May 8, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State spent the latter stages of Saturday night's game chasing UCF's lead at Dick Howser Stadium, but never could catch the Knights.
The sixth-ranked Seminoles (35-12) out-hit the visitors 15-11, but were undone by a season-high tying four errors, which led to five unearned runs and a 14-10 loss.
The outcome spoiled an otherwise special day as 5,389 fans turned out to see eight Seminole seniors graduate in a pregame ceremony conducted by Florida State University president Dr. Eric J. Barron.
Daniel Bennett, Taiwan Easterling, Tyler Everett, Rafael Lopez, Mike McGee, Jack Posey, Robby Scott and Robby Stahl took part in the ceremony. Stuart Tapley was also recognized, but not in attendance, as he tends to his ailing father at home in Orlando.
"It was very exciting; a moment that I'll remember, because I don't get to graduation exercises," said FSU coach Mike Martin. "We're playing that night, whether it's home or away.
"That was significant, meaningful and important to me; something that we might just look at to start a tradition."
The first-of-its-kind ceremony was held on the playing field because the Seminoles were at Miami when last weekend's commencement was held.
"It was great," said McGee. "It meant more to the parents. They didn't get to see us walk in the ceremony, so it was a great thing. After working hard for four years, to have this, it's nice to be recognized and I get to go through this like all the other students."
While the graduating players were recognized by the fans with a standing ovation at the end of the 10-minute ceremony, the game itself took on the life of a more traditional commencement - lasting nearly four hours.
Five Seminole pitchers saw action, with limited success as the pesky Knights (29-18) - who are battling to keep their postseason hopes alive - capitalized on walks, defensive and base-running miscues.
UCF erased an early 2-0 deficit with two runs in the third off starter Hunter Scantling, then wiped out a 4-2 deficit with a four-run fifth when the Seminoles committed two errors and Erik Hempe followed with a two-run double.
FSU scored single runs in the fifth and sixth on RBI singles by Taiwan Easterling and Rafael Lopez, to tie the game at 6-6. It was a short-lived rally for the Seminoles, who were roughed up for seven runs by the Knights in the seventh. UCF sent 10 batters to the plate and parlayed five hits and two walks into a 13-6 lead. Jonathan Griffin's grand slam off reliever Scott Sitz was the biggest blow in the game turning frame.
FSU, however, refused to go quietly, leading the bases in the home seventh when McGee uncorked a the fourth grand slam home run of his career. It was his team-leading eighth home of the season and 50th of his career, tying him for fifth place on the school's career list with Ryan Barthelemy.
"We fought hard and continued to come back," McGee said. "It was a rough game. Things didn't go our way and it wasn't really well-played by us, but I was still happy with the way we didn't give up."
UCF tacked on an insurance run in the eighth to close out the scoring.
Afterward, Martin said he was thankful that - unlike football coaches - he won't have to wait a week to get back out on the field again.
"Tomorrow at this time, this game is all going to be forgotten," Martin said. "I won't' go home with a smile on my face by any stretch of the imagination. We have to correct the mistakes that we made. We get to play again the next day."
The defensive miscues and base-running gaffes - two `Noles were thrown out in the late innings trying to stretch singles into double - were uncharacteristic for a team that was fielding at a school-record .975 clip.
"You just have to throw that away," said McGee, who will get the start in Sunday's series finale against the Knights. "It was really a rarity. I don't know the last time we made that many errors."
Over-shadowed in defeat were several standout performances, including Easterling 3-for-5 night at the plate, which matched a career-high for hits and gave him consecutive multi-hit games for the first time in his career.