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June 10, 2012
This was not a Florida State team that was expected to be playing baseball in June. With a young pitching staff and question marks about the bottom of the order, 2012 was considered to be a rebuilding year for head coach Mike Martin by those outside of the clubhouse walls.
But after 35 runs in two Super Regional games and a 5-0 NCAA postseason to date, Florida State (48-15) emphatically shook those expectations and heads to its 21st College World Series in school history. The Seminoles punched their ticket Sunday night with an 18-7 win over Stanford in Game two of the Super Regional series at Dick Howser Stadium on Sunday night.
FSU jumped out to an early six-run lead, and with the exception of a tense seventh inning, never had much doubt about earning the program's third CWS trip in the past five seasons.
"We came to the field everyday in the fall, even before we started baseball just working out and we thought that we were going to go back," said senior third baseman Sherman Johnson who had a season-high five RBI on Sunday. "That was our goal and it's been our goal from day one. It didn't really matter what other people were saying about us. We knew how we felt about each other and that's all that matters and we focused on that."
After a 17-1 win over Stanford Friday night in game one, even a rain-out on Saturday couldn't cool off the Seminole bats. On Sunday FSU belted 18 runs on 13 hits, including three home runs.
Jayce Boyd got a rowdy crowd of 4,673 on its feet early, hitting his fourth long ball of the season after a two-out walk by James Ramsey in the first inning. He took a 3-2 change-up and blasted it over the screen in right field for a 2-0 lead.
After Boyd's first-inning blast, Johnson followed up with a three-run homer of his own to right field off of AJ Vanegas, who had just entered the game one batter earlier for starter Brett Mooneyham who was chased by a Stephen Spradling RBI-single.
"Mooneyham is a great pitcher, he's going to go on to have a great professional career. We were up to the challenge," said Devon Travis. "We were really excited about it. We had a pretty good approach going in. Jayce Boyd decides to get a hit every other at-bat it seems like so that home run couldn't have come at a better time."
FSU added a pair of runs in the sixth and seventh innings to push its lead to 10-2, but the Cardinal tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the seventh. Stanford scored four runs on reliever Gage Smith before he exited.
Smith, who earned the win on Sunday, gave up two runs and loaded the bases in the seventh before giving way to freshman Luke Weaver. Weaver gave up two runs charged to Smith as he faced three batters before being pulled for Hunter Scantling.
Scantling entered the game in the tightest spot - with two outs and the bases loaded for Stanford's Stephen Piscotty - a first round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in last week's MLB draft - who represented the tying run in a 10-6 game. Scantling came up big as he induced a ground out to Johnson to end the inning.
"To see him come in and get a big out was crucial," Martin said. "They had us on the ropes so to speak. I thought we were pretty comfortable going into the inning then all of the sudden bases-loaded, four runs down, Piscotty's at the plate. Of course when he hit the ball I saw where it was going and I honestly knew the inning was over."
FSU answered back with a final knockout punch in the top of the eighth as FSU scored eight runs, punctuated by Seth Miller's third grand slam of the year.
"I honestly thought it was gone, but I waited 'til it disappeared behind the screen," Martin said. "It certainly was a big lift, no doubt. I think everybody knew then that the game was over."
Stanford added one more run on a solo home run by Austin Wilson in the eight, but an inning later the Seminoles dog piled closer Robert Benincasa as he punched FSU's College World Series ticket with three ninth inning strikeouts.
"What an incredible year," said Travis, who is headed to his second career CWS. "You know where we started, maybe a little bit on the outside the expectations weren't as high and this team believed from day one. It definitely was running through my mind, all the work we put in. Day in, day out from the fall on, every single ground ball we took, every swing we took, it was always with a purpose. And I think you got to see a lot of that frustration and enjoyment all in one come out. An incredible feeling."
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