LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For the second time in a week, sophomore Tyler Holton and the Seminoles shut down a powerful Louisville lineup, defeating the Cardinals 6-2 Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinals of the ACC Championship at Louisville Slugger Field. Holton (9-2) struck out 10 batters, his fifth game this season reaching double-digits, and has 21 strikeouts in the past week against No. 5 Louisville.
“It was a ballgame that we knew was going to be very tough because we're playing a very good, tough team,” head coach Mike Martin said of Louisville. “It just happened that a couple of things went our way early. We took advantage of it.”
After finishing the regular season with a three-game series against the Cardinals, the Seminoles extended its 10-day trip in Derby City at least one more day with Friday's win. Florida State won both games at Jim Patterson Stadium last Thursday and Friday before Saturday's finale was rained out. In the ACC Championship, Louisville earned the top-seed while the Seminoles were seeded eighth, meaning FSU had to beat both Notre Dame and the Cardinals to advance to Saturday's semifinals.
“Facing a good team like that, they can hit a lot of good pitches in and out of the zone,” Holton said. “I did kind of change up tendencies [from last week], throwing more fastballs in, seemed to help this game. But definitely, I was throwing whatever was working and trying to keep them off balance.”
In a rematch of last Friday's matchup between Holton and Louisville's Kade McClure (7-3), Florida State (37-20) scored a pair of runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead before the Cardinals (47-10) got an at-bat. Taylor Walls led off the game with a five-pitch walk, and Dylan Busby lined a double to right field off the glove of a diving Colin Lyman to give FSU runners at second and third.
Walls raced home after a McClure wild pitch, and after review, the Seminoles led 1-0. Quincy Nieporte followed with his team-high 17th double, scoring Busby from second to double the FSU lead.
Louisville answered with an unearned run in the third. The Cardinals eight- and nine-hole hitters reached on singles, and both runners advanced on a passed ball from catcher Cal Raleigh. Josh Stowers' RBI groundout made it 2-1 FSU, but Holton answered with his third strikeout of the game to end the frame.
In the bottom of the fourth, J.C. Flowers and Henderson made outstanding defensive catches, though only one of them counted. Devin Mann reached on a fielding error by Walls at shortstop, but Henderson laid out for a diving catch off the bat of Ryan Summers that appeared to end the inning. Summers was ruled safe at first after catcher's interference on Raleigh, giving the Cardinals two runners on with two outs.
Pat Rumoro, Louisville's third-string catcher starting for the injured Colby Fitch, lined what appeared to be a two-run double to center field, but Flowers laid out for an outstanding catch that kept FSU's lead at 4-1 through four innings.
McClure exited in the fifth after loading the bases with two outs, but reliever Sam Bordner retired Henderson swinging to prevent any damage.
ACC Player of the Year Brendan McKay closed the gap to 4-2 with his 17th home run of the season to lead off the sixth inning. It was the final run the Cardinals would score.
Holton would pitch two more innings, exiting after recording two strikeouts, his ninth and tenth of the game, in the eighth inning. Holton allowed four hits and one earned run, lowering his season ERA to 2.43.
After the Seminoles added a pair of runs in the top of the ninth on Jackson Lueck's two-run double that scored Walls and Busby, Drew Carlton entered in a non-save situation and retired the Cardinals in order.
Florida State advances to the semifinals of the ACC Baseball Championship Saturday at 12:00 p.m. against the nine-seed Duke Blue Devils. Duke is one of three teams in the conference that FSU did not face this year (Georgia Tech, Pitt). FSU is the home team by virtue of being the higher-seeded team.
Duke (30-27) reached the semifinals out of Pool D, beating five-seed Clemson and four-seed Virginia earlier in the week.
The Seminoles will throw right-hander Cole Sands (5-3, 5.82 ERA), while Duke will counter with freshman left-hander Adam Laskey (4-4, 6.45 ERA). The winner of Saturday's semifinal will play in the Championship Game Sunday at 12:00 p.m.
- Jackson Lueck had a pair of hits on Friday, including a two-run double in the ninth inning. That extends his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games, and his on-base streak to a career-high 14 games.
- After going 3-for-3 Wednesday against Notre Dame and 2-for-5 against Louisville Friday, Jackson Lueck is now 12-for-22 in six career ACC Championship games.
- After falling behind 7-3 last Thursday against Louisville, the Seminoles outscored the Cardinals 23-6 over the final 23 innings.
- FSU has won nine of its last 10 ACC Championship games (4-0 in 2015, 3-1 in 2016).
Each of FSU's top seven hitters in the lineup recorded at least one hit, including two each from Taylor Walls, Dylan Busby, and Jackson Lueck. All three hitters recorded their second hit of the game in the ninth inning.