thwart more LSU runs.
Neither team could muster the go-ahead run as the game went into extra innings and the Seminoles brought Velez in.
The lefty was nearly untouchable in four and two-thirds innings of relief. The junior gave up just four hits and no runs, while striking out six batters on 64 total pitches.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, Salvatore laced a one-out single to center field and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
After a strikeout by Reese Albert, Mendoza ripped a two-strike offering from Fontenot into right-center field to clinch the game as the Seminoles are headed to Omaha for the 23rd time in school history.
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).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A few moments after the last out sailed into catcher Matheu Nelson’s glove, and after the sea of purple and yellow that had just moments before made this place shake, Keith Albert made his way across the concourse at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium and stopped for just a moment.
Then Albert, whose son, Florida State sophomore Reese, had just done much of the heavy lifting in the Seminoles’ 6-4 victory over the Tigers, cocked back his head and shouted, toward anyone and no one, the chant that’s synonymous with FSU athletics:
“F-L-O-R-I-D-A! S-T-A-T-E! …”
There weren’t many left to join in, but that hardly mattered.
Not to Keith or Reese Albert, and certainly not to the FSU baseball players celebrating a win that puts them one step away from the College World Series.
They’re there thanks to a number of heroes, but none more so than Reese Albert, who hit a pair of home runs that erased a four-run deficit and helped to deliver one of the most memorable victories in Florida State’s recent history.
“That really shows you what kind of player Reese is,” said FSU third baseman Drew Mendoza, who hits one spot behind Albert in the lineup.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the Seminoles trailing 4-1, struggling at the plate and seemingly on the way to a quiet, frustrating defeat, Albert showed the Tigers exactly the type of player he is.
He stepped to the plate with runners on first and second base, one out and 6-3, 208-pound reliever Trent Vietmeier standing 60 feet, six inches away on the pitchers’ mound.
What followed was an epic, tense, back-and-forth battle between hitter and pitcher, the kind that had fans from both sides biting their nails between pitches.
Their entire exchange took exactly five minutes, 35 seconds of real time and lasted for 11 pitches – the last of which Albert launched out of the park and off the roof of a building beyond the right-field fence.
By the time Albert crossed home plate, the game was tied and momentum had unquestionably shifted toward Florida State’s dugout.
“There’s no way Reese was planning on hitting a home run,” Florida State coach Mike Martin said after the game. “He just happened to hit the pitch, and the rest is history.”
That approach, though, is exactly why Albert was able to deliver one of the season’s biggest moments.
The Seminoles, under the guidance of hitting coach Mike Martin Jr., have long been one of the country’s pickiest and most patient teams at the plate.
They’re regularly among the nation’s leaders in both walks and hit-by-pitches, and they rarely do opposing pitchers any favors by offering at balls off the plate. Or even strikes that are likely to end up as grounders or pop-ups.
LSU saw it firsthand on Saturday, as the Seminoles walked 10 times.
“We don’t swing at bad pitches,” Albert said. “A pitcher throws a good pitch, it’s a ball and we don’t swing at it.
“That tends to upset them a little bit.”
Vietmeier can attest to that.
Because after running a full count after five pitches – three of them fastballs – the hard-throwing right-hander did all he could to earn that crucial out.
Albert, though, had one major advantage: With top hitter Drew Mendoza in the on-deck circle, Albert figured that Vietmeier was unlikely to throw an off-speed pitch and risk walking the bases loaded.
He was right.
Vietmeier started with a 92 mile-per-hour fastball, low and inside, that Albert fouled left.
Then another fastball, a little higher, fouled off again. T.V. announcers said it would have been ball four, but, from Albert’s perspective, it was close enough that he couldn’t take that chance.
“The pitches that I fouled off were borderline strike calls,” he said. “So I had to swing.”
It’s here that Vietmeier first shows that he’s feeling some pressure.
After stepping to the mound to deliver his next pitch, he then quickly stepped off and took a look at FSU’s Tim Becker leading off from second before gathering himself.
“I feel like every time I fouled one off, he was getting more nervous than I was,” Albert said.
Mendoza saw it, too.
“I think Reese kind of smelled blood in the water,” Mendoza said. “You see it in their (pitchers’) eyes. You see the body language.”
Vietmeier offered another fastball that Albert fouled back with ease.
He then took another step off the mound and took two glances at Becker before, in what might have been his best effort of the at-bat, dialing up a 93-mile-per-hour fastball that Albert sent foul to the left-field concourse.
It was the 10th pitch of the sequence.
