June 5, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a season of spectating with ace Sean Gilmartin on the mound, Florida State’s offense was put to the test in Saturday night’s Tallahassee Regional winner’s bracket game with Alabama.
With Gilmartin laboring against the Crimson Tide, the Seminoles’ bats came to the rescue, delivering a four-run sixth inning that propelled FSU to a 9-5 victory.
Rafael Lopez and James Ramsey delivered two-run singles in the sixth as the Seminoles (44-17) erased a 5-4 deficit and cruised to the finish. The victory assured Florida State, the No. 5 national seed, a spot in its fourth consecutive regional championship game.
“The first four innings obviously weren’t my standard of what I want,” said Gilmartin, who was roughed by the Tide. “I didn’t really have my best stuff going. I didn’t really have a great change-up tonight that I normally have. They hit my mistakes. … The last three or four innings that I threw basically my thought process was, `keep them right there.'”
Alabama (34-27) built a 5-4 lead through four innings, collecting 11 hits and five earned runs. The Seminoles’ left-hander yielded a career-high 12 hits, but still found a way to improve to 12-1 on the season by settling down over his final three innings of work as the offense went to work.
“[Gilmartin] just pitched four innings that were totally uncharacteristic of him,” Martin said. “And yet he goes out in the fifth, sixth and seventh … and just fights to get his team in the dugout, throws up three zeroes and our young men did a great job of scoring runs.
“That to me shows what kind of guy I have had the pleasure of coach, because there was no concern about himself on the bench. It was all about the team.”
The two teams traded blows from the start with the Seminoles jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first against Crimson Tide starter Adam Morgan. Singles by Devon Travis and Lopez set the table for the first of Ramsey’s four RBI on the night – a line drive single to right. Alabama countered with in the first on Austen Smith’s infield single and Josh Rosecrans’ RBI double off the right field screen for a 2-1 lead.
Neither team showed signs of letting up. FSU used a three-run third to regain the lead on four hits, including three doubles. Travis started the surge with his 23rd double of the season and scored on Mike McGee’s groundout. Ramsey beat out an infield single before Jayce Boyd and Sherman Johnson laced back-to-back RBI doubles for a 4-2 cushion.
“They have a tremendous lineup,” Morgan said of the Seminoles. “We just made some mistakes and fell behind. They were very disciplined at the plate and the pitches I gave them, they took advantage of.”
Alabama, however, wasn’t done. The Tide countered with two runs on four hits in the third before the Gilmartin escaped further damage with an inning-ending double play and a tied score. They regained the lead in the fourth when Brent Hendricks led off with a double down the left field line, moved up on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch for a 5-4 advantage.
In a game full of big at-bats and even bigger plays in the field, including Gilmartin throwing his glove – with the ball lodged between the fingers – to first for an out, the Seminoles made the biggest plays at the plate when it mattered most. And they got some help from the Crimson Tide defense, as well.
Morgan ran into trouble in the sixth when he issues a one-out walk to Stuart Tapley and consecutive singles to Taiwan Easterling and Travis, loading the bases for Lopez, whose two-run single put the `Noles in front 6-5.
“He [Morgan] was making me look pretty dumb,” said Lopez, who struck out and popped up to center in his previous two at-bats. “I was just trying to hit the ball the other way.”
But FSU’s biggest break came when McGee lined out to right fielder Andrew Miller, whose throw to second would have doubled off Travis to end the inning. Shortstop Jordan Reaves, however, failed to hang on to the ball. That brought the red-hot Ramsey to the plate with runners at second and third after Morgan wild pitch.
“[Coach Martin] always talks about the fun opportunities that you have and that’s one of them,” Ramsey said. “You take a little sigh of breath, and even though it wasn’t me hitting when the mistake happened, was like being able to go up there was almost a freebie at-bat.
“[Morgan] was getting high in his pitch count and there was another at-bat he was going to have to face. He was having to nibble against me. It was a 3-2 count, he shakes off [the sign] and goes to the fastball. I was just glad to hit it.”
Ramsey roped a two-run single to center for an 8-5 lead.
“It’s amazing how [it helps] if you can take advantage of opportunities and our team did just that in that particular instance,” Martin said. “We were very fortunate against a very good baseball team tonight. We got a couple of breaks and took advantage of them.”
It didn’t hurt that Gilmartin settled down and began to hit his spots, yielding just one hit over his final three innings.
“The last three innings he threw well,” said Lopez, FSU’s catcher. “He was locating in. … He was Sean the last three, four innings.”
Ramsey capped his four-RBI night with a double in the eighth. Busch worked a scoreless eighth and Bennett struck out the side in the ninth to move the Seminoles within one win of advancing to a Super Regional for the fourth consecutive year.
“We are obviously excited to be in the position that we are in, but we know that this tournament is a long way from being over,” Martin said. “There are two very good baseball teams who will be playing tomorrow that are capable of winning this thing, also.”
Alabama and UCF will meet in a 12 p.m. elimination game, with the winner facing the Seminoles at 6 p.m., which will be televised by FoxSports Florida.