Florida State was leading Mississippi State 2-0 in an NCAA elimination game last weekend. There was a 2 ½-hour rain delay in the ninth inning at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.
Mississippi State was designated as the home team, and FSU coach Mike Martin sent out sophomore lefthander Drew Parrish for the bottom of the ninth. Parrish had thrown 109 pitches in eight scoreless innings before the rain delay.
It was 159 minutes between pitches when Parrish started the ninth. He walked two and got two outs vs. the first four Bulldogs. On his 132nd pitch of the night, Parrish allowed a game-losing, three-run homer to Elijah McNamee.
This put an end to Martin’s 39th season at Florida State. The Seminoles have played in 16 College World Series for Martin, without ever winning.
Martin is 74 and set the record for college coaching victories this season. The total is 1,987 and the expectation is that Martin will return in 2019 in order to surpass 2,000 and take another shot at a CWS title.
Parrish would be a large part of that quest, presuming his left arm survived the outrageous abuse administered to it by his coach last weekend.
Martin offered the oldest excuse in the college coaching handbook — Parrish wanted the ball — and then said, “If I had it to do over again, I would have made the same decision.”
One night earlier, 1,374 miles to the northwest, the Minnesota Gophers were hosting a regional tournament for the first time since 2000, and for the first time ever in the new version of Siebert Field.
This is the 37th season for coach John Anderson. For the first 17 seasons, there were eight regionals, with the winners advancing directly to the College World Series. Since 1999, there have been 16 regionals, with the winners advancing to eight Super Regionals that precede the CWS in Omaha.
The four-team, double-elimination formula in a regional is clear: Win the first two games and your ballclub is in great shape. Lose one of those games and it’s a grind.
The Gophers were large favorites over Canisius in Friday’s opener. The Griffs did have senior lefthander J.P. Stevenson, the Metro Atlantic pitcher of the year, as their starter. Anderson had to consider the possibility that Stevenson could keep it a tight ballgame.
The Gophers went with junior Reggie Meyer, the “Friday starter” throughout the Big Ten season. Freshman Patrick Fredrickson, the Big Ten’s pitcher of year, follows him, and after that, the identity of a Gophers’ starting pitcher has been in flux.
Meyer was through five innings and the Gophers were in command, and the actual followers of this team that were among the spectators crowded into Siebert Field were declaring:
“Anderson should pull Meyer so that he has him available for a possible decisive game on Monday night.”
The Gophers defeated Canisius 10-1 and Meyer went eight innings. He threw 102 pitches and was done for the regional. Anderson said later that he had discussed a Meyer-on-Monday scenario with his pitching coach Ty McDevitt.
“We decided that we weren’t going to pitch Reggie if we have a game on Monday,” Anderson said after the Canisius game. “We weren’t going to do that to him.”
Mike Martin: all-time winningest coach, desperate to get back to Omaha for a 17th time, was willing to abuse a top pitching prospect to do so.
John Anderson: winner of 1,310 games for the Gophers at age 63, excited to take full advantage of the prized opportunity to have the home field for a regional, was not willing to overwork a starter who had done yeoman work this season.
To me, that was the most instructive occurrence of an outstanding weekend at Siebert — the message as to how Anderson and his assistants value their players.
Mike Martin, legend with all the advantages of coaching in a southern baseball mecca, shouts with his action on Parrish: “I need this win.”
John Anderson, lesser legend fighting against the long odds of reaching the national stage from the northern climes, says quietly with his action on Meyer: “I wouldn’t need a win that badly.”
It never came to that, of course. The Gophers won the key winner’s bracket game, closing out UCLA 3-2 in 10 innings at 12:24 a.m. on Sunday, then beat the Bruins again 13-8 to win the Minneapolis Regional.
Martin shamed himself with his use of Parrish and paid with a loss.
Anderson had gotten all he intended to get out of Meyer after eight innings on Friday. And now the Gophers are off to play mighty Oregon State in a first super regional ever, with Meyer pitching Game 1 on Friday afternoon.