BATON ROUGE, La. – Florida State surprised everyone. Even in one of the most crowded houses in college baseball. In extra innings, too.
Drew Mendoza hit a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning as the Seminoles defeated LSU 5-4 in Game 2 of the Super Regionals on Sunday night, sending the team – improbably – to the College World Series for a 23rd time in school history.
“Just looking for something I can drive, put a good barrel on,” Mendoza said. “They were pitching me away most of the game. I expected him to do that in that at-bat. He did early in the at-bat, I missed the fastball. I was fortunate enough to get a barrel on one in a 1-2 count. Everything works out for a reason and we’re going back.”
Back. To Omaha.
Mendoza’s hit scored Mike Salvatore and ended a marathon four-hour, 15-minute game that saw both bullpens go deep into the night. Salvatore singled and then advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring easily for the walk-off win.
The junior third baseman’s dramatic hit, which will be one of the most memorable in FSU postseason history, gives Mike Martin an extended postseason and a trip to one of his favorite places, Omaha, in his 40th and final season as head coach.
Antonio Velez (5-2) pitched 4.2 scoreless innings for the win. He scattered four hits.
“We just could not figure him out,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
Velez has been used as a starter and reliever, going deep into games before. FSU needed him again on Sunday and he recorded six strikeouts without giving up a walk.
“He was the man we wanted out there,” Martin said. “This guy was not the least bit concerned about anything but hitting his spots, believing in his teammates behind him. It was a huge, huge situation for him to show what he’s all about.”
Devin Fontenot (5-4) was tagged with a tough loss after throwing no-hit inning after no-hit inning until the 12th. Fontenot pitched 6.1 innings, allowing just the run in the 12th.
An energized crowd of 11,713 at Alex Box Stadium, almost all LSU faithful save for a few sections of FSU faithful, made for an entertaining setting for a second straight night.
There was drama again at the finish, with FSU (41-21) again victorious. A night after FSU secured a 40th win in Game 1 of the Super Regionals, this one needed extra innings for the Seminoles to finalize an unlikely run to the CWS for a team that less than two weeks ago was named one of the “last four in” teams in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 64.
FSU built a 4-1 lead in the fourth as Tim Becker, Matheu Nelson and Mike Salvatore had RBI singles while Nander De Sedas had an RBI groundout.
But LSU (40-26) kept clawing back as Antoine Duplantis went 3 for 4 with a solo home run and an RBI double. The Tigers tied the game with a pair of runs in the eighth, setting up the ninth-inning fireworks.
FSU chased an SEC starting pitcher before the fifth inning for a third time between the Athens Regional and Baton Rouge Super Regional. On Sunday it was LSU freshman right-hander Landon Marceaux, who lasted just 3.2 innings and allowed eight hits, four runs (two earned).
The Seminoles also got some needed defense. Nelson threw down to third to pick off the runner for out No. 2 in the sixth, a huge bailout as FSU holds on to a 4-2 lead.
FSU right-hander C.J. Van Eyk was cruising until he ran into trouble in the eighth, giving up two runs to tie the game. While Van Eyk didn’t pick up the win, he again pitched well enough to put the Seminoles in position to get a postseason victory on the road.
The Seminoles will be in a pool that includes Texas Tech, the UCLA-Michigan winner and the Ole Miss-Arkansas winner in the CWS. FSU will open against the Ole Miss-Arkansas winner.