FSU moves on to Athens Regional Finals

All season long, the talent has been there, but not the execution. It seems as if FSU is putting it together at the right time. FSU absolutely demolished the number 4 national seed UGA 12-3 on Saturday night. The game was expected to be a pitcher’s duel, with the projected number 1 pick in the 2020 draft Emerson Hancock and projected 2020 first rounder CJ Van Eyk squaring off on the hill, but FSU’s offense had other ideas. For the third straight game and the 16th time this season, the Noles put up 10+ runs. FSU was carried by the most unlikely hero, Tim Becker, again. It was Becker’s fifth start of his career with the ‘Noles, and once again he didn’t squander the opportunity. On the mound, CJ Van Eyk was the one true bulldog at Foley Field tonight. After a slow start, Van Eyk dominated for the rest of the night. FSU has now won Van Eyk’s last 8 starts.

As I mentioned, FSU’s night didn’t start the way they wanted, as UGA’s leadoff man, Tucker Maxwell sent the 2nd pitch of the game over the LF wall. Maxwell was really the only Bulldog who gave Van Eyk trouble throughout the night, as he collected 3 hits in the game. Hancock kept the Noles scoreless for the first two innings, but FSU was making him work, and you could tell they were seeing the ball well out of his hand. After UGA tacked on another run on a ground out, FSU’s lineup came alive.

The 3-year club ball player and walk on did it again. Becker squared around for a bunt on the first pitch but pulled back as the ball ran in on him. Becker was not bunting on the next swing, got a fastball to hit, and didn’t miss it. The outfielder unloaded on his 3rd HR of the regional, season, and career against the top pitcher in college baseball.

After the HR, the top of the order kept it going. Mike Salvatore and Reese Albert both singled to put men on the corners with no outs. After Drew Mendoza was rung up on back-to-back awful strike calls, freshman Robby Martin came through with a sac fly to tie the game, even though Reese Albert was caught too far off first base and doubled off to end the inning. Van Eyk kept the momentum in FSU’s favor, striking out the side and setting the tone for the rest of the game.

JC got the Noles started in the 4th with a leadoff double before Nander De Sedas brought him home with a single. FSU had their first lead of the night and they weren’t looking back. After a Carter Smith double, Becker came through again with a 2-RBI single to give the Noles a 3-run lead. The 3-run inning ended the night for Hancock, and after another shutdown inning from Van Eyk, the Noles offense stepped on UGA’s throat and put the game to bed. Mendoza and Martin each singled to lead off the inning, before De Sedas brought them both home with a single through the left side of the infield. Carter Smith put the game out of reach with a 3-run blast, just his 2nd of the season. Smith has been on fire ever since winning over the starting 1B job near the end of the season.

CJ put up zero’s in the 6th and 7th with inning ending double plays before FSU tacked on 2 more scores. The runs came off of the bat of Mike Salvatore, who got a hanging breaking ball and got every last bit of it. Salvatore has 7 hits through 2 games of the regional and has risen his average all the way to .343.

Van Eyk surrendered a run in the 8th on a grounder, but got through the 8th inning, saving FSU’s bullpen. Van Eyk battled all night long, after getting ambushed early, he controlled the game. CJ threw 104 pitches on the night and 77 of them were strikes. He had 0 walks on the night and 9 K’s, continuing to prove he is FSU’s best pitcher and one of the best in the country. On the season, his ERA is 3.68.

Clayton Kwiatkowski closed the game out with a scoreless ninth, striking out two bulldogs, and throwing just 4 balls in 21 pitches. FSU is on to the Regional Final, where they will face the winner of UGA/FAU tomorrow night at 6. FSU will only have to win 1 of 2 games to advance to the Supers, and with how they’re playing right now, it seems hard to believe that they will lose 2 straight games. Through 2 games in the regional, FSU has put up 25 runs, while the pitching staff has only allowed 3 free passes. I’ve said it all season long, if FSU can stay out of their own way, they are almost unbeatable with there talent. I would expect Conor Grady to start tomorrow night, but don’t be surprised if Shane Drohan gets the start as well.


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