June 11, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — By advancing to the 21st College World Series in program history, the Florida State baseball team ensured that its starting infielders will get to play at least one more weekend together.
FSU may have scored an NCAA-record tying 35 combined runs in the super regional but its Omaha-clinching victory over Stanford Sunday was just as much about the defense by the Seminoles playing in the clay as it was the offensive spectacle put on by the entire team.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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Sherman Johnson, Justin Gonzalez, Devon Travis and Jayce Boyd will never play together at Dick Howeser Stadium again. But their collective impact won’t soon be forgotten. Nor will the comfort they provide to a longtime coach in search of his first championship trophy.
“When a ground ball is hit you’re thinking as a coach, ‘OK, is this young man ready to make this?’ FSU coach Mike Martin said. “I looked out there and I saw Sherman, he’s been to four super regionals. Jayce Boyd three super regionals. Devon Travis three super regionals. Justin Gonzalez three super regionals. I said, ‘Hit it to any of them’ because there’s no problem. They’re wanting the ball hit to them.”
The Cardinal probably wishes the ‘Noles infielders didn’t want the ball Sunday night.
If Johnson, Gonzalez or Travis wasn’t working unassisted to force a Stanford player out, they were combining to register the put-away. Florida State converted three double plays over the course of the game and the Cardinal stranded a combined five runners Sunday in those innings that the multiple-out play occurred.
“They made some really great defensive plays,” Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. “They turned a lot of double plays against us. We hit into more double plays in these two days then we have in 30 games.”
The super regional sweep of its Pac-12 foes was just one more instance of the Seminoles’ ability to use strong defense and steady pitching as a recipe for success.
FSU will head to Omaha for the second time in three seasons knowing that it will have to rely on a tandem of starting pitchers in Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton that as freshmen have never played on such a stage.
But for what they lack in inexperience they boast in backup — as in the student athletes that will be there to finish off innings, turn double plays and get out of jams. FSU may not score a combined 35 runs until a few weeks into next season. But that’s the way baseball works. Pitching and defense win games.
And if the Seminoles continue to play defense the way they have all season, this 21st trip to Omaha could turn out to be unlike any other.
“[Martin] likes to say, ‘Each ground ball takes us back [to Omaha],” Travis said. “… Definitely out there every ground ball that was hit to me I was saying ‘This ground ball takes us back.’ That little voice inside my head. A lot of those plays [against Stanford] were really big plays. They weren’t spectacular. They were just plays that need to be made. Plays that we work on 1,000 times a year.
“And defense definitely is our strong point on this team.”