When 17 runs come across the plate against a formidable opponent like Stanford, one would expect Florida State's potent pair of James Ramsey and Jayce Boyd to dominate the headlines.
But unlike any other sport, baseball seems to find odd equations that add up to a win like Friday night's. Instead of slugging their way to a 1-0 advantage in the Tallahassee Super Regional, the Seminoles thought their way past Stanford. Rather than using wild swings and moon shots (well, other than Devon Travis' score-padding bomb in the sixth), Florida State worked counts and turned first-round pick Mark Appel (10-2) into an aimer instead of a thrower.
The ingredients? In the all-important fourth inning, a frame that saw seven Seminoles touch home, the offense used four singles, three walks, a hit batsman, an error and a sacrifice fly to chase Appel, all while more than doubling his pitch count up to a beleaguered 95.
Just like that, what promised to be a textbook pitchers' duel ended up as a one-sided fight.
"We were all getting up there and having great at bats
making him throw a lot of pitches," said catcher Stephen McGee. "Just really seeing the ball well and everybody felt real confident. We knew we were going to start something sometime soon."
Although Boyd and McGee began the fourth with back-to-back singles, it wasn't until the bottom of the batting order executed that Appel truly showed signs of mental fatigue. According to Devon Travis, no turn embodied the team's approach more than John Holland's prolonged bases-loaded battle, which ultimately ended up as a run-producing walk.
Following Holland's pass, the Seminoles would clear through the bottom of the lineup and produce four more runs.
"That was, in my eyes, the turning point in the game," Travis said.
The Seminoles didn't let up from there, scoring four more times in the fifth inning to put the game out of reach. Similar to the fourth frame, the runs came without the benefit of an extra-base hit and on the strength of four walks and two singles.
Although the signs of an intelligent offense mounted Friday night, head coach Mike Martin cautioned against any assumptions for the weekend ahead.
"We know that tomorrow it will be a different story," Martin said. "We know what Stanford can do.
"That's not minimizing anything that the (team) accomplished tonight, but in this sport, you can't dwell on what happened yesterday because you're turning around and playing again."
Leibrandt uses twin-killing to escape jams
It's certainly reasonable to assume Seminole starter Brandon Leibrandt (8-2) was surprised by the outpouring of run support he saw Friday night. What looked to be a bona fide nail-biter for three-plus innings suddenly evaporated along with Stanford ace Mark Appel's command.
But don't tell catcher Stephen McGee that the big inning made life simple for Leibrandt. According to McGee, those situations present unique and real challenges of their own.
Asked to describe what made Leibrandt effective this time out, McGee began by saying "composure, especially in our long innings."
"That's probably one of the most difficult things on a pitcher is to sit there and watch your offense have that many runs," McGee continued. "And that's great, but at the same time you're not throwing that entire time."
Whether or not it should be attributed to in-game rust, Leibrandt did run into some potentially damaging situations in his six innings of work. After the Seminoles put up seven and four runs in the home fourth and fifth innings, Leibrandt allowed the first two Cardinal runners following each rally.
A combination of mental toughness, timely pitching and good defense saw him out of trouble in both jams. Leibrandt forced two of his three double plays in the fifth and sixth, helping cement the impact of the Seminole offense to send the game into autopilot.
Leibrandt, who admitted he searched for ways to stay loose in the big innings, heaped praise upon the infield defense behind him.
"It's huge for momentum," he said of the double plays. "We put up a seven spot then a four spot and I go out there and put two guys on in each inning. Then the defense behind me rolls it up, it's a huge confidence booster."
Or as McGee argued, it was a "veteran" showing of composure from his young ace.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial