The top-seeded Seminoles will tangle with Central Florida today for the championship.
Thanks some opportune salvage work by reliever Matt DiBlasi, FSU advanced to the NCAA regional title game today eding, Central Florida 3-2 Saturday afternoon.
The Knights eliminated Oklahoma State late Saturday night. UCF needs to beat FSU twice to advance.
Ryne Malone, Gibbs Chapman and Shane Robinson each drove in a run to build an early lead that stood thanks to DiBlasi's efforts in Saturday's game. The Seminoles have won 13 of their last 14 games.
"This is by no means over," FSU coach Mike Martin said.
"We'll have to do our jobs (Sunday)."
After 6 and 1/3 innings of no-hit work, FSU starter Rhett James' (10-2) began to defray. James loaded the bases with no out in the eighth before giving way to Kevin Lynch, who promptly was tagged for a two-run double by pinch hitter Marshall Bernhard.
Two groundouts and a liner to second later, the left-hander from Clearwater had the Seminoles out of the inferno and into the win column.
"The situation was to get three outs without letting them score and there's no excuses if you can't do that," said DiBlasi, who retired to side in the ninth to pick up his second save. "That's why were here at Florida State."
The performance was an impressive follow-up for DiBlasi, who has emerged as FSU's most reliable bullpen option. In last week's ACC Tournament, the sophomore bailed the 'Noles out with a pair of long relief appearances in games against Georgia Tech.
"He just might have grown up over the past week," FSU coach Martin said. "The jury's still out. But what I've seen leads me to believe that."
James was nearly watertight until his eighth inning skids. He was perfect until Dee Brown reached on an error by Robinson. Brown broke up the no-hitter with a one-out liner to left in the seventh.
"When they get hits you just have to move on," James said. Usually it's guys that are overpowering that throw the no-no's. I'm not overpowering so I expect a few hits here and there."
Kyle Bono (8-2) took the loss for the Knights, never fully recovering from a 32-pitch first inning. Bono struggled with his command, walking a season-high four batters in seven innings of work.
The first six hitters on the UCF order combined to go 2-for-23, leaving five runners on.
"We had the right guys up in good situations but we couldn't get it done," UCF coach Jay Bergman said.
UCF Head Coach Jay Bergman
"I thought (Rhett) James pitched a great game and I thought (Kyle) Bono pitched a great game. We told our players that we're going to get one chance to win this ball game along the line. We had the chance there in the eighth inning and we took advantage of it. Bernie (Marshall Bernhard) got a double and then second and third with no outs and couldn't get it out of the infield and that's really the ballgame. Both pitching staffs pitched excellent. Kyle (Bono) may disagree with this but he really didn't have his good stuff today but he's such a competitor, just a warrior. He battled through situations and adversely he kept us in the ballgame and gave us a chance to win and gave us an opportunity to win. That's all you can ask out of anybody."
"That's just one of those things. I mean you work on those situations all season long and it gets right down to the end and it's pitcher versus the hitter and in that situation they got us out."
"We'll he (FSU pitcher Matt DiBlasi) just came out there and stood up there and said hit it if you want to. It wasn't a mystery, I mean he was going to challenge our hitters. He wasn't trying to nit pick or anything, he came right at you and you have to admire him for that."
UCF PH/3B Marshall Bernhard
"I knew I had to come in and do something. Like coach said, he's (James) a big off-speed pitcher. He threw five pitches for sliders and I kept fouling them off, fouling them off and I finally found a good pitch to hit and I do what I always do and take the opportunity."
UCF P Kyle Bono
"I didn't think I had my best stuff today. That first inning, the kind of calls that I got, kind of wore me down. I mean it's a big atmosphere. I just tried to compete with the team. It did wear me down a little bit but later on, I actually started feeling better. I did the best that I could for the team to give them a chance to win."
Florida State Head Coach Mike Martin
"I was pretty proud of the entire club. Certainly these three young men (James, DiBlasi, Sauls) played a pretty big role in it. Our entire club did a great job of getting it done. In no way does this mean the tournament is over. There is still a lot of baseball to be played. I'm just very pleased. Rhett (James) picked a good game to throw a no hitter for about six and a third innings. Why don't you have a brother? Everybody else up here does."
On Rhett James
"He did not talk to me. He is such a competitor; he did not want to leave the game. But where they were in the lineup, we have people in the bullpen that are very reliable and we didn't hesitate to go get (Kevin) Lynch. Lynch made some good pitches and their guy hit a good pitch. And of course Matt (DiBlasi) came in after that."
Florida State Pitcher Rhett James "Not really, I'm just out there trying to do the same thing I've been doing. Just rotating, if they get a hit you have to move on. Usually the guy that throws a no hitter is the guy that is the most powerful, and I'm not really that guy. I just try to minimize things."
On watching DiBlasi pitch with the game on the line
"Really it was like watching the ACC Tournament where I did a big 360 that gavee me a lot of confidence that I could go out and do that. A lot of guys on the team have been doing that all year they've been stepping it up and a lot of what we are doing now is what we need if we want to go to Omaha. It says a lot about our pitching staff. We were a little underestimated and now we are starting to show everybody, 'hey we are Florida State and we are going to keep doing the same thing we have been doing for the last 25 years.'"
Florida State Pitcher Matt DiBlasi
On his approach
"Coming in that situation in a tight game like that, your job is to get three outs and not allow them to score. There is no excuses if you can't do that. That's why we are here and that's why Florida State is good in those situations. I feel I did a pretty good job coming in and working on the fast balls. I was just trying to get ground balls and come out where I could get ground balls in the infield and keep the runners where they were."
"Immeasurable! What I did in the ACC Tournament was pretty much a 360. I never doubted myself. I figured that's why I'm here. If I'm not here to come in, in these situations, then I need to leave. Coming in for these situations tells me that I have a lot of confidence in my coach and he has a lot of confidence in me."
Florida State RF Matt Sauls
On his teammates stepping up... "You almost expect it at this time. It seems like every week there is a new guy stepping up. You don't really think about the guys who aren't hitting so well, you have to get up there and do what you always do. But of course you need guys to continue stepping up you cannot just rely on your first three guys if you want to go to Omaha."