June 11, 2005
Gainesville, FL – In a season where Florida State’s roster was filled with 26 of 34 players who had one year or less of DI experience, Mike Martin’s ball club racked up 50-plus wins for the 22nd time and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals for the seventh straight year. It was a team that many doubted coming in to 2005 but the Seminoles once again found themselves as one of the last 16 teams still playing baseball in June. But the dream of getting to the program’s 19th College World Series came to an end in Gainesville Saturday night as the seventh-seeded Gators eliminated ninth-ranked FSU (53-20) from the postseason 8-5.
“I am of proud of this team because we did something that nobody thought we could do at the beginning of the year,” said fifth-year senior and two-time captain Aaron Cheesman. “Nobody thought we would finish in the top four of the ACC. Nobody thought we would get out of a regional, much less host it or play Florida in a Super Regional. It is disappointing for me to be here five years and not go to Omaha. Coming in I thought I would go two or three times but it just wasn’t meant to be. This team is going to be outstanding next year. I would watch out for this team.”
“I have never enjoyed this more than I did this year with this group,” said FSU head coach Mike Martin. “We had outstanding senior leadership. I really and truly don’t believe I have ever had a better team. They pull for each other and in my estimation it was a very enjoyable and good year.”
The Gators used a four-run top of the first to get out to a quick lead and every time FSU narrowed the gap, at one point making it a 5-3 game, Florida answered. When UF put up three runs in the top of the sixth, the young Seminoles just couldn’t seem to find a way to fight back one more time but as they have done all season they mounted one last rally sending the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. They just couldn’t get the big hit they needed at the end.
“I am very proud of our team that they continued to fight,” said Martin. “We were down five in the ninth and got the tying run to the plate. Jack (Rye) got a very good swing at it but hit it right to them.”
In their last games in Garnet and Gold, Danny Wardell, Gibbs Chapman and Aaron Cheesman each recorded a hit. Chapman upped his team-leading RBI total to 65 with two and Cheesman had two to up his career total to 124.
FSU starter Mark Sauls suffered his first loss as in a starting role since April 24, 2004. He lasted just 2/3 of an inning giving up four runs as he fell to 6-2 on the season. Alan Horne (9-2) won his eighth straight decision as he pitched 8 1/3 and threw 148 pitches. The junior fought his way out of jams in a gutty performance in which he gave up eight hits, five runs and five walks as the Seminoles stranded nine runners.
“He kept us off balance,” said Cheesman of Horne. “We did a lot better job too. We went deep in counts and making him work. It was just the story of our year when we lost games. We left guys in scoring position. We had our chances to score runs. We left plenty of guys on base. You have to give him credit. He got the job done. Their whole team got the job done and that is why they are going to Omaha.”
Florida got off to a quick start in the top of the first with three hits of which only one was hard hit. A one-out single was followed by a bloop single into shallow center that usually would have been an out but the FSU defense was playing deep with 2005 SEC Player of the Year Matt LaPorta at the plate. Then Sauls got a ball fisted towards first that was just out of reach of Wardell allowing the first run of the game to come home. A ground out scored another run and then the long ball hurt the Seminoles again. Brian Leclerc yanked the first Sauls offering he saw down the right field line and just over the wall making it a 4-0 game. After Sauls plunked the next hitter, he was replaced by Matt DiBlasi who struck out the next batter to end the top of the first.
“The first inning was a problem for us,” said Martin. “The University of Florida did a very good job of bunching their four runs together and getting their runs in.”
“I came out throwing the way I wanted to throw,” said Sauls. “I was throwing strikes to the first batter. I threw a good change-up and that is what we wanted to establish. Things just didn’t fall right for me in the first inning. The ball to center field and a check swing in the hole. Then the guy hit the home run. Things didn’t fall my way and then I didn’t get out of it. I battled and that was all I could do.”
Shane Robinson got FSU on the board in the bottom of the first. The Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year walked on four straight pitches and then stole his 49th base of the year. He moved over to third on a ground out and then Gibbs Chapman drove him home on his 14th double of the season. It was the senior’s team-leading 64th RBI.
The Seminoles had a chance to continue to chip away at the lead in the second. Wardell continued his strong Super Regional with a lead off double off the wall in left. He moved to third on a ground out but neither of the next two FSU batters could advance him home as the score remained 4-1.
Florida State did get another run on the board in the bottom of the third. Ryne Malone recorded a lead-off single and then Cheesman drove him home. The senior sailed a double over the head of the right fielder making it a 4-2 game. Horne worked himself into a bases loaded jam with two away but the Florida hurler got Ryne Jernigan swinging on the 10th pitch of the at bat.
The Gators added to their lead thanks to two costly Seminoles errors without the benefit of a hit. The second of the two mistakes came on a two-out ground ball that allowed the fifth run of the game to score.
Tony Thomas, Jr. and Robinson opened up the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back singles of Horne. Malone moved both runners into scoring position with a sac bunt and then Chapman drove in his 65th RBI on a foul out but Robinson was put out on the play trying to move up to third ending the threat.
The FSU defense may have let them down in the fourth but they came up big in the fifth. After cutting the lead to 5-3, Leclerc laced a double down the right field line with a man on first. Jack Rye got the throw in to Thomas who threw a strike to the plate cutting down the runner at home and ending the inning.
Florida opened the sixth with a base hit and then recorded their ninth hit of the night on an attempted sac bunt that was popped up and too difficult to handle putting two runners on. Gavin Dickey then recorded his second hit of the night and fourth if the series, this one an RBI double pushing the Florida lead to 6-3 with two runners still in scoring position with nobody out. Barret Browning replaced DiBlasi and got the first out of the inning but he couldn’t hold the Gators at bay as the next batter ripped a double down the left field line scoring two more runs and making it an 8-3 UF advantage. That ended the night for Browning as ace closer Tyler Chambliss replaced him. It was the earliest he has appeared in a game in 2005.
Florida State manufactured two more runs in their final at bat. Thomas hit his sixth homer of the season, a solo shot, and Cheesman singled home another run. The Seminoles then got Rye to the plate with two runners on and trailing by three but the freshman’s hard hit grounder to LaPorta ended the potential rally.