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June 18, 2012
Steve Phillips, Associate Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, takes you Beyond the ACCtion in Omaha for the 2012 College World Series. Check theACC.com for more entries.
OMAHA, Neb. (theACC.com) – The College World Series is often about making the most of second and third chances.
Faced with elimination in Sunday’s losers’ bracket game against Stony Brook, third-seeded Florida State responded with one of its more impressive wins of the season. The Seminoles’ 12-2 victory over the Seawolves earned them the chance to play another must-win game against second-seeded UCLA on Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park (8 p.m., ESPN/ESPN3).
The road to next week’s championship round still isn’t easy. Arizona’s win over UCLA on Sunday put the Wildcats firmly in the bracket driver’s seat. In order to advance, Florida State (49-16) must defeat UCLA (48-15) on Tuesday night, then take down Arizona in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday.
That is a tall order, and one could prompt a younger team to tighten up or look ahead. But in the aftermath of last Friday night’s tough-to-swallow 12-inning loss to Arizona in their CWS opener, FSU second baseman Devon Travis said the Seminoles rallied around the words of team captain James Ramsey and head coach Mike Martin during Saturday’s off-day meetings.
The message, said Travis, was simple. “All we can control is going out and playing the game, playing the game the right way, playing it hard, playing Seminole baseball.”
For the Seminoles, that meant not dwelling on the disappointment of Friday’s loss. It will mean framing Tuesday night’s game against UCLA as another fresh start and not attempting to live off the many things they did well in Sunday’s win over Stony Brook.
“Coach stresses all the time that in the game of baseball, one day you're the hero, next day you're the villain,” shortstop Justin Gonzalez said. “And we know that in a series – Regional, Super Regional, College World Series – no matter what happens, we're not going to get too up or too down. We're just going to roll through it.
“And everybody here knows what we want to do. Our goal is to win. And we’ve just got to continue to play hard. We’re focused on the outcome, but we're just going to go out and play as if it's our last game every day.”
Florida State flashed its top form against Stony Brook, scoring at least 12 runs for the third time in four games and receiving a stellar pitching performance from freshman starter Mike Compton (six hits and two runs in six innings). The Seminoles’ first nine runs came after there were two outs. FSU did not leave a runner on base until the seventh inning and only left three stranded for the game.
“I didn't really have to say a lot to our guys,” Martin said. “This group has a very good grasp of the game. They're going to fight you for 27 outs. And this just happened to be a day that things went our way.”
No one epitomized FSU’s bounce-back mentality more than Gonzalez. After committing an error that led to an Arizona run and getting picked off first base in a crucial situation on Friday night, the junior delivered what was arguably the knockout punch vs. the Seawolves on Sunday.
With FSU already ahead 4-0 in the top of the third inning, Gonzalez lined a three-run homer into the left field bullpen to cap a six-run outburst that gave FSU a seven-run lead.
“That Friday game was a test of my faith,” Gonzalez said. “And to be able to bounce back like that, it wasn't me out there. It was kind of a revelation that God gives us this platform and he tests us and to be able to come out there and help my club the way I did, just shows that I was blessed today. But as far as the game before, I mean it's just baseball, man. You're going to have your ups and downs. But as long as you stay level …”
In the aftermath of the tough Arizona loss, Travis said he spent most of Saturday with Gonzalez, his fellow middle infielder and best friend on the team.
“I know what it's like,” said Travis, who added a two-run homer of his own on Sunday. “I know what it's like to be the bad guy, to make a couple of errors and have a game where you're not hitting the ball like you want to.
“And I just think as best friends we are, you’ve just got to (help him) see through all that, and I tried to be that guy for them. And today it was pretty incredible seeing him get that hit. When he was walking by me, I told him, ‘I told you so.’ Because he's a great ballplayer. He does everything right. He works hard. He's always a big team guy. So it's pretty incredible for him.”
UCLA faces its own must-win situation following Sunday night’s 4-0 loss to Arizona, but head coach John Savage and some of his older players are no strangers to that kind of CWS pressure.
In 2010, UCLA won its first two series games to remain in the winners’ bracket but stumbled in a 6-2 loss to TCU in their third contest. Faced with a die-or-die second game against the Horned Frogs, the Bruins responded with a 10-3 victory and advanced to the championship round vs. South Carolina.
“We're 48-15, and we’ve won a lot of games and we hadn’t lost in quite a while (prior to facing Arizona),” Savage said Sunday night “It's baseball, and you've got to give the other side credit. They beat us tonight. But we're still in the tournament. So there you have it.
“It's all about taking blows at the College World Series. It's not a dagger. It's a blow. And we'll move on and we'll be ready to play on Tuesday night. Two years ago we won (the first two games), and then we sat there for three days, and I thought we came out not very good against TCU. And then we came back and ended up winning that bracket. So no one ever said it was going to be easy.”
NOTING THE SEMINOLES