ATHENS, Ga. — Tim Becker figured “Why not?”
That rhetorical question to himself, that nothing-to-lose-attitude was the start. And Friday afternoon was the exclamation point to a unique baseball journey.
A senior from Wellington, Fla., who had played on the club team his first three seasons on campus, Becker went through walk-on tryouts for the first time. And made the 2019 roster.
In the Seminoles’ first game of the Athens (Ga.) Regional, Becker played a huge role – one of a poised veteran in a pressure-filled game.
Becker hit two home runs, the first of his season, in Florida State’s 13-7 win over Florida Atlantic. The Seminoles needed the six home runs they generated on the day to fight off Florida Atlantic and get some rest before Saturday’s game against Georgia (7 p.m. on ESPN2).
“It just goes to show you that all most of us want in life is an opportunity to show what we can do,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “He kept getting better. And all of a sudden I realized, ‘He’s a great teammate. He is a tremendous young man.’ That’s how he got his opportunity to make the travel squad.”
Great teammate and perhaps the right guy to have around for a pinch-hit opportunity or some late innings in the outfield. Becker had just 32 at-bats going into the NCAA Regional.
Where did all this get started? Becker tried out – a 60-yard sprint, some batting practice and a few throws. A few days later, assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. called Becker and gave him the news that he had made the team.
“I heard a lot of rumors that they just didn’t look at people,” Becker said. “But I knew this was going to be my last year of baseball so I figured, ‘Let’s give it a shot. Nothing to lose.’ “
An unlikely shot to have an impact? Yes. The left fielder was making just his fourth start.
Becker had a two-run homer in the second inning that helped FSU jump out to a 5-0 lead. He also delivered a two-run homer in the seventh that extended the Seminoles’ lead to 10-5.
“I’m just soaking in the win and we’ll get back to business tomorrow,” Becker said.
The dugout loved every moment, perhaps as much as Becker did.
“I’ve never been so excited for a home run in my life,” said Drew Mendoza, who also had two home runs on Friday. “Even my own. Ever. … They were smashed. They really got us going.”
Rest and wait: FSU hasn’t been in this position lately, on the road in the postseason. But the Seminoles also haven’t been able to enjoy an opening-game win the last two years after falling to Tennessee Tech in 2017 and Samford in 2018.
That fact wasn’t lost on Mendoza.
“It definitely feels weird,” Mendoza said. “It’s the first time we’ve done it in three years. But nothing changes. We’re ready to play whoever we play tomorrow. We’ve got a good turnaround. We’ll have time to sleep in and then 7 o’clock will be a big one.”
Bullpen rested: This wasn’t a notable pitching performance by the Seminoles but they got through the game by using just two relievers, and that is critical in what can be a long weekend.
Right-hander Chase Haney only pitched to two hitter but got a pair of RBI groundouts after entering the game in a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth. Antonio Velez then tossed the final 3.1 innings, allowing two earned runs but picking up his first save.
In a regional that will go at least until Sunday, and possibly Monday, that could help a bullpen that has had some inconsistent performances but will be counted on if the Seminoles want to advance.
Around the bases: FSU hit six home runs Friday and has 75 on the season. The six home runs tied for the most in a game this season (Youngstown State, Feb. 23). … FSU’s 20 hits tied a season high … Mendoza hit his team-high 15th and 16th home runs of the season. His 16 home runs are the most for a Seminole since Mike McGee hit 17 in 2010. He has five career multi-home run games.