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Notes from Oxford: FSU’s season ends, Nelson reflects on career

OXFORD, Miss. — Florida State’s postseason and 2021 campaign came to an end on Sunday in Oxford, falling 7-4 to Southern Miss at Swayze Field. 

The Golden Eagles rode a late surge to come back and defeat the Seminoles, who couldn’t muster enough offense to advance to the championship round, where USM faced Ole Miss late Sunday night.

“This team was selfless, I told them I want their chins up and chests out,” FSU coach Mike Martin Jr. said reflecting on the season. “They did the best they could (given the tough circumstances) and that’s all you can ask for.”

The Seminoles got off to a quick start in the first inning as Tyler Martin singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Robby Martin drove him in, lacing a single to right field to make it 1-0 for FSU.

The Golden Eagles struck back in the top of the third inning, loading the bases with a double, infield single and a walk. A fielder’s choice tied the game at 1-1. Grady then limited the damage with a big strikeout to strand a pair of base runners. 

The Seminoles took the lead back with a nice inning in the bottom of the third. Logan Lacey hit a solo home run, his 10th of the year, to make it 2-1. RBI singles from Robby Martin and Davis Hare extended the lead to 4-1.

Unfortunately for FSU, that would be all the runs in the game they would score as Ryan Och came in and was spectacular for USM. The lefty went 4.2 innings, striking out 11 batters, giving up no runs. 

“He had some run and ride to his fastball,” Matheu Nelson said on the struggles against Och. “He did a great job out there today.”

Southern Miss began its comeback with a home run of its own in the top of the fifth inning by Blake Johnson, a two-run blast to left field, cutting the Seminoles’ lead to 4-3. 

Grady’s afternoon would come to an end in the top of the 7th inning, giving up a home run to Will McGillis, tying the game at 4-4. 

The final line for Grady was 6.1 innings, giving up five hits and four runs. The junior struck out six on 91 pitches. 

With the momentum clearly having shifted, Southern Miss took the lead in the 8th inning on a couple soft hits and a big error by Jack Anderson to make it 6-4. The Seminoles were plagued by poor defense throughout the entire weekend in Oxford. 

The Golden Eagles added an insurance run in the 9th inning on an RBI single by Chris Sargent. 

The Seminoles were retired in order in the bottom of the 9th inning, Lacey striking out to end the game. FSU ended the year 31-24 and will likely see a number of its players selected in the 2021 MLB Draft this summer. 

“I love them as people, this game doesn’t define them,” Nelson said on what he told the players in the final huddle after the game. “I appreciate every moment that we’ve spent together. The moments we’ve shared have been second to none.” 

Nelson reflects on career at FSU 

Florida State will say goodbye to a lot of players this off-season but is probably bidding farewell to one of the best players to come through the program. 

While nothing is official until pen meets paper, Nelson is projected to be a potential first-round pick and a definite top-three-round talent for the 2021 MLB Draft. Negotiating a signing bonus is key, but Nelson has earned a chance to begin his pro career and journey to the big leagues.

“It’s like a proud papa, I got to reminisce a little bit. I took him aside and we laughed some,” Martin Jr. said on chatting with Nelson after the game.

“He’s gonna get exactly what he deserves. He brought a lot to this program, of course from a talent perspective. but the way he treats people.”

Nelson hit 23 home runs this year with 66 RBIs, the best season by a Seminole hitter since Buster Posey in 2008. Defensively, Nelson also was a stalwart, throwing out over 40 percent of potential base stealers. 

For the catcher, it’s been a strong three years in Tallahassee, improving every season he was behind the plate and in the box. Nelson had a message for the school and fans following the game:

“I knew from the moment I stepped on that campus, I loved that place (Florida State). For all the guys that came through that program, the fans, Section B, all of our coaches, training staff. I can’t be more grateful for them, they’re awesome people. It’s easily the best fan base in college baseball, those guys are with you all the time. I’ve never been more proud to wear this FS and this garnet and gold. It’s been the three best years of my life. I’ve learned a lot, thank you for everything.”

BOX SCORE

The Southern Miss-FSU box score can be viewed here.