OMAHA – Florida State saw its 2017 season come to an end Wednesday evening in a 7-4 loss against No. 3 LSU in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. The Seminoles (46-23) hit three solo home runs, including back-to-back shots in the bottom of the ninth, but LSU (50-18) used five runs in the second inning to knock off FSU for the second time in five days.
“I don’t know when I’ve ever been prouder of a baseball team,” head coach Mike Martin said. “They did their job in the classroom. They did their job on the field. We had tremendous leadership. Guys wanted the top of the mountain very bad, but there’s only one team that’s going to leave here happy.”
Cole Sands (6-4) allowed four earned runs (five total) in 1.1 innings after allowing a three-run home to LSU first baseman Jake Slaughter. Jared Poche’ (12-3) beat FSU for the second time in the tournament, throwing eight innings, allowing seven hits, four runs and striking out four.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Sands allowed a double and two singles to open the second as the Tigers took a 1-0 lead. LSU doubled its lead on Beau Jordan’s sacrifice bunt, and after Michael Papierski reached on a fielding error, Slaughter’s three-run home run pushed LSU’s lead to 5-0 and chased Sands from the game.
Andrew Karp entered in relief of Sands and allowed just three hits, a walk and one hit batter over the next 5.1 scoreless innings. It was the longest relief appearance of Karp’s career as the redshirt sophomore racked up seven strikeouts in his first College World Series appearance.
Mendoza’s second home run of the College World Series came with two outs in the bottom of the second off Poche’ and closed the FSU gap to 5-1. In the sixth inning, Dylan Busby reached on a throwing error from second baseman Cole Freeman and Jackson Lueck’s double down the left field line put runners on second and third with one out. Quincy Nieporte, FSU’s RBI leader, flied out to the left field warning track as Busby scored on the sacrifice fly.
Alec Byrd took over on the mound for Karp in the seventh inning, getting two outs. Drew Carlton entered with a runner on second in the eighth inning and allowed a walk to Jordan before striking out Papierski and getting Slaughter to ground out to end the inning.
LSU pushed its lead to five runs in the top of the ninth inning. Kramer Robertson singled off Carlton and stole second base with no outs. On the steal of second, Robertson collided with FSU second baseman Matt Henderson, forcing the senior Henderson from the game. Henderson’s five hits over three games are tied for the most in the tournament so far.
Antoine Duplantis reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Robertson when Mendoza’s throw home was high and Cal Raleigh could not apply the tag in time. Duplantis scored on Zach Watson’s RBI double to make the score 7-2.
Nieporte and Raleigh hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth to chase Poche’ from the game and make the score 7-4. It was the first time in TD Ameritrade Park history that a team has hit back-to-back home runs. The last time a team did it in the College World Series was in 2010, when FSU’s Sherman Johnson and Mike McGee did it against TCU.
“Individually, it’s nice to go out on top like that,” Nieporte, a senior drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, said after the game. “But we’re all still hurting a little bit right now just because we really believed that this was the team and we’re kind of shocked that someone was able to knock us out because of how much fight we’ve shown.”
LSU turned to Zack Hess to close out the game, and the freshman struck out Mendoza looking and Hank Truluck, who entered for Henderson, swinging for the first two outs. The Seminoles turned to Rhett Aplin, making his first appearance in six weeks, to extend its season, and Aplin walked and gave way to J.C. Flowers to pinch run.
Tyler Holton, FSU’s starting pitcher against LSU on Saturday and the starting right fielder on Wednesday, struck out looking to end the game as Hess earned his third save of the year.
The Seminoles end the season 46-23 and reached the College World Series for the first time since 2012. FSU won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship for the seventh time in school history and won five NCAA Tournament elimination games before Wednesday night.
“We gave it everything we had and it wasn’t meant to be,” Martin said. “We gave it our best shot. We never felt sorry for ourselves. We kept battling.”
For more information on Florida State baseball, check Seminoles.com for the latest news and scheduling information, or keep up with the team on social media through Twitter (@FSUBaseball), Facebook (/FSUBaseball), and Instagram (@NoleBaseball).