Florida State sophomore Drew Carlton wasn’t coming off the mound on Saturday night. The right-hander had thrown 101 pitches and was deeper into this game than any other game previous this season.
“Obviously the story of the game,” Mike Martin said of his ace. “Don’t know when I’ve ever seen him pitch better and he’s been with us for two years”
Carlton came back out in the ninth, something Florida State manager didn’t even second guess, and put the Gators down in order, finishing off a complete game shutout. The 3-0 Saturday night win leaves Florida State just nine innings away from its first trip to Omaha since 2012.
Kevin O’Sullivan announced Thursday that sophomore Alex Faedo would start the game, rather than Friday night starter Logan Shore. The decision puzzled some, but Faedo was ready for the opportunity.
“I was excited [for the start],” Faedo said. “It’s nothing different, same game.”
Faedo started the game strong with two strikeouts in a clean first inning. He erased a leadoff walk and a single in the second inning with three more punch-outs, but his pitch count rose to 41 after just two innings.
“I threw too many pitches, was behind in the count and put my team in bad situations,” Faedo said. “We were lucky to get out of a couple in the beginning.”
Meanwhile, Carlton found a spot on the lower outside corner that home plate umpire Adam Dowdy liked and made a home.
Buddy Reed collected the Gators’ first hit of the game in the second, a two-out single, but Carlton got Nelson Maldonado to groundout to second to send the inning. Freshman Danny Reyes collected the Gators’ first hit in the third inning but Carlton erased it with a 5-4-3 double play. Carlton forced 13 groundball outs in the win.
“Staying low in the zone,” Carlton said when asked what was the key to his performance tonight. “They’re a team that likes balls up. Keeping it low in the zone and rolling balls over to my infield.
That philosophy is good, but you need to play defense behind a pitcher that is throwing strikes and pitching to contact. The Noles came into the game with the nation’s 137th ranked defense, having committed 87 errors on the year. The Noles also committed six errors last year in a tw0-game sweep at the hands of the Gators in a Super Regional.
“Our guys are, the majority of them a year older,” Martin said when asked about the errors last We’ve played better defensively this year, you have to do that if you’re going to be successful against anybody, especially the University of Florida.
Faedo broke down in the fourth inning. Jackson Lueck doubled to start the frame and Freshman All-American Cal Raleigh picked up his second free pass of the game. Faedo plunked Quincy Nieporte after a Dylan Busby strikeout to load the bases and walked in the first run of the game just four pitches later.
The Noles picked up two more runs in the fifth inning. Nine-hole hitter Matt Henderson singled and scored on Taylor Walls’ double to left field. John Sansone laid down a bunt that Mike Rivera handled out on the grass in front of the plate. Deacon Liput couldn’t handle Rivera’s throw and Walls came around to score on the error.
Florida couldn’t scratch across a run, let alone a hit. Carlton retired the final 19 batters he faced and Florida never had a man reach second base. Mike Martin has been around too long — 36 seasons — to get too excited about one win.
“They have everything it takes to win two ball games,” Martin said of Florida. “We know what is in front of us and we’re excited to compete.”