For the 21st time in school history, the Florida State Seminoles are in Omaha for the College World Series. During the Super Regional at Dick Howser Stadium, Florida State clobbered Stanford over two games by a combined score of 35-8. Since going 0-for-3 in the ACC Tournament, FSU has breezed through the NCAA Tournament and is hopeful that it can take home the school’s first baseball national championship.
Florida State comes in the third national seed and in its pool will be second-seeded UCLA, Stony Brook and Florida State’s opening round opponent, Arizona. On the other side of the bracket will be #8 national seed and two-time defending champion South Carolina, top-seeded Florida, Kent State and Arkansas. While Florida State has been to the College World Series 20 times, they have only advanced to the championship round once.
Arizona will open against the Seminoles and like Florida State, Arizona has gone 5-0 thus far in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are coming off a pair of victories over St. John’s in Tucson. Arizona won the opener 7-6 on a walk-off single by Trent Gilbert in 10 innings before closing out the Red Storm with a 7-4 victory.
The winner of the Florida State-Arizona game will get the winner of UCLA and college baseball’s newest darling, Stony Brook. UCLA is also 5-0 so far in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins’ pitching stifled TCU over two games in the Los Angeles Super Regional. Stony Brook has had the longest journey to Omaha. The Seawolves had to win three elimination games just to win the Coral Gables Regional and dropped the opener of the Super Regional to LSU before winning back-to-back games. Many are comparing this Stony Brook team to the Fresno State team that came from a four-seed in their regional to win the national championship in 2008. Stony Brook comes in with an astounding record of 52-13. UCLA and Arizona are the only two teams on this side of the bracket to meet during the regular season with UCLA taking two of the three games between the schools.
As for Florida State, the Seminoles come in riding high. In five NCAA Tournament games, Florida State has given up an average of just 2.4 runs-per-game and had given up just five runs total in the first four games of the tournament. The starting pitching has been exceptional, particularly from freshman left-hander Brandon Leibrandt. Fellow freshman Mike Compton has also been solid for FSU. Compton got the start to close out both the Tallahassee Regional and Super Regional. But as good as the starting pitching has been for the Seminoles, the bullpen has been solid as well. Gage Smith has pitched well in long relief situations and has won a pair of games in the NCAA Tournament. All-American closer Robert Benincasa has continued to shine in his role and senior Hunter Scantling even recorded a big out in the 7th inning of the Super Regional finale against Stanford.
The pitching has been the bread and butter for Florida State all season long, but the offense has come to life of late as well. ACC Player of the Year, James Ramsey, lit up the Tallahassee Regional, but was uncharacteristically quiet during the Super Regional. The opposite was true for first baseman Jayce Boyd. Boyd struggled for much of the regional, but managed to turn it on against Stanford. The 1-2 punch at the top of the order has been delivering big runs for FSU as well. In the 17-1 win to open the Super Regional, second baseman and number-two hitter Devon Travis drove in six runs and in the second game, lead-off man Sherman Johnson drove in five. Even the bottom half of the order, which has struggled much of the year for Florida State, has come through during the NCAA Tournament.
As Florida State fans know, winning games in the College World Series is never easy, but if the Seminoles can continue to get great efforts from the pitching staff and production from all parts of the order, anything is possible. The trouble over recent years for Florida State has been winning the opener in the College World Series. Florida State has dropped the opener in each of their last two trips to Omaha. Florida State will look to move into the winner’s bracket as it kicks off its run toward a first national championship on Friday night.
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