After struggling through the last couple weeks, the FSU baseball team closed out the 2016 regular season in style on Saturday, taking the finale against the Miami Hurricanes on a 10th-inning Jackson Lueck walk-off home run. The win over the No. 3 'Canes helped the No. 12 'Noles finish the regular-season slate at 34-19 and 16-10 in the ACC.
- Southpaw starter Tyler Holton was a revelation for the garnet and gold, equaling a career-high of six innings, while allowing just two hits and a lone earned run. He walked only one while fanning eight (also a career high). His effort could be much bigger than just this game, though, as Florida State may have found a postseason starter in Holton, whose ERA dipped below three (2.94) after his Saturday afternoon performance. Said FSU Manager Mike Martin of Holton: "Tyler Holton...was gorgeous."
- Holton did have help behind him, in the form of some defensive gems. In the top of the third inning with two on and two out, Zack Collins rocketed a ball deep to right-center field. Nick Graganella, getting a Senior Day start, made a running, jumping grab and crashed into the wall while still holding on and saving a pair of runs. In the sixth, Donovan Petrey flashed some leather as well, contributing a diving catch in right. The solid effort continued in extras on a very heady play by first baseman Dylan Busby. With one gone and the speedy Jacob Heyward at first, a swinging bunt from Edgar Michelangeli dribbled toward third baseman John Sansone with Heyward taking off on the pitch. Sansone charged the ball, but because Heyward's motion required shortstop Taylor Walls to cover second, third base was left untended. Heyward recognized this and rounded second for third. Thankfully for the 'Noles, reliever Tyler Warmoth saw what was developing and had broken to cover third. As Sansone's throw approached Busby at first, the latter realized that it was not going to be in time, and made the astute decision to come off the bag, cutting off the throw earlier, and throwing to Warmoth at third, who applied the tag to Heyward like a pro. Instead of one down and runners on the corners, the outstanding example of team defense saw Miami with a runner on first and two outs. Warmoth retired the next batter; and Lueck led off the bottom of the inning with his walk-off blast to right center-- the first walk-off homer he's ever hit, at any level.
- After losing a 2-0 lead to drop Thursday's opener with Miami 4-2 and then falling behind 8-1 in the first game of today's double dip, FSU really could have folded up its tents while its rival celebrated. But the 'Noles never stopped fighting; they clawed back to 8-5. And again in the finale, it may have seemed like the Hurricanes had struck the knockout blow when they went up 2-1 in the seventh, especially after the Seminoles wasted a leadoff triple in the inning's bottom half. But Cal Raleigh's two-out double plated Sansone from first and tied it back up. Per Martin after the game, Raleigh was no small part of Florida State's indomitable spirit. He characterized his catcher as suffering from a "Michael Jordan flu" and requiring IVs throughout the afternoon. Twice, said Martin, he tried removing Raleigh from the game, but Raleigh refused to come out. Martin said Raleigh was the toast of his teammates in the locker room afterward.
- Today's game really capped this series with the 'Canes appropriately with regard to how the 'Noles executed with runners in scoring position. To be specific, they did not. Not in this game. Not in today's double-header. Not over the entire weekend. FSU finished at a paltry 0-11 with RISP in the series finale, and a horrendous 3-37 over the series. Despite Lueck's heroics, the 'Noles have been far from clutch entering postseason play.
- Base-running issues again haunted the Seminoles. A second-inning Lueck triple was cashed in on a Stephen Wells, Jr. groundout to give FSU its first lead since the seventh inning on Thursday. Henderson was then promptly picked off first, quashing any momentum the 'Noles had established; Miami struck back to tie it up in the next half inning. After singles from Walls and Raleigh gave FSU runners on the corners with just one away in the fifth, Walls tried to score on a passed ball, and he was thrown out by a healthy margin. And with the score knotted at two in the bottom of the eighth, Lueck found himself on second with one out. When Ben DeLuzio grounded a ball back to Miami pitcher Thomas Woodrey, Lueck was caught between second and third, and put away in a rundown. It was a bit unlucky, and Lueck did well to keep the pickle going until DeLuzio could get to second, but at this point, the Seminoles haven't earned much of a benefit of the doubt on the base paths.
- Unfortunately for the Seminoles, while this ending, against the Hurricanes of all teams, provided some solace, it was not the conclusion they needed to keep themselves in the conversation to earn a top-eight national seed and perhaps host a super regional. Martin acknowledged as much after the game, admitting: "We will not make the top eight." He did think that this victory, however, could have given the 'Noles a "good chance" at still hosting a regional following the ACC Tournament this week. Florida State will be a four seed in that tourney.