OMAHA, Neb. — Florida State’s dugout was a bit deflated after the Seminoles gave up three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to have a two-run lead against Cal State Fullerton turn into a one-run deficit.
Things perked up when shortstop Timmy Richards couldn’t make a play on Taylor Walls’ grounder leading off the top of the seventh. That started a three-run inning that helped send the Seminoles to a 6-4 win that knocked the Titans out of the College World Series.
“Anytime a guy gets on base, the first hitter, we think we’ll score a crooked number, not just one,” FSU’s Drew Mendoza said. “The first hitter sets the tone, and with guys getting on base, we were feeling really good about the inning. It gives the guy behind him confidence to pass the bat to the next guy.”
Fullerton (39-24) has gone two games and out in four straight CWS appearances and has lost nine games in a row in Omaha. The last four of those losses are on coach Rick Vanderhook’s tab.
“I know I’m 0-4. I knew how difficult it was to get here. But it’s even more difficult to get here and win,” he said.
St. Francis High alumnus Sahid Valenzuela did not record a hit on Monday. The 2016 Pajaronian baseball Player of the Year was named the Big West Freshman Infielder of the Year and to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s Freshman All-American Team after leading the Titans to their 18th World Series trip overall.
Chase Haney (3-2) worked two-thirds of an inning for the win, and Drew Carlton earned his seventh save after Fullerton put two runners on base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch hitter Hank LoForte struck out looking to end the game.
It was another heart-wrenching loss for the Titans. They blew a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning against No. 1 national seed Oregon State on Saturday, and they failed to hold a 4-3 sixth-inning lead against the Seminoles after Dillon Persinger’s double and Timmy Richards’ two-run homer.
“You get up one. It’s tough,” Persinger said. “We wanted a shutdown inning to get the momentum on our side.”
That didn’t happen. The Seminoles (46-22) used three walks, two infield singles and a double to take the lead in the seventh.
After Walls reached leading off against Jack Pabich (1-3), Dylan Busby doubled when left fielder Chris Prescott went back to catch the low fly, which dropped out of his glove when he ran into the fence.
Blake Workman came on and intentionally walked Jackson Lueck, and then walked Quincy Nieporte and Cal Raleigh to give the Seminoles a one-run lead. Florida State made it 6-4 against Brett Conine when Richards couldn’t make a play on Matt Henderson’s grounder to short.
“We certainly felt like we had the right people coming to the plate, and Taylor had a very good at-bat,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “Dylan had another good at-bat. And you all saw the results.”
CLOSE AT THE PLATE
Florida State took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Steve Wells’ low sacrifice fly to center. Cal Raleigh tagged up at third, and catcher Chris Hudgins had to move to his right to bring in Scott Hurst’s throw. The sliding Raleigh was able to get his left hand onto the plate just ahead of Hudgins’ tag try. The call was upheld on video review.
Fullerton pitchers issued eight walks against the Seminoles and 13 in their two CWS games. The Titans came to Omaha ranked fourth in the country with 2.41 walks per nine innings.
“We didn’t throw strikes again,” Vanderhook said. “We definitely got to know the field here at TD Ameritrade because the last two games these guys stood out in every inch of their position for longer than anybody.”
1,000th CWS GAME
This marked the 1,000th CWS game since the event started 71 years ago. Martin, in charge of a Florida State program that has never won a national title in 21 previous appearances, wisecracked when a reporter pointed out it was game No. 1,000: “I thought you were going to say, ‘Did you know if you lost, you’d be the losingest coach to ever play in this thing?”