Once again the Florida State Seminoles have swept an NCAA Regional and will host a Super Regional at Dick Howser Stadium. FSU has now won 19 games in a row in Regional play and will host their 6th straight Super Regional next weekend after beating Troy 11-4 to cap their sweep of the Tallahassee Regional.
"We count this almost as a second season," said catcher Stephen McGee. "Every game is important to us but as soon as we get to that playoff it's almost like we're starting new again, we go out there with a whole new determination and we're just fighting for every game, all nine innings, all 27 outs."
"For any real baseball fan, or real baseball man, the consistency of what [Mike Martin] has done has been phenomenal," said Troy head coach Bobby Pierce. "Words can't describe what he's done with this program. I'm certainly pulling for him and them to win the college world series, because I think he's earned it.
"But regardless of that, the numbers across the board, there's nobody that can touch his numbers, and Florida State's numbers."
Just hours after the Trojans of Troy came back from three down in the bottom of the ninth to knock off the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida State and Troy squared off in the championship game of the Tallahassee regional.
After rallying back from what was at one point a four-run deficit, Troy entered the evening game with plenty of confidence and momentum. That only seemed to grow in the early innings as Troy managed to work out of a couple of jams- stranding five FSU runners in the first two innings alone- and then took a lead on Florida State for the first time in the Regional.
In the first, the Seminoles pressured freshman starter Levi Tate and loaded the bases with one out but only managed to push one run across after a Troy pitching change, an unsuccessful Jose Brizuela squeeze attempt and a ground out by John Sansone.
They stranded two more the next inning before Troy used a bloop single to left and a Danny Collins double to pull ahead 2-1.
The Seminoles evened the score at two in the bottom of the inning when Brizuela hit a solo home run to right field. But the very next frame, in the top of the 4th, the scrappy Trojans added another run on a nearly identical bloop single over Giovanny Alfonzo's head at short to make it 3-2.
"I really thought we might be [the team of destiny]," said Troy head coach Bobby Pierce. "Sometimes I think I believed that more than my team did though."
Florida State apparently never believed that.
In the bottom of the 4th, the Seminoles exploded for seven runs and all but knocked Troy from the game. Trailing 3-2, Alfonzo lead off with a single and Josh Delph reached on a one-out walk. A throwing error on a fielder's choice let DJ Stewart reach at first and advanced the other runners into scoring position, loading the bases.
Stephen McGee earned an RBI for being plunked, it was the 98th time a Seminole batter had been hit by a pitch this year (a new school record) and tied the game at 3. Marcus Davis brought two more in on a double to left-center to put the Seminoles ahead 5-3, then a few batters later with the bases once again loaded, Brett Knief hit a grand slam to left field to bust the game wide open and put FSU up 9-3.
"I actually faced that guy yesterday,” said Knief. “I knew he had a really good slider so I tried to sit on and let it go by and I got lucky, got the bat head out and I was able to help our team out."
Trae Santos would hit a solo homer for Troy an inning later, but the Trojans never got close to the Seminoles again as the FSU bullpen combined for four shutout innings to help secure Brandon Leibrandt's tenth win of the season.
Leibrandt wasn't his sharpest on Sunday, he labored through five innings and got to 100 pitches quickly, giving up eight hits, four runs and a two walks along the way. But he avoided the big inning and kept things tight until the Florida State offense could take over the game.
"I thought Leibrandt had a little problem to day, but to show you what kind of guy he is he kept battling, kept battling, kept battling," said Martin. "We're very, very proud of him, the way he gets out there every time and no matter what he battles. He got to 100 pitches after five innings and that's why we got him, but I can't say enough about our bullpen."
Once again DJ Stewart had a multi-hit game, going 2 for 4 with a run while Giovanny Alfonzo was 3 for 4. Knief lead the way with four RBI's while McGee drove in three runs himself. All in all the Seminoles used 11 hits and 8 walks to score over ten runs for the third game in a row- the first time they have done that all season.
"We're obviously elated to be in position we're in," said Martin. "But we also know that there's a very good team coming in here."
The Seminoles will likely host Indiana next weekend in the Super Regional.
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(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)