OMAHA, Neb. — Is this what destiny looks like?
Consider all that went into Florida State’s 1-0 win over Arkansas Saturday night, and it’s hard to say no.
There was Drew Parrish, a pitcher who had days this baffling season when he labored to get anyone out, and ended last season with a nightmare that would be nearly impossible to forget. Saturday night, he turned in one of the games of his life.
CWS 2019: Full tournament bracket | Printable CWS bracket | CWS info & tickets | Shop latest CWS gear
There was Arkansas’ pitcher Isaiah Campbell, nearly untouchable with 10 strikeouts and only five hits allowed, not allowing a baserunner as far as third in seven innings. But the Razorbacks still losing.
There was the Florida State center fielder who climbed the wall to make a top-10 play worthy catch, and the base runner who raced home with the winning run in the top of the ninth inning, and the closer who mowed down Arkansas to end the game — wait a minute. That’s the same guy. J.C. Flowers, the Swiss Army Knife of the Seminoles.
There was Florida State, doing something it had not done in 20 years — winning its first game at the College World Series. The Seminoles had dropped five consecutive CWS openers, so this is yet another big moment on the Mike Martin farewell tour. And now this team that was one of the last at-large invitees put in the bracket is 6-0 in the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve got something going on,” third baseman Drew Mendoza. “I don’t know what it is.”
Who does? The Seminoles just try to keep moving, hoping the magic carpet doesn’t run out of fuel. “Turn up the music and go,” assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. said.
Yeah, there were a lot more storylines than runs Saturday night at the CWS.
MARTIN MAGIC: The fairy tale of Mike Martin that needs a happy ending at the 2019 CWS
How about Parrish? The last pitch of his 2018 season was hit for a three-run walkoff homer by Mississippi State’s Elijah MacNamee that knocked the Seminoles out of the regional. He arrived at TD Ameritrade Park Saturday with a 2019 earned run average north of 5, after a season that included some fine work, but also horrifically long nights — nine runs in five innings at North Carolina State, five runs in 1.1 innings against Boston College, 10 runs in one-plus inning at Louisville.
Saturday night? Eight innings, no runs, nine strikeouts, five hits. Suddenly, the 5-11 junior was the tallest man in town, in one of the most important college games he’ll ever pitch. How could it not be emotional? He was doing a lot of his damage with his changeup, with pitches barely 80 miles an hour, slower than some of the cars breezing past Omaha on I-80.
“I don’t really know what happened out there as far as the emotional standpoint, I was just locked in and trying to throw pitches and keep my team in the game,” he said. “Probably a few days from now it’ll hit me.”
Vindication of any sort? “Honestly, everything that happened in the past is in the past, it doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve just got to keep pushing and keep focusing on what’s next, and the next step was tonight, and I couldn’t think about the past.”
This from his Mendoza: “I could have put my glove in my back pocket. That’s the Parrish that we all know, and that’s the Parrish that we all trust and expect to be out there.”
This from catcher Matheu Nelson: “His changeup was just unhittable tonight. It was almost as if the ball was stopping, and the guys were already through their swing and the ball wasn’t even there.
“That shows you how mentally tough he is, how physically tough he is.”
MICHIGAN BEATS TEXAS TECH: Jimmy Kerr continues family tradition of CWS success | Highlights
This from Martin Jr., who noted that a lot of Parrish’s bad outings this season came when balls found holes, or the defense was unhelpful: “It’s a real skewed look if you really look at his numbers. But he’s always been, 'give me the ball and let me compete.’”
Next, how about the do-it-all Flowers? He leaped up at the wall in center to rob Heston Kjerstad in the second inning, which was crucial on a night that saw nothing but zeroes on the scoreboard for 2 ½ hours. “Off the bat, I thought it was a home run and I was kind of kicking myself,” Parrish said. “It saved the game, basically,” second baseman Nander De Sedas said.
In the top of the ninth inning, Flowers scooted home with a run on De Sedas’ sacrifice fly, and jumped up to celebrate. For about two seconds, because then he had something else to do.
“As soon as I scored, I thought, hey now I’ve got to get to the bullpen, I’ve got to shut this down for my team."
He had 12 saves this season, so the Seminoles are old hands at trying to squeeze out some extra time for him to get loose. “You start stalling, do whatever you can,” Martin Jr. said. Saturday, there was an official review of Flowers’ leaving the base that took a couple of minutes. “Perfect,” Martin said.
Flowers retired the side with no fuss in the bottom of the ninth. TD Ameritrade continues to be a dark place for Arkansas. Going back to last season’s championship series, the Razorbacks have gone scoreless 22 consecutive innings in this place.
Meanwhile, Florida State has one run and one victory, and the look of a team that is confident in its karma.
“I can’t sit here and say we’re in the driver’s seat,” head coach Martin Sr. said. “This tournament is a long way from being in anybody’s hands.
“I think this club has a good head on their shoulders. They’re not one to think they’ve got it made.”
His son was describing what it has been like this season, with all the hullabaloo at every road game about the 40th and last season for his father. There was Brooks Koepka at one stop, Chipper Jones at another.
“Everywhere we’ve gone it’s like Elvis,” he said. “That’s why nothing fazes them."
And there’s no stopping them. Not yet, anyway.