Monday, June 3, 1996
Everything did not go right for Florida State in the late innings of Monday night's College World Series game against Wichita State.
It just seemed that way.
The seventh-seeded Seminoles, seven outs from elimination, patched together a pair of rallies that produced seven runs and an 8-4 victory over the Shockers at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Florida State erased a 3-1 deficit with a pair of two-out runs in the seventh. The Seminoles then scored five runs in an eighth inning set up by a couple of perfectly placed bunts and capped by J.D. Drew's check-swing, two-run single that just kicked off third baseman Casey Blake's glove.
"That was one of those innings in which everything went our way," Florida State Coach Mike Martin said. "Everything that we tried . . . "
Martin didn't need to finish his statement. Like Wichita State Coach Gene Stephenson had said moments earlier, Martin knew that sometimes it's as important to be lucky as it is to be good.
"When you get to this tournament, it's a short tournament," Stephenson said. "Little things get magnified beyond belief. And you have to have luck, and you have to the ball bounce your way."
It didn't for the third-seeded Shockers, who lost their final two games of the season in Omaha. Monday's defeat in the second game of a pair that drew a session-record 20,251 left Wichita State at 54-11 and Stephenson in an apologetic mood.
"I wanted you all to see the best that we had to offer," he said. "At the first press conference, I told you that I hoped we could leave here having said we played our best. And it just didn't happen."
Whether the Seminoles (52-16) had played their best Monday was immaterial to Martin. They had played well enough to win a game that advanced them to tonight's 6:35 p.m. Bracket Two elimination matchup with Florida, a 9-4 loser to Louisiana State in Monday's early game.
"We're just like the BeeGees," Martin cackled. "We're staying alive."
The Seminoles' tournament life expectancy was down to seven outs before they became the first team this season to come up with a way to beat Wichita State relief ace Braden Looper, who had allowed just seven earned runs all season while fashioning a 4-0 record with 12 saves.
The Shockers handed Looper, projected to be one of the first picks in today's professional free-agent draft, a 3-1 lead to protect when he took the mound with one out in the sixth inning.
Wichita State had scored twice in its half of the sixth to break a 1-1 tie. With the bases loaded, Kevin Hooper bounced a grounder between first and second base that Florida State second baseman Scott Zech fielded cleanly.
Zech's throw scooted past first baseman Matt Woodward and into the Wichita State dugout, allowing two runs to score.
Looper relieved starter Steve Foral after Zech's one-out single in the sixth and avoided giving up a run as the second batter he faced, Jeremy Salazar, singled. Zech was thrown out trying to score from second on the play to end the inning.
Looper retired the first two hitters he faced in the seventh. Florida State then strung three straight hits - Brooks Badeaux's single, Adam Faurot's double and Drew's single - to produce two runs and a 3-3 tie.
"I was lucky my hit just went under the first baseman's glove," said Drew, who drove in five runs. "It helped pick us up a little bit and got us going."
A pair of fielding gems by Faurot, the Florida State third baseman, helped keep the score tied in the eighth after Wichita State got a runner to third with one out. Faurot's diving stop turned Hooper's bid for a single into the second out, and the third baseman cleanly handled Randy Young's high chopper to start an inning-ending play.
Zech opened Florida State's decisive eighth inning with a walk. Geoff Sprague followed with a bunt that rolled down the third-base line and hit the bag. Salazar then loaded the bases by placing his bunt between the mound and third base, leaving Looper unable to make a play on the ball.
Looper forced in the winning run by walking Scooby Morgan on a 3-2 pitch. Pinch hitter Jeremiah Klosterman greeted reliever Travis Wyckoff with a two-run single, and two batters later, Drew's "excuse-me" swing produced another two-run single that boosted the lead to 8-3.
The Shockers cut the lead to 8-4 when three walks and pinch hitter Ben Thomas' infield single brought home a run. Martin summoned Randy Choate, the starter and loser to Florida in the first round, to try to work the Seminoles out of a bases-loaded jam.
"I came in from the pen thinking that I wanted to prove Saturday was a fluke," Choate said. "Personally, I wanted to regain my self confidence by throwing strikes. Going 3-and-1 sure didn't help. But I got my confidence back after that, and the strike zone seemed a lot easier to hit."
After falling behind 3-1 in the count to Jerry Stine, Choate rallied to strike out the Wichita State right fielder. He ended his first save of the year by catching Brian Preston and Zach Sorensen looking at called third strikes.