TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After more than five hours, a wild swing of emotion and one jaw-dropping moment, Mississippi State freshman Jake Mangum offered perhaps the best explanation for everything that happened here at Dick Howser Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“Baseball,” he said, “is a crazy game that will rip your heart out. And it will make you as happy as you can be.
“That’s why baseball is what it is, and that’s why we love it.”
In his 39-year run as Florida State’s head coach, Mike Martin has been on both sides of that equation more often than he can count.
Score Saturday’s events as a heartbreaker, one that will likely linger for a while.
Because after speeding through eight innings in which the Seminoles built a two-run lead and seemed to be in total control, everything came to a halt thanks to a 150-minute weather delay late in the afternoon.
Starter Drew Parrish, all but unhittable before the break, found himself in a sticky situation in the ninth after issuing a pair of walks – his only two free passes of the game. But the worst seemed to be over: He already had two outs, as well as two strikes on Mississippi State’s Elijah MacNamee,and needed just one more thing to go his way to seal the win and preserve his team’s NCAA tournament hopes.
It didn’t happen. Instead, Parrish delivered a changeup, MacNamee connected, and just a few moments later, the ball was off the scoreboard for the three-run home run that lifted the Bulldogs to an improbable 3-2 victory and ended the Seminoles’ season in a most excruciating fashion.
“I’m just in a little bit of a state of, ‘Did that really just happen?’” Martin said. “And I’ll get over it. But it sure does hurt.”
It hurts for all the obvious reasons. The Seminoles entered the tournament maybe playing as well as they had all season. They had earned a No. 7 national seed and had serious designs on playing deep into June.
But it also hurts because, for 8 2/3 innings, FSU – and specifically Parrish – did everything it needed to do in order to win a game and extend the campaign.
The Seminoles had scratched out just enough offense, and, with the way Parrish was dealing, those two runs had felt more like five or 10.
The sophomore lefty, continuing a recent hot streak, entered the ninth inning having surrendered just three hits, all of them singles.
Only one Bulldog managed to reach second, on a wild pitch in the fifth inning, and no one had advanced to third.
“I cannot say enough about Drew Parrish,” Martin said. “…He absolutely dominated that club for 8 2/3 innings.”
After the game, much was made of Martin’s decision to go back to Parrish after such a lengthy delay.
But after watching the way pitching coach Mike Bell had worked with Parrish to keep him loose and warmed up, and seeing how both Parrish and his teammates were desperate for him to get the ball and finish the game, Martin made the call.
“He was the guy that our entire organization wanted on the mound,” Martin said. “There was no issue whatsoever with him being ready to pitch.”
Both Martin and Mississippi State’s contingent said the Parrish that took the mound in the ninth looked exactly the same as the one they had seen previously. Indeed, the pitch he threw before the final changeup was a fastball that clocked at 93 miles per hour – as fast as he’d thrown all day.
Even the home run ball came after a changeup that Martin would take every time.
“It was low and away,” he said.
But after not being able to touch Parrish’s off-speed pitch all afternoon, someone finally did.
Baseball is a crazy game that will rip your heart out.
“I mean, they hadn’t made contact on his changeup all day long,” Martin said. “He had dominated. He made a great pitch. And it got hit out of the ballpark.”
Added Mangum, who was standing on second base at the time: “The changeup that (MacNamee) hit looked like any other changeup that (Parrish) threw all day. That we swung through.”
It marked Parrish’s first loss of the season.
Afterward, Martin’s comments echoed those from the 18-year-old in the opposite dugout.
“It’s something that you just have to look out and say, ‘That’s baseball,’” he said.
“Doesn’t make it any easier. It’s just the great game that we play can be cruel. And this one was certainly cruel.”
Martin closed by offering a quick glance toward the 2019 season, saying that he hoped they could “put together a team on the field that will draw the attention of our great fans.”
After Saturday, it will be a team that looks to move past its heartache, and stays faithful in its belief that baseball can, in fact, make you as happy as you can be.