Tasked with the daunting mission of scoring runs off No. 8-overall pick and Stanford ace Mark Appel, very few people believed Florida State stood a fighting chance to emerge from Game 1 victorious.
But unstead, the Seminoles shocked the college baseball world Friday night with an astounding 17-1 beatdown of the Cardinal in the Tallahassee Super Regional.
With Appel sitting the 'Noles down with ease through the first three frames, the lone Cardinal run scored in the first off Brandon Leibrandt presented a somewhat difficult challenge for them to overcome.
However, FSU dazzled the rocking crowd at Dick Howser Stadium with a magical fourth inning in which the Garnet and Gold pieced together seven runs off Appel with a flurry of base knocks and free passes.
Catcher Stephen McGee saw the onslaught approaching.
"We were getting real confident towards him," said McGee. "We were all getting up there and having great at bats... making him throw a lot of pitches, just really seeing the ball well, and everybody felt real confident. We knew we were going to start something sometime soon. We wanted to get it started as soon as possible. We definitely felt something. We had that confidence going."
Jayce Boyd ignited the memorable charge with a single up the middle and moved to third on a perfectly executed hit and run by McGee. Ahead 1-2 in the count, Appel then drilled Justin Gonzalez in the square of his back to juice the bases with none gone. Stanford shortstop Kenny Diekroeger booted Josh Delph's grounder deep in the hole, allowing Boyd to tie the game and all runners to advance safely.
At this point, the already loud cheers from those present turned thunderous, coincided by Appel's sudden loss of command.
John Holland and Jose Brizuela both drew walks -- Brizuela's on four pitches -- each forcing in a run. Sherman Johnson and Devon Travis both followed with ground-ball singles through the left side of the infield in identical spots to add two more. The first pitch to James Ramsey found the backstop, allowing Brizuela to cross the plate, before McGee lined a sacrifice fly to center to bring in the seventh and final run of the FSU fourth.
"I just started throwing balls," Appel said. "I'm not someone to make excuses. I just didn't get the job done. You are always going to have a few bad outings each year. You wish they aren't during the Super Regionals."
After Appel labored through a grueling 48-pitch inning, Stanford coach Mark Marquess unsurprisingly replaced his ace to start the fifth. But instead of sitting on the six-run lead, Florida State batted around for the second consecutive inning, mostly by way of four walks and a Ramsey two-run single past second baseman Danny Diekroeger.
Already leading 11-1, Travis' night was just getting started.
In consecutive at-bats, the junior second baseman and recent draft pick of the Detroit Tigers bombed a no-doubt homer to left in the sixth and lined another bomb out in the seventh to record a career-high six RBIs.
"I gotta thank the man above," said Travis. "I don't even know what happened tonight. I don't think I ever remember hitting two home runs in my life in a game, ever. Not even little league days. I can't really explain it. I guess I got pretty decent pitches and put good swings on them."
Leibrandt picked up his eighth win of the season, allowing only one run to cross in the first and stranding runners in five of the six innings he pitched.
Three times the 'Noles turned double plays to help Leibrandt escape Cardinal rallies, with the most notable twin killing coming in the first.
With one gone, runners on first and second and FSU trailing 1-0, Stanford threatened to add to what turned out to be its only lead. But Austin Wilson rolled over to Johnson, who calmly tagged third and tossed to Boyd to end the inning.
"[The double plays] were huge for momentum," said Liebrandt. "We put up a seven spot and then a four spot. I go out there, put two guys on each inning and then the defense behind me rolls it up. It's a huge confidence booster."
Hunter Scantling and Brandon Johnson threw a scoreless seventh and eighth, respectively, before handing the reigns to Mack Waugh, who silenced the Cardinals by striking out the side in the ninth inning to officially give Florida State a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
The loss for Stanford was the worst in school history in an NCAA Tournament game.
FSU will send Mike Compton to the hill in Game 2 with hopes of claiming a trip to Omaha in the process.
Even with the blowout victory, Florida State coach Mike Martin smartly looked ahead to an equally important game on Saturday.
"I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined what happened tonight could happen, but it is truly why our sport is what it is," Martin said. "We know that [Saturday], it will be a different story. We know what Stanford can do. They have a tremendous program, great tradition, and we are in no way thinking that we have accomplished anything except we are going to play a ballgame [Saturday] and see what happens. That's not minimizing anything the young men at this table accomplished tonight, but in this sport you can't dwell on what happened yesterday because you're turning around and playing again. It's just that [Saturday], there's a lot at stake."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
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