The Day After: FSU’s season ends with loss to Southern Miss

Logan Lacey hits his third homer of the weekend against Southern Miss on Sunday
Logan Lacey hits his third homer of the weekend against Southern Miss on Sunday(WCTV)
Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 8:57 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida State (31-24) was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with a 7-4 loss to Southern Miss (39-20) Sunday afternoon. The Seminoles opened up a 4-1 lead in the third inning but surrendered six unanswered runs across the final five innings. The Seminoles registered seven hits, but six of them came in the first three innings.

Florida State pitchers combined to allow 12 hits, and the Seminoles defense made just one error, but it again came in a critical situation. Mike Martin Jr.’s first full season as head coach has come to a close after going 1-2 in Oxford.

Here are a few final thoughts on Sunday’s game and the rest of Florida State’s weekend.

First-inning improvement

The Seminoles got off to a disastrous start in each of their first two games at the Oxford regional, committing two errors each day and starting with a two-run deficit on consecutive days. After a deflating loss to Ole Miss Saturday, the Florida State needed a good start to create some early momentum.

Conor Grady set the tone for Florida State with a 1-2-3 first inning on just eight pitches. That was the first time all weekend the Seminoles held their opponent scoreless in the first inning.

Tyler Martin led off the bottom of the first with an infield single off the leg of Southern Miss pitcher Drew Boyd. After a wild pitch moved him into scoring position, Robby Martin brought him home with a line-drive single into right field. Martin’s two-out RBI-single was the first time all weekend that Florida State scored in the first inning. Before that hit, all of the Seminoles’ eight runs scored over the weekend were manufactured by home runs.

Overall it was the start the Seminoles needed after turning in poor first innings in each of the previous two games. They played clean defense to set the tone, got the leadoff man on base and drove him in with two outs. Florida State had been just 3-for-20 over the weekend in two-out hitting before that point.

Overcoming early setbacks

One of the positive takeaways from Florida State’s performance this weekend was how well it responded to early setbacks. As mentioned before, the Seminoles began each of their first two games with two-run deficits. Each time they came back to take the lead. They did so with a three-run sixth inning Friday against Southern Miss en route to scoring five consecutive runs for a win. The next day, they scored three runs in the fifth inning to take the lead, which they would later relinquish after a key error that scored the deciding two runs.

On Sunday, the Golden Eagles tied the game up at one in the top of the third inning. After a leadoff double and an infield single, Reed Trimble beat out a throw to first on a double-play attempt. Florida State’s offense responded immediately.

Logan Lacey again registered a clutch hit in a timely situation for the Seminoles, as he launched a solo homer to left field to retake the lead. The homer made it three straight games with a home run for Lacey and seven of the last 13 games. It was also his 10th bomb of the season, which made him the fourth Seminole with double-digit homers in 2021.

Matheu Nelson kept the inning alive after the home run with a base hit up the middle two pitches later. He moved up to second on a balk, and Robby Martin drove him in with a grounder of his own up the middle for his second RBI-single of the afternoon.

Martin later advanced to second on a wild pitch and was driven in by Davis Hare on a two-out, line-drive single to left. The RBI came in Hare’s first at-bat of the tournament, as he was plugged into the starting lineup at DH after Dylan Simmons manned that spot in the lineup the previous two days.

The first and third innings of Sunday’s game displayed the Seminoles’ best pieces of situational hitting all weekend. After being abysmal in two-out situations and with runners in scoring position the first two days of the tournament, Florida State produced two massive RBI singles with two outs to build an early lead. Three of its first four runs Sunday came without the homer, something the Seminoles had not done the first two games of the weekend.

Two big homers overshadow Conor Grady’s solid outing

Grady’s final stat line will not show how efficient he was Sunday. Of the 91 pitches he threw, 63 of them were strikes, and he averaged just 14.4 pitches per inning. Four of the six innings he got through were 1-2-3 innings. Grady also completely shut down the first hitters in Southern Miss’s lineup. The Golden Eagles 1-6 hitters went a combined 0-for-17 with just one walk against the veteran righty.

However, the bottom third of the order punished Grady, going 5-for-7 with two homers, both of which came from Will McGillis. McGillis also had a double in the third inning to give the Golden Eagles their first baserunner of the afternoon. All three extra-base hits Grady allowed Sunday came against McGillis.

Grady finished with a final line of 6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K on 91 pitches. Outside of the two homers, he was magnificent, but those two mistakes loomed largely.

The starting pitching trio of Parker Messick, Bryce Hubbart and Grady gave the Seminoles what they needed in their three starts over the weekend. They combined for just five earned runs in 17.1 innings with 13 strikeouts and just three walks.

Offense wanes in final six innings

After Hare’s RBI single in the third inning, Southern Miss turned to its bullpen ace in Ryan Och. The lefty began his afternoon with a strikeout to end the third. He later worked around a two-out hit-by-pitch with three strikeouts in the fourth.

In the top of the fifth, Southern Miss cut the Florida State lead to one on Blake Johnson’s second home run of the year. Och responded with a timely shut-down inning. In the sixth, Och struck out the side again to set a new career-high in strikeouts, marking the second straight day that an opposing pitcher has set a career-high in strikeouts against Florida State.

As Och cruised, Southern Miss slowly began to claw its way back. McGillis tied the game in the seventh with his second homer of the day.

Och’s day ended after a one-out walk in the eighth. He threw a season-high 86 pitches in 4.2 innings and struck out a career-high 11 hitters. Florida State whiffed on 48% of the strikes he threw.

Swing and miss was the Achilles heel for Florida State’s offense all season. Martin Jr. shuffled different hitters in and out of the lineup throughout the season to try to combat the issue, but there was never a permanent fix. For the second straight offseason, that will be one of the top issues to address.

Another late defensive miscue proves costly

Florida State’s defense is the second top issue that will need to be addressed in the offseason. While the Seminoles mostly improved on that side of the ball in 2021, there is still a long way to go.

On Saturday, Nander De Sedas made a critical throwing error in the seventh inning, allowing Ole Miss to score the go-ahead runs and win a 4-3 contest.

On Sunday, the Seminoles’ defense cost them again. Jack Anderson entered the game with two on and no outs in a tie game. Anderson induced a slow roller to short, but FSU couldn’t turn a double play on a poor throw from Jackson Greene. Danny Lynch then followed with an RBI single to right field, giving Southern Miss a one-run lead. A third straight ground ball hit Anderson in the leg. He lost sight of the ball for a second, rushed a throw to first once he recovered it, but the throw got past Tyler Martin into right field to double the Southern Miss lead.

Florida State did not score the rest of the game, so the errant throw wasn’t as costly as the De Sedas error on Saturday. However, errors in key spots ravaged Florida State all season. For the Seminoles to return to being one of the elite teams in college baseball, they’ll have to cut down on the defensive lapses late in games.

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