“If you foil a pitchers’ pitch,” Mendoza said, “he’s eventually going to come to you.”
He did, just a moment later.
“Middle-in,” Albert said after the game. “I kind of knew as soon as I hit it.”
You and everyone else, Reese.
The line-drive shot left the park in seconds, screamed past the oversized billboard celebrating LSU’s national championships and bounced around on a tile roof before finally falling back to earth.
“He finally just gave me a pitch I could do some damage with,” Albert said.
Albert’s teammates poured out of the dugout to celebrate with him while a small-but-loud group of Florida State fans echoed that chant throughout the stadium …
“That was a huge at-bat,” FSU center fielder J.C. Flowers said. “That just shows the type of team we are.”
And the type of player Albert is.
The Seminoles have defeated LSU 6-4, continuing the 40 game win streak.
FSU is now one win away from the College World Series in Omaha.
BATON ROUGE, La. – In a sense, the Florida State and LSU baseball teams are each where they expect to be at this time of year: In an NCAA Super Regional, needing just two wins to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Go figure that neither the Seminoles nor the Tigers took their usual routes to get here.
In fact, as one reporter pointed out to FSU coach Mike Martin following his team’s Friday practice at Alex Box Stadium, a matchup between the two college baseball heavyweights seems more suited for Omaha than Tallahassee or Baton Rouge.
Both teams even spent time as the No. 1-ranked team in the country earlier this season.
“I’m sure that both us of did not think that this would happen,” Martin said. “Because so much had to happen for this to occur.”
The Seminoles had to navigate the ups and downs that come with a young team, had to rally from a 19-13 midseason record and had to sweat out an NCAA tournament selection show during which they were revealed to be among the last four teams to make the field.
Then, they had to go win a four-team regional in Athens, Ga., that featured a No. 4 national seed in Georgia.
That the Seminoles did so in such emphatic fashion – they beat Georgia twice by a combined score of 22-4 – is perhaps the biggest reason that several national outlets, including Sports Illustrated and NCAA.com, have predicted FSU to win in Baton Rouge.
“Our young men worked to get better,” Martin said. “And they achieved that.”
The Tigers can relate.
Ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, LSU went through a rash of injuries and inconsistency and, were it not for a late surge at the SEC tournament, might have been on the road for regionals.
Instead, the Tigers have won six of their last eight and were perfect in sweeping through their regional field last week.
“You can just never predict how things are going to happen,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, a longtime friend of Martin’s.
“A lot of people did not think Florida State would be in the postseason. I am sure there were a lot of people wondering what was going to happen with LSU.
“One of the two teams has to go to Omaha.”
For Florida State, the road to Omaha is on the road, and in one of college baseball’s most famous venues.
FSU hasn’t played at LSU since 1983, and the Tigers’ Alex Box Stadium was completely rebuilt and replaced in 2009.
The field – named after former LSU coach Skip Bertman – is modeled after the one at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, and the surrounding concourse and grandstands are littered with evidence of the Tigers’ baseball achievements.
It was more than enough to grab Martin’s attention as the Seminoles practiced on Friday afternoon.
“I’ve got to be very honest with you,” he said with a smile. “When I walked in this place today, it felt like Gomer Pyle – ‘Goooooooolly.’
“Because it was absolutely beautiful. … This is a gorgeous place to play baseball.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, will have to go through Martin.
FSU fans have been aware of the 40-year coach’s pending retirement for nearly a year, but with the end of the season approaching, the rest of the nation is starting to take notice.
Martin doesn’t have much interest in being a sentimental favorite – he quickly reminded reporters Friday that he’d rather the focus be on his players – but he’ll likely be one anyway.
Not that he’d notice from the visitors’ dugout, surrounded by 12,000 LSU fans.
“I think everybody knows how I feel about Mike Martin,” Mainieri said. “He is one of the true legends in my business.
“Obviously, he has had a career for the ages. He is the winningest coach of any sport in the history of the NCAA. I told him today that it is an honor for me to be on the other side of the field.”
Martin, for his part, sees similarities when he looks to the opposing dugout.
A team led by a coach that he respects, that had to overcome midseason adversity, and that has since turned things around.
And now the Tigers find themselves exactly where they always expect to be at this time of year. Just like the Seminoles.
“You’ve got to have the right guys,” Martin said. “And both of these programs have the right guys.
“They’re where they are because of the determination of the young men that are involved in the program. There was no feeling sorry for themselves at any time on these two clubs. They both just kept working and got it done.”