Photo courtesy of NoleFan.org
The ACC has been more competitive for Florida State baseball, but during its time in the Metro Conference, the Seminoles were downright dominant.
On this day 35 years ago, FSU clinched its fourth straight conference title and sixth in seven years. The Seminoles topped South Carolina twice in the same day to claim the conference crown behind dominant pitching.
Setting the Stage
FSU was the No. 1 seed for the Metro Tournament, but things didn’t start off great. After beating Cincinnati, FSU was pushed to the brink of elimination with an 8-5 loss to third-seeded South Carolina.
The Gamecocks kicked off the tournament with wins over Southern Mississippi, Memphis State and FSU. When the teams arrived in Tallahassee on May 11, 1986, South Carolina had two chances to beat the Seminoles once to claim the conference crown. That would not come to pass.
In the first game of the day, eventual Golden Spikes Award winner Mike Loynd was unhittable for FSU. In a 3-0 victory, Loynd went the distance, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out 16.
Five different South Carolina hitters struck out at least twice. For a while however, Gamecocks’ starter Casey Reed was every bit as good.
Reed had kept the Seminoles off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning. That’s when outfielder Paul Sorrento got the scoring started with a solo home run.
FSU led just 1-0 until the bottom of the eighth when Sorrento doubled his RBI total. After a double from Greg Clayborne and a bunt single from Jose Marzan, Sorrento’s third hit of the day — an RBI single — made it 2-0. Marzan would score the third run on a Luis Alicea RBI groundout.
Loynd struck out two in the ninth before inducing a force out to end the game.
After the shutout victory, it was down to one game to decide the Metro Championship. Once again, FSU would get a stellar effort from its starting pitcher. Unlike in the first game however, Florida State wasted no time pushing runs across.
Before he took the mound, starting pitcher Richie Lewis had a 4-run lead. Luis Alicea plated the first run with an RBI single before Eric Mangham went deep for a 3-run home run.
Like Loynd, Lewis would go the distance, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out 13. The FSU offense kept Lewis with a comfortable advantage throughout the day.
In the second inning, FSU was able to extend its lead to 5-0 on an RBI single from Sorrento. South Carolina scored two runs in the fourth on RBI hits from Charlie Aldrich and Dave Smyth, but would manage just one hit the rest of the way.
FSU would tack on with a run in the fifth on another RBI single from Alicea and an unearned run in the eighth on an error. When all was said and done, FSU had again emerged as Metro champions.
Loynd would go on to earn Metro Tournament MVP honors while Alicea and Sorrento each made the all-tournament team. Following the win, FSU would go on to win its next six games and make it all the way to the national championship in Omaha. Unfortunately, the Seminoles would fall to Arizona.
Still, the 1986 season saw Florida State win its fourth straight Metro title. The Seminoles would win the conference 11 times in their final 12 years as a member. Only once did they do so with a pair of complete games on the tournament’s final day. It happened on this day 35 years ago.