"This is what we've been working for since September -- Clemson, the ACC Tournament and the postseason," center fielder Nick Rogers said Sunday following the Seminoles' dramatic 6-5 victory over stubborn Maryland.
FSU scored all of its runs in the final three innings, with Rogers providing the game-winner when he walked with the bases loaded on four pitches in the bottom of the ninth inning. The game marked the final regular-season performances of seven FSU seniors, in addition to third-base coach Chip Baker, who is expected to assume the program's administrative duties next year.
The Seminoles (48-12, 15-6 ACC) are certainly flying high, winning 14 consecutive games and going undefeated in conference play at home for the second straight season. FSU swept its fifth straight three-game series, winning the final two against the Terrapins (33-22, 6-18) in its last at-bat. The Seminoles close the regular season at their nemesis, Clemson, next weekend before departing to St. Petersburg for the ACC Tournament May 21-26.
"This is probably the biggest series of the year coming up in Clemson," Rogers said. "I think we are ready. We are playing great baseball right now. The pitching is great, our defense is doing real well. I think we are as competitive as we can be."
Indeed. FSU trailed the Terps 2-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. But catcher Tony Richie delivered a two-run double down the leftfield line to tie the game. In the eighth, Ryan Barthelemy smacked a two-run triple, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, and then came home on Rogers' single to make it 5-2.
Maryland, however, chased FSU starter Blair Varnes in the ninth as the first two hitters reached base. Relievers Daniel Davidson, Kevin Lynch and Daniel Hodges were unable to slow the Terps' momentum, with Lynch surrendering the game-tying single with one out. No problem. The Seminoles loaded the bases in their bottom half. Rogers then walked on four consecutive pitches with two outs to spoil Maryland's hopes of winnings its first league road game in two years.
"We keep fighting. We keep scrapping. Somebody comes up in the clutch every day it seems like," Rogers said.
"We kept our composure the entire game. We know when to turn it on. There's nothing negative going on in the dugout. No one is, 'We are going to lose this game. This guy is not going to come through for us.' Everyone is pulling for each other. It's just a real good atmosphere. We are not going to say we know we are going to win every time. But we feel we are always right there, no matter what the score is. We are always knocking and putting pressure on teams, and we've been winning these games."
Still, the games continue, as does their importance.
"It (ACC) is a good league," Rogers said. "I think it's the best conference in the country this year. Every weekend is tough. It doesn't matter if you are playing Duke. Maryland played us tough. They played us hard all weekend. Now we have Clemson next week, so we still have our work cut out for us. It's just starting."