OXFORD, Miss. — It’s what Parker Messick has done since arriving at Florida State: Rise to the big occasion.
So it was to no one’s surprise inside the Seminole dugout as the southpaw battled through an inauspicious start to the game. In the end, Messick was the winning pitcher of FSU’s 5-2 come-from-behind win over Southern Miss in the NCAA Oxford Regional.
“He’s the epitome of everything you want in a student-athlete,” FSU coach Mike Martin Jr. said after the game. “He kept us in the ball game and gave us a chance, he’s a throwback.”
The contest couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for Messick and the Seminoles as two first-inning errors and some well-placed singles helped the No. 2 seed Golden Eagles to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
“They’ve thrown their bodies on the line, so an error every now and then isn’t going to kill me,” Messick said. “Rest of the game you have to give your team a chance. My job is to fill up the zone, put up zeroes and give my offense a chance.”
From there Messick worked himself out of a few jams, continuing to show the bulldog mentality that made him the ACC Pitcher of the Year. In the third, two singles had a pair of runners on with no outs. Messick then promptly struck out the side, all three staring at strike three.
“I thought Messick really turned it up and limited the damage,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said of Messick. “That was the pivotal point of the game, it really shut us down and we never really threatened after that.”
“I flip a little switch and I tell myself to make sure they don’t score,” Messick said laughing. “It triggers that bulldog mentality, other teams getting a couple runners on definitely fires me up just a little bit more.”
Messick worked six innings on the afternoon, giving up no earned runs (two total) on seven hits. The freshman walked none and struck out five, seeing his ERA drop to 3.10 on the season. The gritty effort provided a chance for the FSU bats to work for the big inning as they have done all year.
“We knew he would have his stuff, USM designated hitter Charlie Fischer said of Messick. “He did a good job mixing and using all his pitches, he had us pressing a bit.”
“He makes us want to keep going and play harder,” Logan Lacey added on his teammate. “He keeps us moving forward.
Bats ride the long ball to victory
It’s no secret that the Seminoles have been a team relying on their power for much of the season at the plate. While the hitting has been inconsistent and streaky, FSU has been able to count on the ball leaving the park. Entering the NCAA Tournament, the Seminoles were top 20 in the country in total home runs.
They hit three more home runs on Friday at Swayze Field to bring the season total to 77.
“It takes time, you can’t just throw in the towel,” Martin Jr. said. “I told them it’s the exact type of game we needed, because there will be other times things don’t go your way, have to keep pushing.”
Down 2-0 entering the 6th inning against Southern Miss ace Hunter Stanley, the Seminoles stayed patient and took advantage of a dropped fly ball in right field off the bat of Tyler Martin to kick-start the inning. On an 0-2 pitch, Logan Lacey changed the game with one swing of the bat, sending a no-doubt shot over the bullpen in left and halfway up the stands, tying the game at 2-2.
“We knew we had to get it going,” Lacey said on his home run. “After Tyler got on base it got me going because I knew what I could do in that situation.”
“I was skipping out of the dugout, yelling as loud as I could,” Messick added. “It was a new ball game, I was thinking, ‘Let’s go win this thing now.’ ”
Elijah Cabell followed later in the inning with a monster solo shot to give FSU its first lead at 3-2, and Mat Nelson provided a couple insurance runs with his nation-leading 23rd bomb of the season in the eighth inning.
The recipe for the Seminoles is clear, great pitching and timely hitting helped the squad to 20 ACC wins and now a spot in the winner’s bracket of the Oxford Regional on Saturday night,
Looking ahead, Noles still deciding on starter
With the big win, Florida State will play Ole Miss, the No. 12 national seed, which defeated Southeast Missouri State 6-3 on Friday night. Mike Martin Jr. said he wasn’t sure if the Seminoles would turn to LHP Bryce Hubbart or RHP Conor Grady for the matchup, wanting to first see who they would be playing and talking it over with his staff.
Either way, FSU is confident in the plus “stuff” of Hubbart or the veteran presence of Grady. The Seminoles are also in great shape out of the pen as none of Hunter Perdue, Jonah Scolaro, or Jack Anderson threw more than 24 pitches in relief.
“It hasn’t always been pretty, but we’re still around,” Martin Jr. said. “I’ll go to battle with them any time, it’s a special group.”
Saturday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 6 PM and will be televised or streamed on ESPN’s family of networks.
The Southern Miss-FSU box score can be viewed here.