TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After watching freshman pitcher Chase Haney briefly navigate a bases-loaded jam against St. John’s earlier this season, Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin saw a flash that suggested Haney could contribute to FSU’s bullpen sooner rather than later.
Turns out Haney may be even further ahead of schedule than Martin thought.
Facing the most difficult situation of his young career, Haney stemmed the tide against No. 9 Georgia Tech and opening a window for the 14th-ranked Seminoles to erase a five-run deficit and earn a 14-9 victory on Saturday afternoon at Dick Howser Stadium.
Haney, a 6-6, 225-pound right-handed side-armer, struck out two Yellow Jackets while allowing no runs and one hit in 3 2/3 innings. And, thanks to a slight Tech rally in the ninth inning, Haney ended up earning his second win of the season.
“He pitched very well today,” Martin said. “He held everything right there, to give us a chance.”
FSU made the most of that chance.
Haney coaxed a groundout to end some inherited trouble in the fourth inning, then sat the Jackets down 1-2-3 in the next frame.
With Tech’s offense suddenly silent, FSU struck back in force with a six-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth. Dylan Busby hit a two-run homer to left-center field to get the Seminoles on the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, as the runs piled up in the fifth – some shaky Georgia Tech defense led to two unearned runs that put FSU on top– Haney watched from the dugout, anxiously awaiting another crack at the Jackets’ hitters.
“My excitement level went up a lot,” said Haney, a native of Winter Garden, Fla. “And I was just ready to get back out there as soon as possible.”
The sixth inning provided Haney another tightrope to walk. After hitting a batter and allowing a single up the middle, Haney stared down Tech pinch-hitter Brandon Gold with the tying and go-ahead runs already on base.
But with the count full and runners taking off, Haney got Gold – a .286 hitter with eight RBIs and two home runs this season – to swing through a breaking ball for the final out.
“I was just trying to throw a strike and I got lucky,” Haney said. “It was really big. I think it gave the team a big boost going into the next few innings.”
Safe to say it did.
“That really put a fire in me,” shortstop Taylor Walls said. “I was like ‘Dude, Let’s go. This guy is out here battling and doing everything he can to keep us in the game. Let’s give him some runs.’”
The Seminoles did just that, roughing up the Yellow Jackets’ bullpen for three runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth to build a 14-5 lead by the top of the ninth.
By the time Haney gave way to Jim Voyles in the seventh, FSU had all but clinched its most impressive series victory of the season.
And that Georgia Tech finished with 16 hits makes the one that Haney allowed look even smaller.
“You can say they’re a good hitting team,” Martin said. “I say they’re doggone good. I mean, my goodness, 16 hits. And I didn’t see any cheapies.
“So Chase’s confidence is certainly building.”
With good reason. Haney has now pitched nine innings across six appearances, and has a perfect 0.00 earned runs average to go along with 14 strikeouts, three hits and two runs allowed.
Count Busby as unsurprised by Haney’s early success. After facing Haney in practice, he’s seen firsthand how Haney’s stature, combined with his submarine delivery, gives fits to right-handed batters.
“That height, getting way out there toward the third-base side, it’s really hard coming in there and coming back over the plate,” Busby said. “It’s tough.”
And Haney looks like he’s just getting started.
“I’m very pleased with the fact that Chase is getting more acclimated to Division I baseball,” Martin said. “Being a freshman, pitching his first conference series, he passed.
“He passed the test.”