TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For all the ways that Florida State’s 2018 baseball season seems to have mirrored its 2017 campaign, the Seminoles would have preferred to skip this part.
Just like last year, FSU entered the NCAA tournament on a hot streak, having closed the regular season on a tear and won the ACC tournament in impressive fashion.
And, just like last year, the top-seeded Seminoles dropped their first game of NCAA Regional play and are tasked with winning four times in three days if they’re to advance to next week’s Super Regional.
That’s thanks to No. 4-seed Samford, which used a combination of good fortune and opportunistic offense to claim a 7-6 victory in front of 3,865 fans at Dick Howser Stadium.
FSU has a quick turnaround before it meets No. 2 Mississippi State in an elimination game Saturday at noon. The Bulldogs fell, 20-10, to No. 3 Oklahoma earlier in the day.
“It wasn’t a so-called ‘Just one of those nights,’” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “It was just a night when the other team played extremely well and whipped us.”
As a result, the Seminoles find themselves in a situation they’d rather not be in – backs against the wall and facing must-win games from now until the end of the regional.
The good news, however, is that the Seminoles have been here before. Recently.
Almost one year ago to the day, FSU fell, 3-1, to fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech, then reeled off four straight wins to eliminate UCF, Tennessee Tech and Auburn in successive days.
It wasn’t always easy – the Seminoles needed some late-game dramatics to knock off Auburn in their third of four victories – but they managed.
Even better, that Regional run sparked a Super Regional sweep of Sam Houston State in the week that followed, and FSU finished its season at the College World Series in Omaha.
Six players who started Friday’s game were a part of that run.
“It’s such familiar territory. It’s almost eerie how similar these two years have been,” said sophomore third baseman Drew Mendoza, who missed a would-be game-tying home run by a few feet in the bottom of the eighth. Instead, his deep fly ball bounced off the wall in right field for a run-scoring double.
“Win the ACC title, and then this tough time here. But with this group of guys, we know we’re ready to come back tomorrow and get it done. We’re looking forward to it.”
There will be at least one more similarity to last season come Saturday afternoon, and it’s likely the Seminoles’ biggest reason for confidence.
A year ago, FSU faced elimination but pressed forward with confidence, knowing that ace pitcher Tyler Holton was set to take the mound.
Holton did his job masterfully and the Seminoles advanced past UCF in relatively quick fashion.
This time around, the ball will go to sophomore Drew Parrish, who has been nothing short of outstanding over the last few weeks.
Parrish has gone at least seven full innings in each of his last three starts, during which he’s combined to strike out 35 batters and surrendered a total of just six earned runs.
(Parrish’s longevity could come in handy. FSU’s relievers accounted for 6 1/3 innings after starter Cole Sands left in the third with an apparent injury.)
So, as far as Martin as concerned, there’s no one he’d rather see on the mound as his team looks to follow that familiar script with its season on the line.
“Drew [Parrish] is one of those guys that just truly loves to compete,” Martin said. “You know what you’re getting from the first pitch that he throws in the game, because you know you’re going to get a guy that wants to compete as long as he can.
“He’s the kind of pitcher that every coach loves to have.”’