June 3, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State slugger Mike McGee's eighth-inning battle against Bethune-Cookman closer Jordan Dailey in Friday's NCAA Tallahassee Regional did not begin well.
With runners at first and third in a tie game, McGee quickly fell behind 0-2 after chasing a high strike.
"I kind of had to refocus and make sure I put bat on the ball," McGee said.
McGee's patience and persistence paid off; working the count full before lofting a soft single to left, which drove home pinch-runner Taiwan Easterling with the game-winning run in a 6-5 victory.
"It entered my mind to squeeze," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "It didn't stay very long. Michael has been to two College World Series and he's played in four regionals. I had all the confidence in the world at that moment with Michael at the plate. ... The guys is who you want at the plate in that situation."
It was McGee's 239th career RBI, which ranks second nationally among active players and sixth on FSU's career list.
Florida State (43-17) came into the regional as the No. 5 national seed but had its hands full with a Bethune-Cookman club that belted four homers, including a pair by Ryan Durrence. Ironically, it was FSU's pitching that turned the tide.
FSU left-hander Brian Busch (6-2) came on for Mack Waugh and registered his first of four strikeouts to get out of sixth-inning mess after the Wildcats (36-24) had tied the game 5-5 on solo homers by Peter O'Brien and Durrence. The Seminoles' left-hander retired all seven batters he faced before turning the ball over to closer Daniel Bennett in ninth.
In his 37th appearance of the season, Bennett registered his 15th save of the season - the second-best mark in school history - striking out the final two batters.
"Brian did a great job, like he always does out of the pen," said FSU senior catcher Rafael Lopez. "He was on. He located his fastball. ... He did a great job."
B-CU coach Mervyl Melendez concurred.
"To be honest with you, I think he was the difference in the ballgame," Melendez said. "When you have an offense that I guess kept coming back like we did ... you know stopping our momentum was what he did. He's a little tough to hit."
FSU starter Hunter Scantling was chased in the fifth when the Wildcats used a two-run homer by DJ Leonard to take a 3-1 lead. Scantling also surrendered a solo shot to shot Durrence in the second, but was largely effective, matching a career high with seven strikeouts while scattering seven hits.
Four Seminole pitchers combined to register 13 strikeouts, but did not issue a walk for the seventh time this season.
"I was just trying to come in and get that one guy to switch the momentum back over to our side," said Busch, who relieved Waugh to face pinch-hitter Josh Johnson. "It seemed like it took a little while to score some runs, but our guys came through like they always do."
The Seminoles broke through in the eighth when pinch-hitter Sean O'Brien singled through the left side of the infield off B-CU's Roman Lancara. Lopez, who led FSU's 13-hit attack with a 3-for-5 day at the plate, followed with a one-out single to right. The Wildcats countered with Dailey to face McGee, who won the extended at-bat to give the `Noles a 6-5 lead.
"It was a battle," Martin said. "You are behind a couple and you go up a couple and they tie it up. .... We just kept plugging away and I'm just very pleased with the way our young men hung in there."
Florida State wiped out a 1-0 deficit with a run in the home fourth when Jayce Boyd doubled and Johnson singled to right. B-CU's Matt Wright misplayed the ball, allowing Boyd to race home. The Wildcats countered with the two runs in the fifth on Leonard's homer before the `Noles put together a four-run home half.
Singles by Lopez, James Ramsey and Boyd off B-CU starter Scott Garner loaded the bases for Johnson, whose two-run single to left tied the game at 3-3. Parker Brunelle's two-run, two-out single to left gave FSU its first lead, 5-3.
The Seminoles will meet Alabama, a 5-3 winner over UCF in the opening game, Saturday at 6 p.m. It will be the first meeting between the schools since 1991, when FSU defeated the Crimson Tide in a regional match-up in Tallahassee.
All-American left-hander Sean Gilmartin (11-1) will get the ball for the Seminoles and face Crimson Tide left-hander Adam Morgan (5-6) in a game that will be televised by SunSports and also streamed live at NCAA.com.
Notes: With the victory, FSU extended its streak of consecutive NCAA Regional victories to 11, dating to an opening loss to Bucknell in the 2008 Tallahassee Regional...James Ramsey extended his streak of reaching base to 49 games with a fifth inning single. Ramsey has now reached safely in 59 of 60 games this season...Rafael Lopez and Ramsey each extended their hitting streaks to 6 games...FSU starter Hunter Scantling matched his career high with 7 strikeouts; has 10 strikeouts and 0 walks in last two starts...Scantling and relievers Brian Busch and Daniel Bennett combined for 13 strikeouts; the most by the `Noles since fanning 13 against UCF on (5/6)...FSU pitchers did not allow issue a walk, marking the 7th time that has occurred this season...Bennett registered his 15th save of the season in his 37th appearance. The 15 saves ties for the second best single-season mark for the Seminoles (Tyler Chambliss, 2005)...Busch (6-2) picks up the victory with 2.1 innings of hitless, shutout work...the 4 home runs surrendered by the `Noles were a season-high....The Seminoles will meet Alabama for the first time since May 26, 1991, which also came in a Tallahassee Regional.