See you in Omaha: Florida State wins place in College World Series

By Al Buzzelli

You can discuss the when, summarize the how or categorize the who, but all that matters is the where—that place being Omaha, Neb., where the Florida State Seminoles are now headed in search of their first-ever College World Series title, after fighting off the Vanderbilt Commodores 7-6 in Sunday’s decisive game-three victory of the Seminoles-hosted Super Regional.

“I can’t say enough about the character of our baseball team,” FSU Head Coach Mike Martin said. “I’m very proud to be a part of them.”

The ’Noles—fresh off earning their 20th CWS appearance—struck early when shortstop Steven Cardullo lit up the scoreboard, as well as the home fans’ emotions, with a solo shot to left center that put the Tribe up 1-0.

After a Rafael Lopez single, a Devon Travis double and an Ohmed Danesh walk that loaded the bases, center fielder Tyler Holt—who struggled in Saturday’s game-two loss, going 1-for-5—brought home two more runs with a double to right-center that was immediately followed by Sherman Johnson recording an RBI groundout that brought home Danesh to put the ’Noles up 4-0.

Those four runs, unexpectedly, would become the foundation for the FSU pitching staff to uphold.

Right-hander Geoff Parker started possibly the biggest game of his junior season, as he was able to keep the Commodores uncomfortable at the plate in his short stint on the mound. Parker pitched 3.1 innings, surrendering only one run on two Commodore hits before FSU’s game-one starter, Sean Gilmartin, came out of the bullpen in relief.

Gilmartin and Parker swapped roles in game three from game one, with Parker starting and Gilmartin relieving. While both Gilmartin and Parker struggled in Friday’s win, it was undeniable that both Seminole aces had gotten plenty of rest between games (each surrendered four earned runs in their team’s late-inning dramatics, with Gilmartin unable to make it out of the fifth and Parker getting whacked around in 2.1 innings).

“I think Vanderbilt showed what they are all about,” Martin said after the opening victory. “When we went up, certainly we knew there was a lot of baseball left. They really showed what they’re about by coming back and not only tying the game, but going ahead. It was a clear display of fight on their part, and certainly I was pleased with the fight in our guys when we fell behind to not feel sorry for ourselves.”

Martin’s game-one comments set the tone for the remaining games in the pivotal series as either team just refused to give in.

Vanderbilt, though, would simply not go away. Fighting to keep their postseason hopes alive, their rally began in the fourth inning.

After Anthony Gomez was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom half of play, an Aaron Westlake walk advanced Gomez to second, which was followed by Jason Esposito driving home the Commodores’ first run of the game with an RBI single.

Vandy would strike again just two innings later, when Gomez was in the center of the action again. Down 4-1, Gomez ripped an RBI single through the left side of the infield that cut the Seminoles’ former four-run margin in half in just two innings of work.

The Commodores weren’t done, though.

Westlake followed Gomez’s hit with a double of his own that drove home another Vandy run to bring the FSU lead to 4-3.

Despite Martin’s earlier comments about how unrelenting the Vanderbilt squad was, it was Martin’s own team that proved to be the more forceful.

Following a 58-minute rain/lightning delay that stole the thunder from a Jayce Boyd lead-off double to open the top half of the eighth inning for FSU, once play resumed, the ’Noles showed how composed and cool they were, despite the anticipation. After FSU loaded the bases with a couple of walks, Sherman Johnson—who came into his final Sunday at-bat 0-for-4—laced a bases clearing double into the right-center field gap that all but booked the plane reservations to Omaha.

With the victory, Florida State becomes the second team to qualify for play inside Omaha’s illustrious Rosenblatt Stadium.

Joining FSU are the Florida Gators, who the ’Noles have defeated in two out of the season’s three meetings.

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