Drew Mendoza lined a single to right-center on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning on Sunday to score Mike Salvatore from second and send Florida State to the College World Series for the 17th time under retiring coach Mike Martin with a 5-4 victory over LSU in an NCAA super-regional series at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Salvatore singled on the first pitch from Tigers relief pitcher Devin Fontenot (5-4), the first hit in 24 at-bats going back to the fourth inning when the Seminoles (41-21) had taken a 4-1 lead.
After Fontenot made Reese Albert his 11th strikeout victim in 6 2/3 innings of relief, Mendoza delivered his game-winning hit to sweep LSU (40-26) and give FSU a 5-0 record in the NCAA tournament.
The ‘Noles were one of the last four teams to make the field of 64 and were a third seed in last week’s regional in Athens, Ga., their lowest in the 21-year history of the current tournament format.
But FSU rumbled through Athens (beating national No. 4 seed Georgia 12-3 and 10-1) and then went into Box Stadium, one of the toughest venues in college baseball, to eliminate the Tigers.
Martin, the all-time NCAA leader in coaching victories, has never won the College World Series. But Saturday’s opening-game victory over the Tigers gave him 40 victories in a season for the 40th season in a row and his team’s have won seven super regionals since the format was started in 1999.
FSU will play the winner of the super-regional series between Ole Miss and Arkansas whern the CWS beginds on June 15. The Rebels and Razorbacks are tied 1-1 and will play the deciding game on Monday.
The Seminoles took a 3-0 lead in the second on an infield error and RBI singles by Matheu Nelson and Salvatore, who went 3 for 5 and his hitting .522 in the NCAA tournament (12 for 23)
Antoine Duplantis (4 for 6, three RBIs) hugged the right-field foul pole for a solo homer in the top of the fourth for LSU, a play that was reviewed before the umpires ruled the ball stayed inside the foul line.
Florida State made it 4-1 in the fourth when Tim Becker doubled home Nelson. But the Seminoles didn’t get another hit for eight innings, and were handcuffed by Fontenot after he entered the game with one out in the sixth. He retired 18 of 20 batters until Salvatore started FSU’s winning rally with a single to center.
The Tigers tied the game with a run in the sixth on Duplantis’ RBI single and two in the eighth, highlighted by back-to-back doubles by Josh Smith and Duplantis.
However, FSU got a stellar relief pitching performance from Antonio Velez (5-2). He came in for starter C.J. Van Eyk and struck out six in 4.2 innings of work, allowing four hits.