FSU clubs Stanford again, off to Omaha

Florida State was up big early, made it unsettling in the middle innings but then poured it on again late, blasting Stanford 18-7 Sunday to capture the Super Regional and qualify for the College World Series.

Leading by 11 in the ninth inning, Robert Benincasa froze Stanford's Austin Slater to cue an ecstatic Seminole bunch storming the field, ending in a dog pile next to the pitcher's mound.

Winners by the score of 18-7, Florida State had just punched its ticket to Omaha for a spot in the College World Series.

An ecstatic Devon Travis revealed some of his thoughts following the final out.

"You got so many things running through your head when that happens," Travis said. "Our crowd, the entire game, they were acting like they were playing. It was incredible. To hear the crowd chanting "O-ma-ha!" that is something my freshman year I didn't hear. This is a feeling that can't get old, that's for sure."

Usually humble coach Mike Martin allowed his team to truly celebrate the win.

"I'm excited. I'm elated," said Martin, who will make his 15th trip to the College World Series. "I'm a happy camper because this group deserves what they got. They worked hard all year long. That was a great win, and I am just so proud to be a part of it."

Even after rain postponed Saturday's game, there was never much doubt in this one. FSU crushed Stanford for the second consecutive game Sunday to sweep the best-of-three series, this time by way of three long balls and shutdown defense in clutch situations.

Jayce Boyd's two-run bomb to the opposite field in the top of the first carved a path for a day of torrent hitting.

Captain James Ramsey, playing in his final game in Dick Howser Stadium, reflected on the importance of Boyd's early blast.

"For Jayce to put that ball out... I told him before the game, I said, ‘Hey, this is Jayce Boyd takeover time,' said Ramsey. "This is probably his last game here just as much as it was mine, so I just told him to kinda answer that call and continue to give God all the glory. And he's doing such a great job, and he's come so far in his three years here."

Another ball found the seats an inning later, as Sherman Johnson followed Steven Spradlings RBI single to left with a rocket of a home run to right, his fourth postseason tater, to stretch the lead to six.

Mike Compton started the game for FSU and allowed a career-high 11 base knocks in four-plus innings of work. However, 10 of those 11 were singles, making it difficult for the Cardinal to group any runs together.

Whenever Stanford did threaten to make it a game in the middle innings, the FSU defense stifled the opponent.

In the third, Stanford scored its first run when Austin Wilson collided with Boyd at first on a play that ended with heated words being exchanged between the two. The very next pitch, Justin Gonzalez and Travis responded by smoothly rolling a double play to escape a bases-loaded jam.

In the fourth, Gonzalez quickly turned Travis' flip to kill another Cardinal rally, and then with the tying run at the plate in the fifth, Travis fielded Eric Smith's grounder on the run, tagged Alex Blandino and tossed to Boyd to squash yet another bases-loaded situation.

"A lot of those plays were really big plays," Travis said. "They were nothing spectacular. They were plays that need to be made, plays that we worked on a thousand times a year, and defense definitely is our strong point of this team. Defense and pitching are paramount, and definitely they were real big for us."

The score got blown wide open in the later innings.

Trailing by eight in the seventh, Stanford scored four runs off Gage Smith and Luke Weaver to cut the FSU lead to 10-6. The Cardinal even brought the tying run to plate, but Hunter Scantling entered and forced Stephen Piscotty, who already had four hits, to roll over to Johnson to end the frame.

For a glimmer of a moment, Stanford felt that it might just come back. That was until Florida State answered with eight more in the eighth to put the Cardinal to rest for good.

Two runs already crossed before Seth Miller tattooed his third grand slam of the year to right, pumping his fist as he rounded first base.

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"It's just the way baseball works out," Miller said. "It's like [Martin] said, ‘It's a crazy game.' I like situations like that, where you can put a team ahead. That happened to be a grand slam for me. If that's the way it works, I'll take them all day long."

Wilson's solo blast to left in the bottom of the eighth did nothing but prolong the inevitable: Florida State's 21st trip to the College World series.

As Ramsey strolled to center field to collect his hat after the dog pile, the reality that he had just played his final game in front of the home crowd sunk in for the first-round draft pick. But even so, the only thing on his mind was winning a championship for a team that no one predicted would be in this position.

"Oh, man. I just hugged all those guys in the locker room, and I said, 'Don't take this for granted. Don't take this for granted,'" he said." Especially this team. I hate to play the underdog card when you just scored 35 runs in a Super Regional. But, I mean, going into the season, we're ranked 20th in the country, and a lot of guys were really upset at one of our first days in spring practice. I was like, 'Guys, we gotta peak in June.' And, first of all, everybody else does their job to evaluate the talent, evaluate the situation, and all we have to do is have the expectations for ourselves that we know we are capable of. And that is that we can win a national championship. So you really saw a bunch of guys that it was manifested tonight, that the guys believed. The guys know we're one of the best teams in the country. The guys know we deserve to play out in Omaha, so really being able to show it out on the field was great."

Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.

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