Florida State fell just short Monday in an intense back-and-forth game, dropping the finale of the weekend set to Maryland 8-5.
Two rare base-running mistakes and errors on defense mixed in with a controversial call and a surprise play by the Terrapins made for one of the most bizarre showings all season.
With one out in the eighth and trailing 7-5, Devon Travis provided a huge lift off the bench with a scorching pinch-hit double into the right field gap. Beginning the play on first, Stephen Spradling rounded third too hard despite hitting assistant coach Mike Martin Jr.'s stop sign and was eventually tagged out at home after being caught in a rundown.
To coach Mike Martin's dismay, the Terps also caught Spradling leaning too far off third base in the sixth while John Holland desperately attempted to escape a pickle between first and second. The ‘Noles failed to score runs in either inning.
"It was obviously disappointing," said a surprised Martin after the game, "but I hope we got them out of our system because we certainly did make some mistakes on the bases that we haven't made this year. Certainly there's no excuse for it from a coaching standpoint. We've just got to do a better job of working on that. I heard an old boy say one time, it does make sense, ‘You gotta get on base to make base-running mistakes,' and we did a good job of that. But seriously, that is something that we cannot have happen."
With FSU leading 4-3 in the seventh, a diving Justin Gonzalez thought he had successfully tagged Kyle Convissar out at third on a bang-bang play. To the shock of Gonzalez, third base umpire Troy Fullwood ruled Convissar safe, a call that proved costly. After Gage Smith K'd Jordan Hagel for the second out, Brian Busch bounced a wild pitch to the left of catcher Stephen McGee, allowing Convissar to score. Busch then surrendered a run-scoring double to first baseman Tim Kiene, giving the Terps a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, McGee evened the score by battling back from a busted knee to score Sherman Johnson with a sacrifice fly to left.
"I'm fortunate to coach that group in there," Martin said, "'cause I got a catcher that has caught I don't know how many innings, fouls a ball off of his knee, and his knee is literally numb. I'm telling you right now, that just stuns you. And he sat right there, took a minute break and caught the last three innings. That's a team guy if I ever had one."
It appeared that it might be the Seminoles' day after all, but Maryland shocked the home team in the eighth by following more FSU miscues with an unforeseen play.
Jayce Boyd failed to dig out a hurried Gonzalez throw, allowing leadoff hitter Matt Bosse to reach first. A potential double-play ball then deflected off reliever Mack Waugh's glove to Gonzalez, who took a blow to the face from the awkward ricochet.
After Jack Cleary sacrifice bunted the runners up one base, the ‘Noles brought in their ace closer, Robert Benincasa, to pitch out of the threat. Maryland countered by laying down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Bosse from third. Pinch running at second base and predicting Benincasa's intention to throw to first on the squeeze, Andrew Amaro then rounded third and hustled home on the play to earn the Terps a 7-5 lead.
"It's a play that you just don't see used," Martin said, "and I have to admit, we have seen it. We have talked about it, but we never try it. But it's a play that if you think about it and you know that guy from second is coming when the ball is at the pitcher, all the pitcher does is act likes he's going to throw to first and you got the guy. So you credit them. We did what we would ordinarily do, and they did a good job of taking advantage of a throw to first. We won't throw it to first again (laughs)."
After belting his season-first home run Saturday, Johnson opened the game with another blast to right field. His single up the middle in the second drove in Spradling and Holland. By the inning's completion, the 'Noles led 4-0.
Starter Luke Weaver cruised through the first three innings, picking off two Terps in the first, but ran into trouble in the third when a Boyd misfire to second after deftly backhanding a sharp grounder was coupled with a botched Jose Brizuela last-ditch dive attempt in left field. The Terps scored three in the frame, and FSU lifted Weaver in the process.
Martin expressed his desire to rid himself of the memories from Monday's debacle, use the loss as a teaching experience and move on to Stetson on Tuesday.
"It was ugly, and if you dwell on it, you will stay up half the night," he said. "It's past my bedtime now, and all I can think about is we're leaving [for Stetson] in 10 hours. Stetson, of course, would rather beat us than anybody on their schedule, so it will be the biggest two-game series for them of the year. It will be fun."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
FSU shoots itself in the foot, drops finale
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