The up-and-down season for the 2021 Florida State baseball team finished with a downer on Sunday afternoon.
The Seminoles got out to a three-run lead in their elimination game against Southern Miss, but they didn’t score again as the Eagles stormed back to win, 7-4, and end Florida State’s season in the NCAA Oxford Regional.
Mike Martin Jr.’s first full season at the helm of the program ends with a 31-24 overall record.
“We had some things not go our way, some self-inflicted wounds,” Martin Jr. said. “It was difficult saying goodbye to the seniors. It was very emotional. I thanked them, every single one of them, for all they’ve been through.”
The loss played out like so many in the 2021 season for the Seminoles. They had one big inning, scoring three runs in the third, to take a 4-1 lead. Robby Martin and Davis Hare each had two-out RBI singles, and Logan Lacey hit his third homer of the regional.
But from then on, the offense all but disappeared. And the strikeouts reappeared.
The Seminoles K’d 14 times on Sunday afternoon after striking out 19 times on Saturday night in a 4-3 loss to Ole Miss.
The bottom four in the order for FSU was 1-for-15 with 9 strikeouts.
“They did a really good job,” Martin Jr. said of the Southern Miss pitchers. “They’re tough. They put the bat on the ball, they do a lot of things very well. They’re fundamentally sound, they’re well-taught, and you can see why they’re a Top 20 team.”
While Southern Miss got about 30 minutes to celebrate its win before going back out for a game against host Ole Miss, the Seminoles were left to wonder what could have been.
If they had gotten a few more timely hits on Sunday. Or Saturday, for that matter.
If their defense hadn’t let them down on Saturday night (or Sunday, as Southern Miss scored another unearned run).
And if the pitching had been up to its usual standards.
Conor Grady allowed three runs (on two homers) in 6 1/3 innings of work, and the bullpen gave up seven hits and three runs in just 2 1/3 innings.
Martin Jr. said he sent Grady back out for the seventh inning because his pitch count was down and his velocity was still there. Southern Miss scored one in the seventh to tie it and then two in the eighth and one more in the ninth.
“It didn’t work out,” Martin Jr. said of the decision to stick with Grady. “Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you don’t. Obviously, there were some things that didn’t work out for us. And that falls on me.”
The Florida State offense then failed to stage any real threat for the remainder of the game and saw its season come to an end in Oxford, Miss. All-America catcher Mat Nelson delivered a double in the seventh, but that was the only time an FSU baserunner reached second over the final six innings.
Nelson finished his stellar final season with the Seminoles with two more hits. And Martin delivered two RBI singles in what may be his final game as well. But in the end, it wasn’t enough for a Florida State team that could never truly find its footing.
“I told them I wanted their chins up, chests out,” Martin Jr. said. “They did the absolute best they could. And that’s what it’s all about. You’re never guaranteed anything in life. We learn and we grow and we do the best we can.”