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June 21, 2012

CWS: FSU eliminated by Arizona 10-3

OMAHA, Neb.-- Much like in their first meeting, Arizona took advantage of a number of Florida State mistakes for an early lead on Thursday. But unlike in the first meeting, a 4-3 extra-innings win for Arizona, up the Wildcats continued to pour it on en route to a 10-3 win, eliminating FSU (50-17) from the College World Series and thus ending its season.

The Wildcats (46-17) benefited from three first-inning errors by the Seminoles, including an errant throw by Brandon Leibrandt on what looked to be a double-play ball off the bat for a six-run inning that Leibrandt didn't survive.

"Well, about the easiest way to sum it up is say we got taken to the woodshed today," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "It was just a tremendous job by U of A and the way they played the game. They were very difficult outs all day long. They battled extremely well, offensively, and certainly made a couple of great plays on the defensive side…. And the main thing that I would like to say is how proud I am of our ball club throughout the year to accomplish what they did and to get to the hallowed ground, be able to compete in this tremendous tournament."

Anything and everything that could go wrong for FSU went wrong in the first inning. Sherman Johnson laced a single to the gap in left center to start the game, but was called out at second as he attempted to stretch it to a double.

In the bottom half of the inning with a runner on first Leibrandt fielded a would-be double play ball but launched his throw into center field. Instead of two outs, Arizona had runners on the corners with no outs.

Instead of getting out the inning Leibrandt went on to allow six runs, just three earned as FSU committed two more errors behind him, in just a third of an inning as he took his third loss of the year.

"It was obviously disappointing," said Martin, whose team committed a fourth error in the eighth inning. "But it's the game. Sometimes you are the dog; sometimes you're the fire hydrant. It's just one of those situations."

With an early cushion Arizona starter Kurt Heyer pounded the strike zone and ensured FSU wouldn't mount a stunning comeback. Heyer improved to 13-2 on the year as he gave up two earned runs on nine hits and three walks on 123 pitches in 7.1 innings.

In his two starts against FSU in the CWS, Heyer allowed just five runs, three earned, in 15 innings.

"He just pounds the zone," Jayce Boyd said of Heyer. "He's not going to walk people. Comes after you with fastballs, throws the slider when he needs to, and that's about it. He's a pretty standard guy in my eyes but he does a very good job of keeping with his plan and knowing what he's trying to do with each pitch."

In the fist match up FSU had scoring chances late in the game but couldn't execute leaving eight runners stranded in the game. Thursday Seminole batters left 10 runners stranded, and had the lead off hitter reach in four (not including Johnson's single in the first) of the first seven innings.

In the second inning FSU had a chance to take an early chunk out of the lead after a pair of single by Jayce Boyd and Justin Gonzalez but the two veteran infielders were left stranded.

Gonzalez drove in Boyd on an RBI single in the fourth but FSU didn't threaten again until the seventh inning. Arizona answered with a pair of home runs in the fourth to pus the lead to 10-1.

"They did not give us any room to breathe," Martin said. "It's a credit to (Arizona Head coach Andy Lopez) and his staff. They're very aggressive but yet they're very picky at the plate. Defensively, very impressive. Their fielding percentage is outstanding."

In the seventh inning FSU loaded the bases with no outs, but came away with just one run on sacrifice fly by Boyd.

"We didn't give up the whole game," said Boyd, who was 2 for 4 with an RBI. "We tried to fight as much as we could, but hats off to Arizona."

The loss ended an improbable season for FSU as it made it to its first ever 'bracket final' of the CWS since it went to the format in 2006 with a rotation made up of two true freshman. The Seminoles lost its CWS opener to Arizona 4-3 in 12 innings, but bounced back with a 12-2 win over Stony Brook, and a 4-1 win over UCLA to get to Thursday's game.

While once again the season ended in a loss for Martin and FSU, the veteran skipper said it's the journey not the destination that he enjoys.

"Sure I'm disappointed. But you gotta look at the total picture," Martin said. "I'm so proud to be a part of Florida State baseball that, no, I don't feel like Job. I feel like King David, because I am on top of the world with people that will fight you for 27 outs in a game -- which in the major leagues, if you win 65 percent of your games, you're usually going to win a pennant.

"Well, this club did a pretty doggone good job this year in getting where they are. And things just didn't go right. They outplayed us. They deserved to win. It's over with. You roll on to the next year."

Notables

  • With two walks in the game Sherman Johnson reached 69 free pases on the season, tying for the most in the nation.

  • FSU tied the CWS record for most pitchers used in a single game with eight on Thursday.

  • FSU fell to 16-21 all-time when facing elimination from the CWS. FSU is 28-42 all time in the CWS, and 20-30 under Martin.



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