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From open to close, Flowers makes crucial plays

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J.C. Flowers did just about everything he could to will Florida State to a win on Saturday night.

He ran down a deep fly ball to the wall. He reached base on a hit by pitch and circled the bases for the game’s only run. And then he sprinted to the bullpen to warm up – so that he could pitch the ninth inning and close out FSU’s 1-0 win over Arkansas.

To start, Flowers had to range to his right and close on a ball hit into left-center field in the second inning. The ball likely wouldn’t have been a home run but easily could have been extra bases.

“I saw it off the bat,” Flowers said. “I knew I could catch it if I had room, and obviously I had room, and was just able to jump up there and catch it. I hit a side on the wall. I was fine.”

In the ninth inning, Flowers was the leadoff hitter and he reached when he was hit by a pitch. He then made it to second on a fielder’s choice, colliding with shortstop Casey Martin in the second-base line – which jarred the ball loose.

“It was a hit and run,” Flowers said. “He came across the bag, made a nice play, and I guess his momentum and he tagged me on the stomach, and the ball just came out, glove came off. I hope he’s doing OK.”

Flowers eventually scored on Nander De Sedas’ sacrifice fly. Moments later, he was in the bullpen as he prepared to take the mound in the ninth inning. The junior right-hander needed just 13 pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth inning, celebrating the win with a strikeout and a fist pump.

After not pitching in his prior two seasons, Flowers has been consistent on the mound and recorded 13 saves. He also hit just .218 with no home runs and 14 RBI in 2018 but is hitting .272 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI this season.

“It was a lot of emotions going on,” Flowers said. “It was a close game all the way through, and Arkansas played really, really well. At the end of the day, one team is going to come out on top, and I was just glad to be able to score the first and only run and be able to close it out for my team.”

On deck: FSU will play Michigan on Monday at 7 p.m. (ESPN) in a winner’s bracket game in the pool. While the winner of Game 1 on Saturday has an upper hand in the pool, it’s obvious that a 2-0 start helps to rest starting pitching and give teams the upper hand.

FSU will send C.J Van Eyk (10-3, 3.80 ERA) to the mound against Michigan. Van Eyk is 7-0 with a 2.98 ERA in his last nine starts. Opponents are hitting just .216 against him.

“He learned how to pitch,” Martin said. “He’s not a guy that is trying to throw it 100. He’s trying to hit his spots. He’s throwing at 96, but he’s not over-throwing like he did last year. His breaking ball has gotten much more consistent, and I’ve noticed that Mike (Martin Jr.) is starting to call more change-ups with him because that really gives him three very good pitches.”

History lesson: The Seminoles haven’t won their CWS opener since 1999. And FSU hasn’t gone 2-0 in Omaha since 1989. It’s also interesting that FSU and Michigan were among the “last four in” but are now in a group of the top eight in the CWS.

Strikeouts pile up: Drew Parrish now has 125 strikeouts on the season, three shy of his career high (128 in 2018). Parrish and Van Eyk are the only teammates in the country with at least 120 strikeouts (Van Eyk – 120).

Saturday, June 15
Michigan 5, Texas Tech 3
Florida State 1, Arkansas 0
Sunday, June 16
Vanderbilt 3, Louisville 1
Mississippi State 5,  Auburn 4 
Monday, June 17
Game 5 – Texas Tech vs. Arkansas, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6 – Michigan vs. Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday, June 18
Game 7 – Louisville vs. Auburn, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 8 – Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday, June 19
Game 9 – Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Thursday, June 20
Game 10 – Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Friday, June 21
Game 11 – Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 9, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 12 – Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 10, 7 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2)
Saturday
TBD, if necessary
Monday
CWS finals begin, best-of-three

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