Florida State grinds out win to earn another day in Omaha
Typically, Cal State Fullerton patience on the mound can cause some impatience at the plate, but their opponent on Monday afternoon seemed unfazed by anything they threw at them. Florida State drew eight walks on the afternoon, including two with the bases loaded to take the lead for good in the top of the seventh inning on their way to a 6-4 win over the Titans in the first elimination game of the 2017 College World Series, and the 1,000th game all-time in the 71-year history of the tournament
Senior designated hitter Quincy Nieporte and sophomore catcher Cal Raleigh both fell behind in the count 1-2 with the bases loaded and their team trailing 4-3 in the seventh, but both worked the count back in their favor before earning the base on balls to force in the game-tying and go-ahead runs off of Cal State Fullerton reliever Blake Workman.
Two batters later, senior second baseman Matt Henderson slapped an infield single into the hole at shortstop to extend the lead to cap off the three-run rally that highlighted a season-long approach at the plate with two two-strike hits to lead things off followed by two bases-loaded walks after falling behind 1-2.
“I think it’s been a mentality throughout the year to kind of grind out at-bats and look for one pitch, and if it’s not there, leave it alone and go to the net one,” Henderson said. “We’ve been able to battle with two strikes throughout the year. So that’s not been a problem, and we kind of took that mentality in as well. I didn’t really feel the timing mechanism that they were trying to do or place upon us, I didn’t feel the pressure of that, really.”
With starting pitcher Drew Parrish tossing a one-hitter through the first five innings, the Seminoles (46-22) looked to be in control of the game after freshman first baseman Drew Mendoza’s solo home run in the top of the sixth, but the lead turned into a deficit in a span of three pitches with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
With a runner on second, two outs, and Florida State leading 3-1, Cal State Fullerton first baseman Dillon Persinger laced an RBI double to the gap in left-center to cut the deficit to one. He didn’t have to run very hard to tie the game, because two pitches later senior shortstop Timmy Richards blasted his second home run of the series into the left field bleachers to give the Titans a 4-3 lead.
Parrish, a left-handed throwing freshman Rockledge, FL., had allowed only one run on one hit entering the sixth inning. When he walked off the mound two outs later he was on the hook for four runs on four hits.
But Cal State Fullerton’s pitching staff couldn’t hold the momentum for long. Reliever Jack Pabich allowed a single to Taylor Wells and a deep fly ball to the left field fence that was dropped on the run for a double to put runners in scoring position with nobody out. Titans head coach Rick Vanderhook wanted to load the bases to set up a force out, but instead of letting Pabich issue the intentional walk before going to the bullpen, he replaced him with sophomore right-hander Blake Workman, who proceeded to intentionally load the bases, then unintentionally forced home the game-tying and, eventual, game-winning runs with the walks to Nieporte and Raleigh, both on 3-2 counts.
“Jack’s done pretty good, but Jack doesn’t have a lot of experience, and I was afraid that Jack would intentionally walk and balk,” Vanderhook said. “I couldn’t do it. I knew Workman could do it, so I went with that.
“I called the 3-2 curveball. I called it. He didn’t mind me calling it, because he probably had it on his mind. I said, go ahead and throw the a 3-2 hammer, because if he throws it for a strike, it’s strike three, and [closer Brett Conine] is in the game. Makes the game a little different.”
Cal State Fullerton brought the winning run to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Florida State closer Drew Carlton froze pinch-hitter Hank LoForte with a two-seam fastball that tailed back over the inside corner to end the game, and the Titans’ season.
With the win, Florida State moves on to play another elimination game at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday night in a rematch with LSU. The Tigers got the stripes beaten off them in a 13-1 loss to top-seeded Oregon State in the nightcap on Monday.
The loss ends Cal State Fullerton’s 2017 campaign at 39-24.
Titans Shortstop Goes Out With A Bang
Monday afternoon’s season-ending loss to Florida State marked the final game in the college career of Cal State Fullerton shortstop Timmy Richards. The native of Long Beach, Cali. went 2-for-6 at the 2017 College World Series, both hits clearing the fence for home runs. The first gave his team a 3-0 lead over top-ranked Oregon State on Saturday afternoon. The second turned on a 3-2 deficit against Florida State into a 4-3 lead.
His two home runs, five runs batted in, and eight total bases led all players in the series through the first six games.
Richards was an 18th round selection by the Minnesota Twins in the 2016 MLB Draft, and although he fell six rounds to the Washington Nationals in 2017, he expressed no second thoughts about returning for his senior season.
“The decision to come back for my senior year is something I’ll never regret,” he said, while clutching sleeve of his jersey to fight back tears. “I’m always going to be proud to have worn this jersey, play for Cal State Fullerton, and be a Titan.”
“The success I had this weekend was just me trying to do the best for my team. A lot of that success doesn’t come without [junior first baseman Dillon Persinger] and the guys in front of me getting on base, and the guys at the bottom of the lineup turning it over. I can’t say enough how proud I am to wear this jersey.”
The performance Richards turned in during his brief stay in Omaha became even more impressive after the fact when his head coach revealed that he’s been playing hurt for most of the season.
“He has played the whole year or half the year with a sports hernia,” Vanderhook said. “So when he’s not running to first base that last at-bat, it’s not that he’s pouting … he’s had a sports hernia for half the season and chose to play. As long as it wasn’t going to hurt him any more, and he had to do stuff easily, but to have a guy do that, and all the guys know about it, he grinds out every day and does that in a day-to-day manner, that’s going to teach somebody else what they need to know in the years to come.”
Raleigh & Wells Atone For Friday Night’s Game-Changing Miscues
When the wheels came off for Florida State in Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to LSU, junior right fielder Steven Wells and sophomore catcher Cal Raleigh were at the center of the chaos. The three-error play that allowed the Tigers to tie the game, and eventually take the lead, in the bottom of the eighth inning involved Wells overrunning a routine base hit right to him, then misfiring when he tried to nail the runner at second, and it ended with Raleigh dropping a perfect strike to home plate that would have resulted in the second out instead of a tie game.
With the season on the line on Monday, those two made up for the miscues with some timely at-bats against the Titans. Wells gave the Seminoles a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the top of the second. Then, after Fullerton tied the game in the bottom of the third, Raleigh led off fourth inning with a double, and later scored to retake the lead on a sacrifice play by Wells. In the top of the seventh, with the game tied, it was Raleigh’s bases-loaded walk that gave Florida State the lead for good.
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that ballgame that we lost, it’s in the background,” FSU head coach Mike Martin said of the duo’s bounce back performance. “Do I remember it? Yeah, but we can’t dwell on it. We had to move on. We’re playing a day, day and a half later, you have to just be able to throw it away and go to the next game. Be ready. If we had a little pity party and pointed a couple of fingers, we wouldn’t be sitting where we are today.”
“We were able to do what we’ve tried to do all year long — throw it away, and be ready to go the next day.”
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