FSU eliminated the third-seeded Scarlet Knights 17-7 in the regional at Dick Howser Stadium. The pair combined for 30 hits and each team used five different pitchers.
The Seminoles, who jumped to an early 8-0 lead, were led offensively by Chris Hart (4-for-5, two doubles). Starter Mark Suals earned the victory despite surrendering five runs on 10 hits in five innings.
The Seminoles (52-11-1) took their frustrations out on outmanned Rutgers (37-22) after falling to second-seeded South Alabama 8-6 earlier. The Scarlet Knights eliminated Jacksonville (32-30) 8-5 in Saturday's first game.
South Alabama (42-17) needs just one win against FSU to advance to its first super regional in school history. Game time is 1:30 p.m. and Daniel Davidson (9-0, 2.35 ERA) will start for the Seminoles.
While Rutgers didn't go quietly into the night, so to speak, many fans continued to replay the Seminoles' earlier game against South Alabama.
FSU coach Mike Martin refused to second-guess himself against South Alabama, which rallied from a 5-3 deficit. Martin was far more concerned with second chances.
The Seminoles were trailing 3-1 and scored four runs in the top of the eighth. The game was also delayed 28 minutes that inning as FSU filed a protest, then withdrew it, concerning a substituion issue.
But South Alabama barely blinked, scoring five times against closer Daniel Hodges (5-2). The onslaught was punctuated by a towering three-run home run to left field by Cole Craig with two outs.
Martin defended his decision to replace middle reliever Rhett James with Hodges, who surrendered six runs in the ninth inning in a loss to Georgia Tech last weekend in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. James replaced starter Trent Peterson with one out in the seventh and coaxed two ground ball outs.
It proved to be a rough day for Hodges, who also was nicked for two runs on three hits in the ninth inning against Rutgers. Also seeing action for FSU were Eddie Cannon, Matt DiBlasi and Kevin Lynch.
"I consider Daniel Hodges to be one of the top relievers in college baseball," Martin said following the first game Saturday.
"He is a guy who is as good as we've had here in his role. I would never hesitate going back and giving him the ball at the time we did it. He's a young man, gosh, he had 30-something appearances and gave up runs in two of them (regular season). He happened to have a tough outing today. But I will take Daniel Hodges and give him the ball and think nothing about it."
The Jags loaded the bases with no outs against Hodges on consecutive hits and a walk. After Kevin Sytko fanned looking, Brett Parker blooped a run-scoring single to right field and Josh Touchstone reached on a fielder's choice to tie at 5-5. Craig then followed with his sixth home run of the season, blasting a two-strike changeup over the left-field wall.
"Standing on-deck, I was watching the pitcher and he had a nasty – I don't if it was a changeup or a screwball, exactly what it was," Craig said. "It had plenty of movement on it. Then he was mixing a fastball in with two strikes. With two strikes, that's the pitch I was looking for actually. But then he just left that changeup over the plate and I was able to keep my hands back and put a good swing on it."
FSU pushed across a run with one out in the top of the ninth on Jerrod Brown's double to right-center field. But Blake Balkcom flew out to right and pinch-hitter Danny Wardell struck out swinging against reliever Bert Heath.
"That one hurt. But you know, South Alabama deserved to win the ballgame. They got it done," Martin said.
"I think the key to the ballgame was the outstanding job that their pitcher (Clark Girardeau) did. He was literally dominating. He did a number on us. We got back into it. He kept making quality pitches, got a couple a big double play balls. You have to take your hat to him. He did a tremendous job of pitching and keeping us off balance."
Girardeau carried a 3-1 advantage into the eighth inning before running into trouble. Heath allowed just one hit in 1.2 innings to improve his rcord to 6-1. Hodges (5-2) was nicked for five earned runs on four hits. Still, Martin stood by his decision. The Jags out-hit the Seminoles 13-6 and only need one win on Sunday to move into next weekend's Super Regional.
"We felt like we needed to shut it down right there," Martin said. "We felt like we wanted to give Hog the ball. When you have a guy like him, you don't want to. ... if Rhett struggles, then you go to (Kevin) Lynch trying to get to Hog. In a tournament like this, we just felt like. .. just felt it was time to get him in the ballgame.
"When we got the four runs to go up by two, it's Hodges, no doubt. I would not hesitate to do that again. Daniel Hodges is fine. Sometimes when you give up a couple of hits that you haven't been giving up, you start doubting yourself. I am sure there was a little bit of doubt in Daniel's mind. He will be fine."