TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sam Houston State's magical run in the NCAA Tournament came to an end on Sunday as the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles punched their ticket to the College World Series with a 19-0 win at Dick Howser Stadium to clinch the Tallahassee Super Regional.
The Seminoles (45-21) scored eight runs in the first two innings and plated at least one run in seven of nine frames to punch their 22nd ticket to Omaha. In a game delayed more than seven hours from its original start time, the Bearkats (44-23) fell behind early and only finished with four hits against a trio of Seminole arms, including winning pitcher Drew Parrish who struck out nine hitters in five innings.
The loss brings an end to the Bearkat season, one which saw Sam Houston tie the program's Division I record with 44 wins and become the first team in Southland Conference history to win a NCAA Regional.
AT THE PLATE
The Kats finished with just four hits on the day, with senior Robie Rojas reaching twice during a 1-for-2 game that included a walk. The senior closed out his Bearkat career going 18-for-40 (.450) 11 games between the 2017 Southland Conference Tournament, Lubbock Regional and Tallahassee Super Regional
Meanwhile, the Seminoles hit safely 13 times and were able to draw a dozen walks with leadoff man Taylor Walls leading the way. The FSU shortstop scored five times and drove in four, homering twice. Quincy Nieporte also drove in four, including a 3-run homer in the second.
ON THE BUMP
Heath Donica took the loss for the Bearkats, falling to 9-3 on the season in what was his 16th start of the year. The senior righty struck out three and allowed eight runs on six hits before giving way to six relievers.
As a whole the Bearkat staff struck out seven hitters, including two apiece from Seth Ballew and Colin Cameron. Jordan Cannon pitched two scoreless frames to close out the evening, allowing just one hit.
On the other side, Parrish struck out four of the first six hitters he faced on his way to moving to 6-3 on the season. He allowed just two hits and walked one while striking out nine, needing just 67 pitches to get through the night.
Cole Sands entered in the sixth and struck out four with just two hits allowed before giving way to Andrew Karp who struck out two in a scoreless ninth.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Originally scheduled for a noon ET start, inclement weather in the area immediately pushed play back from its original start time. After multiple attempts to begin, the game was set to start at 5 p.m. ET with introductions, the national anthem and initial warmups being completed before officials pulled the players off of the field in the midst of a downpour only moments prior to first pitch.
That delay did not hinder the Seminole bats as FSU came out hot, scoring nine times in the first three innings with seven of its first eight hits going for extra bases. Walls got it started, opening the game with a solo homer on just the third pitch of the game. Two more Seminoles would reach base with one out before Raleigh doubled into the right-center field gap to plate Jackson Lueck to make it 2-0. Donica would get Drew Mendoza swinging for the second out, but Matt Henderson was able to bloop in a double just inside the left-field line to give Florida State a 4-0 lead.
Parrish followed by striking out the side in the first, and the Noles blew it open in the top of the second with four more scores. A one-out walk to Walls and a hit batter put a pair of runners on base, and a bad-hop base hit by Lueck scored Walls to make it a 5-0 game. Nieporte then blasted a 3-run homer, his 10th long ball of the year, out to left and just like that FSU had an 8-0 advantage.
Sam Houston went to the bullpen for Ballew to open the third, but Walls started that inning just like the first, homering for the second time on the night to left field to up the lead to 9-0.
The Kats got each of their first two hitters on base in the third, but left both stranded, and were their own worst enemy in the top of the fourth. FSU sent 10 hitters to the plate, scoring six more times despite not getting a hit in the inning. Three errors and three walks helped the Noles as they built up a 15-0 lead midway through the game.
The Kats would load the bases in their half of the fourth on a single from Johnson, a walk to Rojas and a hit batter; however, Parrish was able to get Josh Biles for his seventh strikeout of the game. FSU made it 16-0 when Nieporte was hit with the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth before Robinson got Raleigh to fly out to end the inning. They would add two more in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Walls and a sacrifice fly by Busby, but Cameron would toss a scoreless frame with a pair of strikeouts in the eighth.
Florida State would cap their scoring in the eighth when Matt Cavanaugh led off with a solo homer, the fourth of the night for the Seminoles.
- The 44 wins for the Bearkats in 2017 is tied for the second most wins since the program moved to Division I, joining the 1987 squad's 44 victories in the team's first D1 year. It is just one win shy of the program record of 45 wins set in 1986.
- As a team, Sam Houston struck out 15 hitters in the Super Regional, upping its school-record season total to 522. That is 52 more than the previous record of 470 by the 2009 squad, and also sets a new high-water mark in the Southland Conference, surpassing the previous record of 502 set by ULM in 2000.
- With 2.0 innings of work, Heath Donica ran his season total to 110.1 innings pitched in 2017. That mark is the third most by a Bearkat starter in a single season in program history. He also struck out three batters to give him 109 for the year, moving him past Ron Kainer for sole possession of second all-time at Sam Houston. That only trails Albert Choate's school record of 117 in the 1965 season.
- Donica also moved up the career list at Sam Houston with his three strikeouts. He finishes with 205 for his Bearkat career, which is also fourth all-time. The total is the highest total in program history for players with just two seasons in the program.
Opening statement from head coach Matt Deggs…
“First off, congrats to coach Martin and their ballclub. They earned every bit of that. They are playing very well at the right time. If you lose the battle of the freebies with them, it can be a miserable night and that's what happened tonight. Those guys did a great job of capitalizing. That was kind of the synopsis of the series in itself. My thoughts and emotions right now are very thankful. It says in Ephesians 5:20 to give thanks for everything. Without Him, I'm not here and I don't have a relationship with these boys. I am so thankful to get to coach these young men. I love them like family. I've always needed them more than they need me. I am thankful for them and their families. I am thankful for our administration, university and community. You could feel people pulling for us. It was a remarkable journey.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the record-setting journey…
“This ride does not happen without the leadership and guidance of these seniors you see sitting up here. They have taken this program and university to new heights. Am I disappointed? Yes, but I have absolutely zero regrets. I am a firm believer that it's not always about the final destination. You don't always have the most fun when you get where you're going. All the fun for me is in the truck or car ride there. For the last two years, we have had one heck of a car ride. We had a circus at times but this is a family. We will be bound together for the rest of our lives.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on Heath Donica and his impact on the program…
“We left our warrior on the bump as long as we could. It's a tribute to him. He decided when he came out. It was our honor to coach him. Five years ago, this kid was a student at Texas A&M. He wasn't even playing baseball. He has an unbelievable story. He has come from nowhere to win 20 games at Sam Houston State … to be the tournament MVP, to get his degree … it's an incredible story. I told him, ‘I'll go down with you. It's my honor.'”
Robie Rojas on getting the standing ovation and his time at Sam Houston…
“It means the world. Going out every day and grinding with all these guys and coaches … everyone here at Florida State was first class. Without Coach Deggs, we're a student at a university. We always believe in second chances. He'll be there with us for the rest of our lives.”
Lance Miles on his three seasons under head coach Matt Deggs…
“He's the most humble guy you'll meet and he has every reason not be. The route God has chosen for him has been up and down. Every single day, he drives the train and you'll never hear him talk about himself. He talk's guys up probably that don't deserve to be but he does it because he understands life. We're 18-23 year-old men who are at a crucial point in our life. He'll get onto us but the way he handles the ballclub and what he's done for Sam Houston State, I could talk 10 minutes about it. He's taken people and turned them into grown men … not just good baseball players but guys with good GPAs and guys that will graduate, guys that do the right thing in the community, treat women the right way. These are just some of the things he preaches … the way I grew up in the three years here, I am eternally thankful for it.”