Tallahasse, Fla.- Sometimes the difference between a miracle and devastation is a matter of inches. That proved to be true for the Florida State Seminoles (43-17) Saturday afternoon as their furious rally and season came to an end by the smallest of margins.
FSU entered the ninth inning trailing 6-0, but the Seminoles refused to go down easily. John Nogowski led off the ninth inning with a single up the middle that finally chased Alabama starter Justin Kamplain, who shut down the Seminoles for eight innings. FSU cut the deficit to one wuth five runs on two hits, three walks, and two hit-by-pitches, but it wasn’t enough.
Pinch hitter Gage West stepped to the plate With two outs in the ninth, runners on the corners, and a chance to extend FSU’s season. West turned on a 1-1 pitch and sent the ball flying towards the gap in left center. Alabama center fielder George Salem got a good jump on the ball though and tracked it down for the 27th and final out giving Alabama (35-23) the 6-5 victory.
“It hurts all of us that we came up short, Mike Martin said after the game. “it doesn’t take away from the fact that I thank the team for a great season, one that I will always remember because of the way they fought through adversity.”
The thing is West should never have been at the plate. West was forced to pinch hit after Nogowski was pinch run for earlier in the inning. Nogowski has been FSU’s second best hitter for most of the season and he finished second on the team with 49 RBIs. Martin took the bat out of Nogowski’s hand with the decision to pinch run for him though forcing the freshman West to step to the plate in the biggest situation of his career.
“That’s the last time I play mister nice guy,” Martin said about the decision to pinch run for Nogowski. “I wanted him to receive attention because of what he has done for this program for three years…that was the reason he was taken out. Just to receive attention from the fans. “
Luke Weaver kept the Crimson Tide bats in check for two innings before Mikey White sent a solo shot over the left field wall to give the Tide a 1-0 lead. They added two more runs in the fifth after FSU third baseman Jose Brizuela let a grounder go between his legs with two outs in the inning. Reliever Gage Smith surrendered three runs in his final inning of work at FSU including a two-run home run by Alabama catcher Wade Wass that provided the Tide with a 6-0 cushion.
Kamplain was masterful for the Tide pitching eight-plus innings and allowing only one run on five hits and four walks while striking out five.
“He [Kamplain] was very sharp with all three of his pitches,” Nogowski said. “He was on the cornersthe whole day, I didn’t see a pitch in the meat of the plate the whole game.”
Everything fell apart this weekend for FSU. Starter Mike Compton lasted only an inning and a third Friday night as FSU fell 7-0 to Georgia Southern and for 17 innings FSU was held scoreless as the team mustered all of six hits. The late inning rally Saturday was the lone time all weekend that the Seminole bats came alive, but they fell one run short stranding runners on the corners. With the loss the Seminoles’ season comes to an end as does their six year streak of advancing to at least the Super Regionals.