TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Go figure that on a day when Jackson Lueck enjoyed one of his hottest days at the plate, the Tallahassee heat had Florida State’s left fielder not feeling his best. Not that anyone at Dick Howser Stadium could tell. With the heat index pushing to the mid-90s on Saturday afternoon, Lueck delivered four straight RBI singles – including a walk-off winner
in the bottom of the ninth – that completed FSU’s 7-6, come-from-behind victory over Sam Houston State in Game 1 of the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional. It was the first four-hit game of the sophomore’s career.
FSU can secure the program’s 22nd trip to the College World Series with a win on Sunday.
“I was going to play no matter what,” Lueck said. “Definitely wasn’t going to let these guys go out there and compete and not be behind them.”
The Bearkats would regret that he did.
Because otherwise, Sam Houston State executed its unorthodox game plan to near perfection and seemed to have the Seminoles on the ropes in the early goings.
SHSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, added more in the second and third and spent much of the afternoon ahead by three runs.
Led by Lueck, however, the Seminoles steadily chiseled away at their deficit.
He notched his first RBI in the bottom of the third, and then another in the fifth and another in seventh.
All three of those hits came with two outs. And the third sparked a run of three straight scoring singles in the bottom of the seventh (Quincy Nieporte and Cal Raleigh had the other two) that tied the game at 6-6 and induced a roar as loud as any heard at Dick Howser Stadium this season.
At least it was until a little later in the afternoon, when Lueck stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
With runners on first and second with no outs, Lueck thought there was a chance he might be told to bunt.
But a quick chat with FSU assistant Mike Martin Jr. said otherwise.
“I went up there and he said just get a pitch to hit,” Lueck said.
Bearkats reliever Nick Mikolajchak started the at-bat with an outside changeup, which Lueck said allowed him to get a good read on the off-speed pitch.
Then, after Lueck fouled off a fastball, Mikolajchak went back to the changeup. It sailed right over the heart of the plate and Lueck didn’t miss. He roped the ball into the gap in right-center field, allowing Taylor Walls to score easily from second base and giving the Seminoles their biggest victory of the season.
Lueck had barely rounded first base before being mobbed by teammates and showered with a “Luuuuuuueck” cheer from the crowd.
A guy who wasn’t feeling well might never have felt so good.
“I wasn’t feeling the best today,” he said, “… It felt nice to get it done.”
That’s nothing new for Lueck, who has been one of Florida State’s top offensive catalysts during the team’s late-season surge.
While his season numbers (.325, nine home runs, 53 RBIs) are among the best on the team, Lueck has kicked things up a notch in recent weeks. Starting with FSU’s fateful visit to Louisville on May 18, Lueck is a scorching 19 for 48 (.396) at the plate with three home runs, 17 RBIs and a .667 slugging percentage.
That includes two homers and a 7-for-16 mark on the way to MVP honors at last month’s ACC Championship.
FSU’s fortunes have turned in kind. The Seminoles on Saturday improved to 11-1 in their last 12 games, and they’re as close as it gets to reaching Omaha for the first time since 2012.
In the five instances that FSU has won the first game of a Super Regional, the Seminoles have advanced to the CWS four times.
“To see him get that fourth hit of the day. …,” starting pitcher Tyler Holton began to say, before laughing and trailing off. “I don’t know who you want pitch to in our lineup right now, to be honest. And that’s a good feeling for us.”