June 1, 2003
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Florida State University advanced to its fifth-straight NCAA Super Regional by defeating the University of South Alabama in game seven at the 2003 NCAA Tallahassee Baseball Regional by the score of 12-2. FSU had to defeat USA twice on Sunday in order to advance, repeating a feat they accomplished in 2000 against UCF. The Seminoles powered their way to the victory by cranking seven homeruns, including two from shortstop Stephen Drew.
“The job presents a lot of memories, and I know I am on the downside of 29 years here at Florida State, but this is a memory,” stated FSU head coach Mike Martin. “We just beat a very, very good baseball team, as aggressive of club as we have played all year.”
The Jaguars placed right-hander Bert Heath on the mound for his fourth start of the year and 20th overall appearance. The Seminoles countered with righty Glen Simon, who took the hill for his fifth-career start and ninth appearance.
The Seminoles exploded with four runs in the first inning thanks to three homeruns off of Heath. With a 3-1 count, FSU left fielder Tony McQuade launched a shot over the right field wall to give the Seminoles an early 1-0 lead. Catcher Tony Richie followed with his own round-tripper on a 3-1 count, sending the ball careening off the Dick Howser Stadium scoreboard. Designated hitter Eddy Martinez-Esteve laced a base hit to left field and scored off of first baseman Jerrod Brown’s fourth home run in regional action. In the second inning, Drew cranked out his first home run of regional play with a solo shot over the right-centerfield fence, extending the Seminole’s lead to 5-0. Heath (6-2) lasted 1.2 innings allowing five earned runs on six hits with two walks and one strikeout, while being saddled with the loss. Tony Neal, who started and won the Jaguar’s regional opener against Rutgers, came in the bottom of the second to get USA out of the inning.
Simon cruised through the first two innings, setting down the Jaguars in order, until running into trouble in the top of the third. Third baseman Kevin Sytko led off the inning by reaching first on an error by Drew. Simon walked shortstop Brett Parker and got centerfielder T.J. Touchstone to ground into a fielder’s choice, moving Sytko to third. With two outs, right fielder Craig Cole drove in Sytko with a line drive base hit to right field to make the score 5-1 in FSU’s favor, and advanced to second on the throw. Simon was replaced by right-hander Rhett James, who closed out the inning by sitting down Jason Gross on a sharply hit ground ball back to the mound. Simon’s final numbers were 2.2 innings pitched, one earned run, one hit allowed with one walk and three strikeouts.
The Jaguars continued to close the gap in the top of the fourth. Left fielder Ryan Mulhern smacked a double to the centerfield wall and scored on Josh Touchtone’s double down the right field line. FSU’s James then walked the bases loaded, giving free passes to catcher Tim Land and Sytko. The Seminole hurler was able to get out of the jam by forcing Parker to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
FSU remained scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning when they tacked on three more runs for an 8-3 advantage. Second baseman Bryan Zech led off with a double to the left-center wall and was joined on the base path by centerfielder Matt Sauls who drew a walk. Drew then rocked his second homerun of the day over the right-centerfield wall, for a season total of 11 homeruns and 59 RBI.
FSU’s run continued in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Richie doubled to the left field corner and advanced to third on an error. Daniel Wardell stepped in to pinch hit for Martinez-Esteve and hit his second pinch-hit homerun of the day to expand the Seminole lead to 10-2. The FSU scoring barrage ended in the eighth when Zech hit a two-run homer over the left field wall. The shot scored third baseman Chris Hart who was on first after recording a single.
“We came to a tough place,” stated USA head coach Steve Kittrell following the loss. “I think there were a lot of regionals we could have won. I am really proud of my kids, they never quit.”
James (2-3) was awarded the victory after pitching 4.1 innings, allowing one run on two hits and striking out four. Right-hander Kevin Lynch closed out the game with two scoreless innings with one hit and two strikeouts.
“Well, we changed our motto today,” remarked Richie, who was voted the Tallahassee Regional MVP. “It was pitching and defense and hitting, so we were trying to give the pitchers some help because they have done such a great job all year.”
NCAA Super Regional host sites and schedules will be announced on Monday, June 2, at 12:30 p.m.