By Joe Foreman
OMAHA, Neb. – On a day when the wind was blowing in at 24 mph at TD Ameritrade Park, Florida State (49-16) found an unlikely weapon to put away Stony Brook Sunday – the long ball.
Home runs from Devon Travis and Justin Gonzalez lifted FSU to a 12-2 win over the Seawolves in the first elimination game of the 2012 NCAA College World Series. The Seminoles advance to play Arizona or UCLA in another elimination game Tuesday at 8 p.m. (EDT).
“To hit a ball out of that ballpark today is quite a feat,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “Devon and Gonzo did it. Those are tremendous lifts when you can get five runs with two swings of the bat. It’s a pleasant surprise because of the (wind) conditions. If you ask any one of them, all they were trying to do is hit a line drive.”
Gonzalez drilled his ninth homer of the season, a three-run shot to the bullpen in leftfield, fueling a six-run third inning for the ‘Noles. Travis followed up with a two-run shot to left in the fourth inning as FSU opened up a 9-0 lead on the Seawolves, who saw their Cinderella season come to an end.
For Gonzalez, the big hit was a reverse of fortune from Friday’s CWS opener when he committed two fielding errors, was picked off first base and struck out twice in the ‘Noles 4-3 loss to Arizona.
“That Friday game was a test of my faith, I feel like,” Gonzalez said. “And to be able to bounce back like that, it wasn’t me out there. It was kind of a revelation that God gives us a platform and he tests us. To be able to come out there and help my club the way I did, just shows that I was blessed today and able to do that.”
Gonzalez said the ‘Noles were able to bounce back from Friday’s disappointing loss because they followed the lead of their coach, who stresses the importance of not getting to high when things go good or too low when they go bad.
“Coach stressed all the time that in the game of baseball, one day you’re the hero and the next day you’re the villain,” he said. “And everybody here knows what we want to do. Our goal is to win. We just gotta continue to play hard. We’re not focused on the outcome, but we’re just going to go out and play as if it’s our last game every day.”
Travis and Gonzalez said the ‘Noles also got some strong leadership and words of inspiration for Sunday’s game from senior centerfielder James Ramsey, who had two hits and an RBI against Stony Brook.
“All we can control is going out and playing the game, playing the game the right way, playing it hard, playing Seminole baseball,” Travis said. “All year, that’s someone even as a junior I look up to. He’s such a great guy, such a great teammate. He puts on display what college baseball is all about.”
In addition to scoring a dozen runs Sunday, the ‘Noles got a strong pitching performance from starter Mike Compton, who gave up six hits and two runs while striking out four Seawolves, who finished the season with a 52-15 record.
The gameplan for Compton was to keep the ball low and prevent Stony Brook hitters from stringing hits together.
“For me, it was all about making sure I hit my spots, keeping the ball low, and especially with the offense that we had today,” Compton said. “They were on fire and I wanted to get them back in the dugout and hitting as soon as possible.”
Martin said Compton could have pitched past the sixth inning, but because the ‘Noles were up by 10 runs, the decision was made to turn the game over to the bullpen.
Sunday’s game was the first meeting ever between Florida State and Stony Brook. ... At 52 and 49 wins respectively, Stony Brook and Florida State have the most wins in Division I college baseball this season. ... Florida’s six-run third inning were the most scored in a CWS game at TD Ameritrade Park, which became the home of the NCAA championship in 2011. .. .FSU winning pitcher Mike Compton picked up his 12th win Sunday, the most for any freshman pitcher in the country. ... Justin Gonzalez’s three-run home run was the first multi-run homer of the 2012 CWS. ... FSU’s 12 runs Sunday were the most scored all season against Stony Brook.