(NOTE: Here is a Florida State baseball story from our Gannett partner, the Tallahassee Democrat, which runs nolesports.com. The Seminoles will take on Arizona at 2 p.m. Tucson time on Thursday.)
By Ira Schoffel
Democrat sports editor
OMAHA, Neb. – So much has changed since Florida State and Arizona squared off on the opening night of the College World Series six days ago.
The Seminoles appear to have shaken off the rough start that did them in that heart-breaking, extra-inning defeat, winning two consecutive elimination games by a combined margin of 16-3. And the Wildcats also looked much sharper in their 4-0 victory against UCLA, which left them as one of two undefeated teams remaining in the tournament.
Despite those events, there should be a familiar feel to today’s game between the Seminoles and Wildcats, particularly when it comes to the starting pitching.
Florida State, which recorded its 50th victory of the season on Tuesday, is planning again to start freshman Brandon Leibrandt against Arizona. And according to reports, Wildcats coach Andy Lopez is leaning toward going again with junior Kurt Heyer.
That should mean a virtual rematch of the game from last Friday. But even if that is the case, Florida State’s players and coaches expect to account for themselves better than they did the first time.
FSU (50-16) will have to beat Arizona (45-17) twice to earn a spot in the CWS title series. The Wildcats only need to beat the Seminoles once.
“Winning two more games is not beyond reach in my eyes at all,” FSU first baseman Jayce Boyd said. “It’s not a long shot by any means. But we are going to have to go out there and battle the best team in Arizona. We have to get out there and play good baseball, which we did against them the first game. We just didn’t come out on the right side of it.”
Leibrandt, a left-hander, didn’t pitch poorly against Arizona – he allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings – but he might need to do more for the Seminoles to win tonight. Heyer kept FSU’s offense in check into the eighth inning during the first meeting, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits.
“To beat somebody twice is very difficult,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “But we’re excited to still be here. And we’re anxious to play the University of Arizona. Let’s just hope we can play well.”
The Seminoles known they also will have to avoid the defensive miscues that plagued them in last Friday’s game. FSU was charged with two errors in the Arizona loss, and there were some mental miscues as well.
Martin said those mistakes have to be avoided against an Andy Lopez-coached team.
“Arizona is just a beautiful baseball team,” Martin said. “His guys will do anything it takes to get a run across the plate. I’ve always been impressed with that, from the time he was at Florida. And we know we’ve got our work cut out for us.
“Arizona is a very disciplined club. They’re not going to get up there and make easy outs. If you beat Arizona or an Andy Lopez team, you have to feel like you won the game. Because you’re not going to be given anything by them.”
Noteworthy: Outfielder James Ramsey and first baseman Jayce Boyd were named first-team All-Americans by the American Baseball Coaches Association.