By TOM STAD
June 17, 2008
There has never been any love lost between Florida State and Miami regardless of the sport, venue or circumstances, but some meetings between the two schools have had a little more meaning than others. That was again the case yesterday afternoon as the two teams unexpectedly met in the 2008 College World Series’ first elimination game. Much like on the football field, where missed opportunities - in most cases, field goals - have cost Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles football team possible championships, head coach Mike Martin’s baseball team brought about its own demise yesterday, leaving an outrageous 17 men stranded on the bases as Miami escaped with a 7-5 victory.
The Seminoles (54-13) got on the board first, courtesy of a Dennis Guinn RBI double in the first inning. But the second time through the Miami order was a rough one for FSU starter Elih Villanueva. In the third inning, he gave up a two-run blast to A’s first-round pick Jemile Weeks and then a two-run single to center to right fielder Dennis Raben as Miami took a 4-1 lead they would never relinquish. Inning after inning, Buster Posey (4-for-5, RBI) and the Seminoles hitters threatened to take the lead back, but luckily for head coach Jim Morris, the Hurricanes (52-10) have a deep pitching staff. Eric Erickson and Kyle Bellamy combined to pitch seven innings of relief while giving up only one run and getting several timely strikeouts amongst the nine they recorded to squash Seminole threats. FSU never did quit though, and after trailing 7-2 entering the ninth, they actually got the winning run to the plate. With the bases loaded following a walk to Posey, Seminoles clean-up hitter Jack Rye (1-for-5) stepped in to face Miami closer Carlos Gutierrez, who had endured a rather rough CWS to that point. Just two days earlier, Georgia solved the junior, handing Miami its first loss of the year when leading heading to the ninth. Rye was looking to make it two in a row. Yesterday, however, Gutierrez was up to the task as he got Rye to ground out to Weeks and send the Seminoles back home to Tallahassee.
In the winners’ bracket game, Stanford continued to show that the teams who came into this championship without a national seed can still play some championship caliber baseball.
Well, I thought FSU would get their bats going and be the surprise team in this tournament. I was half right. The ‘Noles continually laced line drives all over Rosenblatt Stadium yesterday afternoon, belting 17 hits. The problem was that once they got runners on base, they couldn’t get the big hit that could have led to an offensive stampede. Ever hear of a team being one runner short of leaving two runners on in every inning of a game? You have now. Miami’s relievers constantly wiggled out of trouble, and despite a furious rally late in the ballgame, FSU has now gone 20 CWS appearances without winning the championship - the most ever. What was once a very promising season went sour in all of 48 hours. Now Mike Martin has nearly six months to try and figure out how he can get this Seminoles team back to Omaha next season. Miami still has a long road to travel if they are going to make their way to the championship series, but they certainly have the chops to do it. At the very least, it looks like I might have been right about Georgia. The Bulldogs have taken a page out of FSU’s book and made two late-inning comebacks to advance in the winners’ bracket and will await the winner of the Miami vs. Stanford matchup for a chance to get to the title series.
In the winners’ bracket game last night, Georgia rallied for the second consecutive game, edging Stanford 4-3 to remain unbeaten in the tournament. After Bulldogs starter Nick Montgomery got into trouble in the third inning and surrendered three runs, three relievers shut the Cardinal attack down the rest of the way. Stanford managed just one hit and two walks after taking a 3-0 lead. Georgia plated single runs in the fourth and sixth innings and set the stage for more drama in Omaha. With two outs in the seventh and the bases loaded, centerfielder Matt Cerione (2-for-3, 3 RBI) laced a single up the middle to drive in two and give the Bulldogs a 4-3. Lead. Closer extraordinaire Joshua Fields made it interesting in the ninth, however. Fields got into a situation in which he had two on with one out before he shut the door on Stanford by inducing a double play. He’ll have to regroup and get his mojo back if Georgia is going to get to the final.
All in all it, was another crazy day in Omaha as both games featured late-inning drama. One team was able to turn the tables and get a win, while the other came up short and will depart Omaha because of it. One team will join Florida State on the outside looking in today when Rice and LSU take the field at 2 p.m. Georgia has been impressive so far, and fellow SEC member LSU gave North Carolina something to think about before falling short. Rice got run over by the freight train that is Fresno State. I just can’t see them bouncing back after a thrashing like that. I’m thinking Rice joins FSU and heads home while LSU will move on to battle the Bulldogs. Yes, I think the freight train derails tonight at 7 when the Tar Heels trot out on to the field. There’s just too much talent and experience wearing Carolina blue and I fully expect to see them in the championship series. Tonight may signal the beginning of the end for Fresno State. Either way, do yourself a favor and tune in to ESPN at some point tomorrow night. I promise you won’t be disappointed.