Seminoles win a wild one, drop Villanova in 14-inning marathon
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Mike Martin was a full eight minutes into his postgame press conference Wednesday night when a sense of urgency washed over him.
“Y’all better hurry up,” Martin said to a roomful of reporters. “We’ve got so much to talk about it ain’t funny.”
The longtime Florida State head baseball coach wasn’t kidding. His Seminoles had just escaped with a 14-inning, 11-10 walk-off victory against visiting Villanova, in a game that was as bizarre as it was long.
Over five hours and 25 minutes, the teams combined to use 15 pitchers, score 21 runs, record 28 hits, strand 35 base runners and commit six errors. The game featured a little bit of everything -- both good and bad. There were highlight-reel catches and bungling defensive miscues. There were several clutch hits and plenty more empty at-bats.
And despite leading by four runs early, Florida State found itself trailing on two separate occasions -- including a two-run deficit in the 13th inning -- before rallying for the win.
“There were so many ups and downs,” freshman catcher Cal Raleigh said. “It was a crazy game. … It was one of the craziest games I’ve ever played in.”
Raleigh was at the heart of much of it.
Martin had hoped to give his young catcher the night off by starting junior college transfer Bryan Bussey. But after using Raleigh as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, Martin ended up leaving him in for the final 7 ½ innings. That decision certainly paid off as Raleigh drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 14th.
The decisive run was scored by freshman Tyler Holton, who also was a late-inning replacement. Holton had reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Then after moving to third on a single by center fielder Ben DeLuzio, Holton tagged up and came home with ease on a fairly deep fly ball to right field.
“I was just trying to get a fly ball to the outfield,” Raleigh said of his game-winning RBI.
It was only slightly more dramatic than the Seminoles’ rally one inning earlier. Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the 13th, Holton and DeLuzio led off with consecutive singles. Then with two outs, shortstop Taylor Walls was able to battle back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk and load the bases. That set up some heroics by senior third baseman John Sansone, who laced a two-run single to left field to tie the game.
While the victory over Villanova (2-6) won’t look impressive on paper, it allowed the Seminoles (6-2) to avoid what was shaping up to be a rough week. After falling to Jacksonville on Tuesday, a loss to the Wildcats would have been FSU’s third defeat in its last five games.
Instead, the Seminoles were able to celebrate a dramatic victory, rushing out of the dugout to celebrate with Holton at home plate and then Raleigh near first base.
“Our guys needed that one,” Martin said.
It wasn’t a flawless defensive performance for FSU by any stretch of the imagination – the Seminoles committed four errors one day after committing three against JU. But the ‘Noles did deliver some big plays down the stretch.
First, with the game tied at 8-8 in the ninth inning, center fielder Ben DeLuzio made a sensational diving catch to rob Villanova left fielder Adam Goss of an extra-base hit. With two outs, the ball was hit on a line drive over DeLuzio’s head, but the speedy junior was able to run it down and snare it over his shoulder while diving toward the outfield fence.
“Holy smokes,” Martin said. “That catch is one of the finest catches that I’ve seen in that ballpark.”
Then in the 12th inning, after Villanova loaded the bases with no outs, FSU second baseman Matt Henderson drew a pivotal interference call that kept the game tied. Wildcats leadoff batter Donovan May laced a ground ball in Henderson’s direction, and instead of waiting on the ball, Henderson raced up to charge it and was run over by a Villanova baserunner who was advancing toward second.
Because the defensive player has to be given the opportunity to make a play, the batter was ruled out and all three runners had to return to their bases. FSU reliever Ed Voyles then recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
Voyles was part of a lengthy and impressive effort from FSU’s bullpen.
After sophomore starter Cobi Johnson was pulled early in the fourth inning, the Seminoles called upon relievers Alec Byrd, Chase Haney, Matthew Kinney, Tyler Warmoth, Voyles and Will Zirzow to finish it out.
Warmoth, who is expected to be FSU’s closer, was the most impressive, allowing one hit with six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. As a team, the Seminoles’ pitchers recorded 22 strikeouts while giving up eight walks.
Offensively, FSU was led by five players with two hits apiece -- Sansone (2-for-6, 3 RBIs), Walls (2-for-6, 2 runs), Quincy Nieporte (2-for-4, RBI), Dylan Busby (2-for-4, 2 runs, RBI) and DeLuzio (2-for-6, 2 RBIs, run).
FSU next will host St. John’s (2-4) this weekend for a three-game series. The games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Talk about it with fellow 'Noles on the FSU Baseball Forum.