Florida State Coach Mike Martin walked over to the huddle of Cal State Fullerton players and coaches after his Seminoles won Sunday’s deciding game of a three-game series to offer some words of encouragement.
“I told them it would be great if the next time we see them it’s at the College World Series,” Martin said. “I was impressed. I know one thing for sure. I don’t want to see them in a regional. They’re going to get better.”
But this time Florida State, college baseball’s No. 1-ranked team, prevailed, 7-4, against the 10th-ranked Titans in front of 2,927 in Dick Howser Stadium, thanks to a six-run second inning. The Seminoles (6-2) also won two of three from another top team, Arizona State, a week ago.
The Titans (7-4) out-hit Florida State for the third consecutive game, this time 10-7, but didn’t get consistent pitching or solid defensive play to win against a team that has virtually all its key players back after reaching the World Series last season. Fullerton made four errors after making none in Saturday’s doubleheader. Florida State scored four unearned runs.
Fullerton sophomores Nakia Hill and Aaron Rowand each had three hits. Hill had a superb series offensively with nine hits, two of them homers, in 14 at-bats, but he also made an error at shortstop in Florida State’s big inning.
Starting pitcher Scott Hild’s control problems also contributed to the troubles. Hild (1-2) gave up a walk to start the inning, and a one-out double to catcher Jeremiah Klosterman produced one run. Shawn McCorkel’s roller went between Hill’s legs, and Brooks Badeaux singled in another run.
Later, with two out and another run across, the Titans intentionally walked J.D. Drew, regarded as the nation’s top pro prospect but Hild also walked Jeremy Morris to load the bases. Geoff Sprague drilled a three-run double.
“Hild opened the door with that first walk, and they executed a perfect hit-and-run for the first run,” Fullerton Coach George Horton said. “But if Hill makes the play on the ground ball, we still might have gotten away all right.”
The Titans scored four runs in the first three innings off Seminole starter Scott Proctor, who wasn’t much sharper than Hild.
Fullerton got two in the first on hits by Hill, Mike Lamb and Rowand. Then Hill connected for a 385-foot homer, his fourth of the year, with two out in the second, and Fullerton scored again in the third on Scott Seal’s RBI double.
But then Florida State’s bullpen closed the door with six consecutive shutout innings.
Fullerton, however, missed on other promising scoring opportunities later in the game. Freshman second-baseman Ryan Owens grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases full in the fifth, and hit into a forceout for the final out with three runners on in the seventh.
Fullerton left 12 runners on.
“We were a little more consistent offensively in this game than we were Saturday, but we took some of our worst at-bats with guys in scoring position,” Horton said.
Horton also was unhappy with Florida State’s six stolen bases. “Almost anytime they got on first base, it was like a double,” Horton said. “One time we threw a pitchout and still didn’t get the runner. But the pitchers didn’t help the catchers by keeping them close.”
Chris Chavez held Fullerton to two hits over the final four innings. “You don’t like to bring your closer in as early as the sixth inning, but we had only one other arm left,” Martin said.
Tennessee transfer John Alkire, who was hammered for 16 runs in his first two starts this season, came on in relief of Hild with two outs in the fourth and pitched well in the final 4 1/3 innings. Alkire gave up only three hits, but one was a bases-empty home run in the sixth to Badeaux, who had only one other in his college career.