GAINESVILLE — Florida is billed as having one of the top pitching staffs in the country. But on Saturday night, it was Florida State that had the better pitcher.
Behind a dominant complete game shutout from Drew Carlton and stellar defensive play, the Seminoles took Game 1 of the Gainesville Super Regional 3-0 over the top-ranked Gators.
FSU (41-20) is one game away from reaching the College World Series, and the win snaps Florida State’s five-game losing streak to the Gators.
Carlton came into the game allowing 91 hits in 84 2/3 innings this season, but he allowed just two hits and retired the last 19 Gator hitters in the game.
Carlton (8-3) lowered his season ERA from 4.36 to 3.94.
“Just very pleased with the way Drew pitched; [it was] obviously the key to the ball game,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “Don’t know if I’ve seen him pitch better and he’s been with us for two years. … The guy pitched his heart out.”
From the moment he toed the rubber, Carlton was in a zone. He breezed through the opening frame, throwing just 11 pitches and pitched to contact the entire night, recording 12 groundball outs.
The only hits Florida (50-15) had was a two-out single by Buddy Reed in the second and a one-out single by Danny Reyes in the third. The Gators didn’t have a runner go past first base in the game.
“From the first inning on, everything even felt great from the bullpen, but every inning was just coming back and looking back at the last inning and feeding off that,” Carlton said.
The Seminoles committed three errors at McKethan Stadium back on March 15, but on Saturday night, FSU didn’t have any and made the routine defensive plays. FSU center fielder Ben DeLuzio made a diving catch to record the final out in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was definitely one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched,” Carlton said. “I definitely wanted that one. That was a big win for us and this whole team.”
Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan took a chance starting Alex Faedo over ace and Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore. Faedo, whose 13 wins in the regular season led the SEC and was tied for most in the country, struggled with his command. The sophomore righthander walked three hitters and hit another in 4 innings of work.
Florida State scored two runs off of him and another one on reliever Dane Dunning.
“However you shake it, if Logan pitched tonight, we didn’t score. It doesn’t matter,” O’Sullivan said. “You gotta score to give yourself a chance, so it didn’t matter who started tonight.”
Saturday was the first time Florida was shutout at home in NCAA Tournament history.
There was a chance that Carlton wasn’t going to finish off the game. He was at a high pitch count, but he wanted to finish off the game and push the Gators to the brink of elimination.
“When we got to the ninth, it was more or less of Drew looking at us and saying ‘I’d like to keep the ball in my hand,’ and we were not going to argue with him,” Martin said.
The Seminoles are now one win away from reaching their 16th CWS in 37 years under Martin. Game 2 is of the Super Regional is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, and closing out the No. 1 team in the country on the road, won’t be an easy task. If necessary, a winner-take-all Game 3 will be played on Monday.
But Martin’s aware at what’s at stake.
“We know tomorrow is a very, very important game,” Martin said. “We’ve just got to be ready to go.”