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June 8, 2012
Friday night was supposed to be a pitchers' duel at Dick Howser Stadium for the first game of Super Regionals between Florida State (47-15) and Stanford, as Cardinal ace Mark Appel faced off against Brandon Leibrandt.
Instead, the Seminoles' offense exploded for a 17-1 win, including seven runs off Appel in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. It was the shortest outing of the year for the No. 8 overall pick in this year's Major League Baseball draft.
Devon Travis launched two tape-measure home runs to left field and drove in a career-high six runs. Leibrandt meanwhile held up his end of the pitchers' duel allowing just one earned run on six hits and two walks in six innings.
"I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined what happened tonight could happen but it is truly why our sport is what it is," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "We know that tomorrow it will be a different story. We know what Stanford can do. They have a tremendous program, great tradition and we are in no way thinking that we have accomplished anything except we are going to play a ballgame tomorrow and see what happens."
Stanford (41-17) scored its lone run of the game in the first inning on a Stephen Piscotty RBI single set up by a hit and run and a sacrifice bunt. Appel allowed just one hit through the first three frames as the Cardinal looked to be off to a good start.
Then in the bottom of the fourth FSU broke things open. Josh Delph got the Seminoles on the board with a fielder's choice RBI with the bases loaded. Kenny Diekroeger couldn't handle the ball and the bases remained loaded.
FSU then rattled off four more runs on a pair of bases loaded walks and RBI singles by Travis and Sherman Johnson. Stephen McGee added another run on sacrifice fly for a 7-1 lead. Appel would not come back out for the fifth inning.
"Mark is a great pitcher and we happened to have some things go our way against him tonight," Martin said. "And took advantage of a couple of mistakes. But our guys will compete no matter who is on the mound. Mark is certainly going to be an outstanding Major League pitcher, but tonight just happened to be one of those nights that a lot went right for us."
Stanford's All-American allowed seven runs, five earned, on five hits, and a season-high four walks as he earned just his second loss of the season, and first since March 2. Four innings pitched was the shortest outing since the highly decorated junior's freshman season.
During his final inning it looked like the raucous crowd of 4,067 was getting to Appel. However, Stanford's ace pitcher insists that it was his command, not the fans that did him in.
"I'm not someone to make excuses, I just didn't get the job done," Appel said. "You are always going to have a few bad outings each year. You wish they aren't during the Super Regionals. I think we are going to come out with some fire tomorrow and really get after them. It's not over yet. They still have to win one more, and we know we can win these next two."
After a four-run fifth inning, Travis launched a bomb in the sixth over the Cardinal bullpen for a two-run homer, and did it again in the seventh for a three-run shot. He is the first Seminole to hit home runs in consecutive at bats since Rafael Lopez against North Carolina State on May 13, 2011.
"I got that one pretty good," Travis said, grinning ear-to-ear about his first home run. "Not many times in my life and known that it was gone. That was one of the few, I guess that's just how the game works out, lucky me I guess."
While the offense rolled Leibrandt twice had to work out of a jam after allowing the leadoff batter to reach in his final two innings. In the fifth he hit a batter and then followed it up with a walk before Travis turned a terrific 4-3 double play. In the sixth he allowed the first two batters to reach base before getting bailed out again by a double play.
"It was huge for momentum," the freshman said of the double play balls. "We put up the seven-spot and then a four-spot and I go out there and put two guys on in each inning and the defense behind me rolls it up. It's a huge confidence booster."
After Leibrandt, FSU was able to avoid using the back end of its bullpen in the final three innings. In fact, the bullpen allowed just one hit and one walk as Hunter Scantling, Brandon Johnson, and Mack Waugh each worked one inning.
"We got three other pitchers involved in the game so that's good for them as we continue to try and reach our goal," Martin said. "Now those three guys have been out there and we did not use of course Gage (Smith) or Luke Weaver."
FSU will look to earn its 21st trip to the College World Series in game two of the series with Stanford. Freshman Mike Compton (11-2, 2.78 ERA) will go up against third-round draft pick Brett Mooneyham (7-5, 4.05 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
NOTE: There is a high chance of rain on Saturday. Keep it on Warchant.com, and check Warchant.com on Twitter - @warchant - to get the latest on the status of Saturday's game.
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