Photo courtesy of NoleFan.org
Florida State and the College World Series have been no stranger to one another over the years.
During the early parts of Mike Martin’s tenure however, Omaha was far from a guarantee. After making the College World Series in Martin’s first season at the helm, the Seminoles failed to return for the next five. That changed on this day 35 years ago as FSU soared past South Florida, 11-7.
Setting the Stage
FSU had two chances to win one game as it arrived at its home stadium on May 24, 1986. The Seminoles had opened the South II Regional with a 10-6 win over NC State, followed by a 12-9 victory over Texas A&M.
After falling to Texas A&M to open the regional, South Florida had come from the loser’s bracket to eliminate the Wolfpack and Aggies. In just their second NCAA Tournament, the Bulls needed to beat FSU twice to reach Omaha.
Through three innings, it looked as though FSU may cruise. The Seminoles led 3-0 and starting pitcher Mike Loynd had retired each of the first nine batters. Things changed in the top of the fourth, however.
On five hits, USF pushed across five runs off Loynd. Mark Pike’s 2-run double tied the game before the Bulls took the lead on a groundout by Todd Waggoner. As FSU came to the plate in the fourth, a 3-run lead had become a 2-run deficit.
That deficit however, would be short-lived. After FSU scored a run on a wild pitch, Luis Alicea’s RBI double tied the game. Alicea would score to give FSU a 6-5 lead on an RBI single by Bien Figueroa.
Although USF tied the game in the sixth, FSU would never trail again. The Seminoles went ahead for good in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by Paul Sorrento. Figueroa would later single him home to make it 8-6.
South Florida cut the lead in half on a Loynd wild pitch in the top of the seventh, but the FSU starter settled in to strike out two batters to end the inning before working a perfect eighth. The Seminoles created some much-needed breathing room in the bottom of the eighth with three runs.
With two outs, FSU got RBI hits from Eric Mangham and Steve Taddeo. Magham tripled home a pair of runs before scoring on a Taddeo double.
In the ninth, Loynd retired the first two hitters, but USF wouldn’t go quietly. After a walk and two singles brought the tying run to the plate, FSU turned to reliever Richie Lewis. Lewis struck out Tony Taylor to end the contest.
For the first time since 1980, FSU was bound for Omaha.
Capped with a 2-for-4 day that included three runs scored and an RBI, Alicea was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional. Figueroa, Sorrento and Loynd also made the all-regional team.
FSU would go on to win four games in Omaha, but none of them came against Arizona. Both losses in the College World Series came to Arizona, including a 10-2 defeat that gave the Wildcats their third national title in 11 years.
Throughout the course of his illustrious 40-year career as head coach, Martin took FSU to the College World Series 17 times. His second trip was clinched on this day 35 years ago.