March 6, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
ATHENS, Ga. – In a day which ran a gamut of emotions for both clubs, Florida State escaped Georgia and Foley Field with a 7-5 victory, clinching the three-game series.
The fifth-ranked Seminoles (10-1) scored all seven runs over the final five innings, twice overcoming deficits, then held off the Bulldogs’ fierce ninth inning rally.
FSU closer Mike McGee earned his second save of the season, striking out three Bulldogs (3-8) in the ninth, including Lance Martin and Chase Davidson with the bases loaded to seal it.
The dramatic victory was tempered by a serious neck injury to Georgia centerfielder Johnathan Taylor. Taylor collided with left fielder Zach Cone as both players dove head-first for Devon Travis fly ball in the gap. He was transported by ambulance from the field.
“I’m just worried about that young man,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “That’s just heart-breaking. I’ve seen two people run together before … but that one was just a nightmare.”
Trailing 4-3 heading into the top of the seventh, the Seminoles manufactured a three-run frame at the expense of some erratic Georgia relief pitching. Taiwan Easterling earned a leadoff walk from John Herman, who replaced Blake Dieterich. Travis grounded a ball up the middle that was bobbled, putting runners at first and second for Sherman Johnson, who second RBI single of the game tied the score at 4-all.
A run-scoring ground out by McGee, sandwich around a passed ball and two Dieterich wild pitches gave the `Noles a 6-4 lead.
Travis came around to score an insurance run on a ninth inning wild pitch for what appeared to be a comfortable 7-4 cushion.
Florida State relievers Robert Benincasa and Daniel Bennett helped restore order after the Bulldogs scored three runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead. Benincasa (1-0), got the final out in the sixth and retired the Bulldogs in order in the seventh, before yielding to Bennett to start the eighth. Making his third appearance of the series, Bennett made short work of the Bulldogs in a 1-2-3 frame.
McGee entered the game with a three-run cushion and coming off a strikeout-the-side save against No. 1 Florida on Tuesday. He got off to a quick start by retiring Austin Wheeler on strikes. Georgia followed with a pair of infield singles to shortstop, before McGee issued consecutive walks, forcing home a run.
With the bases loaded and the Foley Field crowd of 2,448 urging the Bulldogs on, Martin left the bat on his shoulder as he watched McGee’s third-strike curveball find the mind.
Davidson, who homered in the first and doubled in the sixth, stepped in. It was an eerily similar position to the one McGee faced against TCU’s Matt Curry in FSU’s final game of the 2010 season at the College World Series.
“I had a little flashback to last year,” McGee confessed. “They had the bases loaded, a 3-2 count, a big lefty up and they called a slider, just like last year.”
Curry hit a grand slam. Davidson did not.
“It was nice to get the out,” McGee said. “I hadn’t thrown him a slider yet in that at-bat. … He hadn’t seen it yet and it kind of played to my hand.”
McGee’s backdoor slider hit the spot and home plate umpire Danny Everett’s right-hand fist pump led a Seminole celebration.
“They’re a great team,” Travis said of the host Bulldogs. “Their record lies. They’re a ton better than that record. These tests late in the game definitely showed a little bit about our character.”
FSU flashed its first signs of character-building in the fifth inning. Trailing 2-0, the `Noles had managed just one hit off Georgia starter Craig Gullickson when Stuart Tapley led off with an infield single. Gullickson retired the next two batters before Travis smoked his team-leading seventh double down the left field line, scoring Tapley from first. Johnson’s RBI single through the right side of the infield tied the game at 2-all.
Johnson moved up on a wild pitch before McGee put the Seminoles in front for the first time with an RBI double to left center. McGee’s team-leading 14th RBI of the season ended Gullickson’s day.
“Any time you’re on the road in the SEC or the ACC, to win two out of three, you’ve accomplished something,” martin said. “This was a big weekend for us to come up and win it. It was just a credit to our young men to get it done.”
FSU returns home to face Maine on Tuesday (6 p.m., FoxSports Florida) – the first of two games with the Black Bears. The `Noles open their ACC schedule Friday at home against Boston College.