May 29, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
DURHAM, N.C. – The cruel reality of baseball is that the math doesn’t always add up.
That was certainly the case for Florida State Sunday afternoon when Virginia used a 7-2 victory to win its third Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“It’s the most unpredictable sport that’s ever been created,” FSU coach Mike Martin said afterward. “Don’t look at these numbers. We didn’t make an error, we out-hit them, the walks were similar and we lost. So what was the key? They (Virginia) got it done.”
The Cavaliers (49-19) method of victory was as improbable as the statistical disparity between the teams. Virginia matched a season-high with three home runs, including tournament MVP Steven Proscia’s go-ahead, three-run shot in the sixth inning which unlocked a 2-2 tie.
Proscia golfed FSU starter Hunter Scantling’s 1-1 slider over the DBAP’s Blue Monster, which brought an end to the junior right-hander’s otherwise outstanding performance. Making his first start since May 15, Scantling (3-2) delivered 5.2 innings of five-hit work, striking out three without yielding a walk in 59 pitches, 45 of which were strikes.
Scantling more than held his own in a head-to-head match-up with ACC Pitcher of the Year Danny Hultzen (10-3).
“Can you believe Hunter Scantling did not throw 60 pitches in almost six innings of work?” Martin said. “He had thrown eight balls after four innings. … That’s phenomenal.”
On a day when the Seminoles (42-17) learned that they would host an NCAA Regional, they out-hit the Cavaliers 8-6 and were error-free in the field for the second time in four tournament games. FSU even got off to a quick start when Devon Travis lined Hultzen’s first pitch of the game off the left field wall and scored on Mike McGee’s RBI grounder to third.
The 1-0 lead was short-lived. Virginia’s John Hicks deposited Scantling’s misplaced slider over the left field wall in the home first for a 2-1 lead. Scantling, however, quickly settled down.
“You just have to make your pitches,” Scantling said. “I just threw one bad pitch. I just wanted to get out there, eat up innings, and get the team back in the dugout. After the first inning, I knew that I had to step my game up and make better pitches, and I feel like I was able to bear down and do that.”
After yielding a second-inning single to David Coleman, Scantling retired 12 consecutive Cavaliers.
With Scantling cruising the Seminoles kept the pressure Hultzen, getting baserunners aboard in four of the next five innings. Three times the Cavaliers escaped unscathed but Justin Gonzalez’s two-out, solo home run in the top of the sixth – his seventh of the season – tied the game.
“I thought when Gonzalez hit the home run to tie the game up that that would give us the lift that we needed, but they answered back with three on a big home run,” Martin said. “It’s just one of those situations that we were beaten by a club that got it done, plain and simple. They outplayed us today and they deserved to win.”
Virginia solved Scantling in the sixth after he hit John Barr with a two-out pitch. Hick s followed with a sharp single to right before Steven Proscia unloaded a three-run homer over the wall in left for a 5-2 lead.
“I was a pitch away from getting out it,” Scantling said of the down-and-away slider. “I don’t know how he hit it.”
The Seminoles never did counter, thanks in part to Chris Taylor’s two-run shot in the seventh off reliever Scott Sitz, which came after the `Noles stranded two more baserunners in the top of the inning. In all, FSU stranded 10 baserunners. Virginia left just one aboard.
“It was definitely frustrating,” said Travis, who had two hits. “I thought we did a great job at the plate against arguably the best pitcher in college baseball. I think that as a team we definitely can’t hang our head. We didn’t get the hits when we needed them, and Virginia did. That’s why they won the game.”
After suffering its third ACC Championship game loss to Virginia – each time in Durham – the Seminoles will head home to learn whether they have done enough to earn one of eight national seeds and which teams will be coming to Tallahassee for next weekend’s regional. The NCAA will announce the field on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. Monday.