OMAHA, Neb. — One way to combat the lower power numbers in college is to get more players on base. For Florida State, it’s a formula that has worked year in, year out as the Seminoles have led the nation in walks four of the last five seasons — including 2012 with 383.
FSU’s patient approach helped them win another game on Tuesday night to stay alive in Omaha with a 4-1 win against UCLA.
Just ask the Bruins.
Florida State walked eight times, including two bases-loaded walks in the first inning to plate the first two runs of the game. Bruins starter Zack Weiss lasted only 1/3 of an inning while walking three batters. It was the shortest start by a pitcher at the College World Series since TCU’s Kyle Winkler did not retire a batter in a 10-3 loss to UCLA on June 26, 2010.
“That’s always our approach as hitters,” Florida State’s Sherman Johnson said. “Of course we’re more and more patient than most teams, and it worked out today. I hit when there are pitches early in the zone that we think we can handle, and we didn’t see those. We got walked, and luckily, it turned into runs for us.”
It’s not as if UCLA is prone to walking batters. Its pitching staff came in to Tuesday’s game allowing just 3.6 walks per game and had walked eight or more batters only three times before.
“I don’t think we’ve walked that many in quite a while,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “That’s certainly not playoff pitching. Zack [Weiss] got off to a rough start, but we gave up four runs, so I don’t know. We pitched out of some problems. A little magic, I guess. But it wasn’t certainly how we drew it up. At the end of the day, we stayed in the game.”
Some of the walk stats for the Seminoles are eye-popping.
Florida State became just the second team since 1999 to walk six times before striking out in a CWS game. James Ramsey’s walk gave him 10 in this NCAA tournament, most among all players in this year’s field. No player has drawn more free passes in one NCAA tournament since 2009, when Carlos Ramirez and Johnny Ruettiger of Arizona State each had 11.
And then there’s Johnson, FSU’s leadoff hitter. His two walks gave him 178 in his career. That places Johnson third in Florida State history, behind only Brooks Badeaux (203 from 1995-98) and Paul Sorrento (195 from 1984-86). Johnson is the NCAA’s active career leader in the category as well.
“I tell you what,” Savage said. “Johnson played like a senior. I mean, he was the best player on the field tonight. He had really good at bats, had a couple of 0 2 at bats where he got on. I credit them a lot. They schooled some of our younger guys in my opinion.”
Johnson’s head coach agrees.
“He’s a pest,” Mike Martin said. “That’s the only way I can describe Sherman Johnson. When he faced the guy throwing 90 whatever and Sherman gets up there and goes seven or eight pitches, maybe nine pitches. There is your consummate leadoff hitter. I’ve been blessed in this program for a long time with excellent leadoff hitters. So this guy is a true pest. He is no fun if you are in the other dugout. I just thank God I’m in the dugout wearing the same uniform he’s wearing.”
Florida State has schooled a lot of teams in 2012.
No other Division I team in the last decade has seen three players draw 60 walks in a season like this Florida State team has done with Johnson (67), Ramsey (63) and Stephen McGee (61). It’s the first time the Seminoles have done it since 1984.
QUICK HITS: Tuesday marked the first time there have been two RBI walks in one CWS game — by either team — since June 14, 2009, when Southern Miss walked in three runs and Texas walked home one in a 7-6 Longhorn victory. That game was also the last time a team drew two RBI bases on balls in one inning, as Texas’ Brandon Loy and Kevin Lusson each walked to force in a run in the eighth. … This is the second time in the last three years that both the No. 1 and No. 2 national seed did not advance to the CWS Championship Finals (also 2010). … Florida State is now 28-41 (.405) all-time in the CWS, including 7-12 against the Pac-12. … UCLA reliever David Berg appeared in his 50th and final game of the season. That total ties him for second in NCAA history with South Carolina’s John Taylor (2011), the record holder is Florida’s Connor Falkenbach of 51 in 2005. … Florida State has now won 50 games in a season for the 24th time in school history, all under Mike Martin. The Seminoles’ 50 wins are second nationally to Stony Brook (52). …FSU played in its 69th CWS game, tying the school with Stanford for sixth in history.