OMAHA, Neb. – The Florida State baseball team didn’t want to be in this situation.
And the Seminoles landed here in a most painful fashion.
But anyone expecting FSU to despair following a 5-4 loss to LSU in its first game of the College
World Series would have been surprised at the scene outside the Seminoles’ locker room at TD Ameritrade Park. “We’re not going to be all depressed and dwell on this loss,” senior Quincy Nieporte said. “I told our guys forget about it. We’re all great players and we’re all here for a reason, so there’s nothing to be worried about.” FSU is in familiar territory, having lost the first game of a double-elimination bracket. The Seminoles will face Cal State Fullerton, a 6-5 loser to Oregon State in the day’s first game, in an elimination game on Monday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
It’s the same scenario that the Seminoles were in two weeks ago, when they dropped their first game of the NCAA Tallahassee Regional before bouncing back to win four games in three days and advance.
The good news for FSU is that the College World Series is more spread out, meaning they’ll be plenty rested and won’t need to grind out any doubleheaders just to stay afloat.
The bad news, of course, is that the other teams here in Omaha are a cut above the ones they faced in the Regional.
So the Seminoles can draw from their experience, while also knowing that they’ll need to find another level to extend their time at the CWS.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve had these situations all season,” said junior shortstop Taylor Walls, who reached base four times and scored three runs. “So it’s not like we’re down. We still believe.”
The Seminoles actually came away from Saturday’s game mostly satisfied with their efforts – they performed admirably against LSU starter Alex Lange and got a strong effort from their starter, sophomore Tyler Holton.
But a handful of plays had them shaking their heads by the time it was over.
Two stick out. In the bottom of the first, Holton coaxed a swinging strikeout from LSU slugger Greg Deichmann, but the ball bounced past catcher Cal Raleigh and rolled to the deep backstop.
LSU outfielder Antoine Duplantis had already broken for second base on the pitch, then rounded toward third when Raleigh mishandled the ball.
With no one covering home plate, Duplantis kept going and scored a run on a play that might otherwise have ended the inning.
“I’ve seen some crazy things, but I never saw a guy score from first base on a strikeout,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “Tip your hat to them. The guy never stopped.”
Even still, FSU held a 4-3 lead when things got even stranger in the bottom of the eighth.
The odd occurrences started when a beach ball from the bleachers made its way onto the playing surface in right field. FSU’s Steven Wells grabbed the ball and tossed it back to the crowd, prompting a friendly cheer from the 25,000-plus in attendance.
On the next pitch, Duplantis singled to right field, and the typically steady Wells mishandled the ball on the ground, then missed his target when throwing to second. Duplantis advanced to third, and Cole Freeman, who began the play on first base, came around to score.
FSU appeared to have Freeman caught at the plate, but Raleigh couldn’t hang on to a throw from third baseman Dylan Busby and the game was tied.
“It’s just one of those fluke plays,” Holton said. “You’ve got to make the plays at hand and we didn’t play great defense tonight. I didn’t have my best stuff either. I’m not going to say it wasn’t my fault. Because I was right there. I could have thrown a lot better.”
LSU took the lead one batter later and, despite getting both Walls and Busby to the plate with a runner on second in the top of the ninth, FSU’s late rally fell short.
It was a rally that, just moments before, no one expected the Seminoles would need.
“You can’t give one of these teams extra outs or opportunities for them to capitalize on,” Nieporte said. “I just feel like we did one too many of those.”
One fewer and perhaps the Seminoles are celebrating and preparing to meet No. 1 Oregon State on Monday.
Instead, FSU is looking to its recent history — which includes those wins in the regional, as well as victories at Louisville and in the ACC tournament — to help regain confidence and refocus for its game against the Titans.
Also helping matters is that freshman Drew Parrish is scheduled to start against Fullerton, and he’s allowed a total of just eight hits and two earned runs over his last four outings – all of them FSU victories.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Martin said. “But there’s one thing that we all in this room know: We’re not eliminated. So we will play again Monday, and hopefully play a little better.”