""I knew what we had to do," Varnes said.
"If anything, I was kind of ticked we didn't play last night (Saturday). I was so mentally ready. I was so mentally drained by the time today came. Big party last night. Couldn't celebrate, had to leave home early (laughing). Still, I like that moment when the pressure is on. That eight spot really helped (first inning). I was kind of ticked I gave up four real quick. I just tried to hold them as well as I could."
Varnes and the Seminoles held on just fine, upending the Irish 12-5 at Dick Howser Stadium to force and third and deciding game Monday at high noon. The winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., later this week.
Stephen Drew banged out a career-high five hits and scored four runs to help top-ranked FSU stave off elimination. The Seminoles tied an Atlantic Coast Conference record with their 60th win and became just the second team in school history to win 60 games, joining the 1986 club (61-13).
Varnes (10-3) made the early lead stand, surviving a nervous first and pitching 5.2 scoreless innings on 118 pitches before giving way to his bullpen. FSU turned four double plays, walked just three and suffered just one error as 16 of the Irish's 18 hits were singles. Notre Dame stranded 13 runners, while FSU left 10 on.
"They are very good," Varnes said. "We have to win tomorrow. If we don't, I will tip our hat to them. I wouldn't be surprised if they go far in Omaha. But I like our chances. We are here at home -- we don't think anybody can beat us. They might be the best hitting team we've faced this year I think. They just come up swinging. They have a look about them. They are so anxious for you to throw it. You are like, 'Man, hold up.' They are intimidating."
Sophomore right-hander Marc LaMacchia (11-1, 3.41 ERA), who beat South Florida in last Sunday's regional final at Dick Howser Stadium, is scheduled to start against Notre Dame right-hander Chris Niesel (3-0, 3.75 ERA) Monday.
Varnes likes the Seminoles' chances with LaMacchia. Varnes also wouldn't be surprised if the deciding game ends up being a slugfest.
"The thing is, you can't throw too many strikes to this team because they are so aggressive early," Varnes said. "Marc, if there is such a thing, is effectively wild. Me and Matt (Lynch) were talking about it -- we like Marc's chances better than we like ours. We throw too many strikes, if that's a bad thing. Marc has great stuff. Just as good as anybody on the team.
"I really don't think our pitching staff goes down. It stays about the same the whole way through Sunday. As long as we score 11, 12 runs, I don't care who is on the mound. I like our chances. But whoever hits the most is going to win tomorrow. It's not pitching, I don't think."