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Omaha-bound FSU advances to College World Series for 23rd time

Florida State Seminoles

Forget the old adage about the third time being a charm.

Florida State is hoping the 23rd time will prove to be magical for retiring head coach Mike Martin, the winningest coach of any sport in NCAA history.

FSU (41-21) is headed to the College World Series for the twenty-third time in program history — and for the seventeenth time under the 75-year-old Martin, whose teams have won an unprecedented 2,028 games during his remarkable 40-year career yet have failed to capture the national championship during his tenure.

Drew Mendoza’s game-winning RBI single to right lifted the late-surging Seminoles, who remain unbeaten in the NCAA Tournament, past host and preseason favorite LSU 5-4 in twelve innings before a crowd of 11,713 in Baton Rouge on Sunday.

“Unbelievable. I don’t think anyone in this room, let alone this country would have put us in this place right now,” said Mendoza, whose game-winning hit sends FSU to Omaha where Martin’s players are determined to give their longtime coach his first CWS championship.

“We are all blessed, it’s been an incredible ride,” added the junior infielder. “We have always believed in each other and we just got on a roll and are going to keep it going.”

Florida State’s Antonio Velez (5-2) was credited with the victory. Velez won both of FSU’s games in the Super Regional, striking out seven while not allowing a run in 5 and 2/3 innings over the weekend.

LSU’s Devin Fontenot (5-4), who struck out eleven in 6 and 1/3 innings while giving up just two base hits, suffered the loss.

A couple of crucial base-running miscues thwarted potentially big innings for LSU, which trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth. The Tigers tied the game on RBI singles by senior Antoine Duplantis and Zach Watson and had runners on the corners, but Watson was thrown out while aggressively trying to reach second base with one out.

A subsequent ground out stranded the go-ahead run at third.

It was like that all night long for LSU.

With a run in and runners on second and third with only one out in the sixth, freshman Giovanni DiGiacomo, taking a daringly ambitious lead, was picked off at third base when Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson made a spectacular throw to third, killing LSU’s momentum. It was FSU’s 12th pick-off of the season.

A subsequent fly out ended what could have been a huge inning for LSU.

Duplantis, LSU’s all-time hits leader, went 4-for-6 with a solo home run — his twelfth of the season — while driving in a game-high three RBIs.

LSU, which was ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, finished the season with a 40-26 mark

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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