The last time the VSU baseball team took on a NCAA Division I opponent, President George W. Bush was in his first year in the oval office. On that day March 5, 2000, at Billy Grant Field the Blazers squeaked by Valparaiso 5-4.
Last night, 11 years later, VSU (14-18) was looking for another kind of ‘W’ as they made the trip to Tallahassee to take on Division I No. 12 Florida State (22-7). The Blazers fell short in their effort to upset the Seminoles, 10 – 2.
The two schools hadn’t faced off in interdivision play since 1988 when FSU came to Winnersville and walked away with a 20-8 win. Since the Blazers’ jump to NCAA Division II, they have played Florida State 20 times. The ACC University owns the series record 16-3-1
Last night’s game was decided right-off-the-bat in the first inning, as the Noles struck for three runs. VSU starter Brett Kennedy hit a batter, walked the bases loaded and then allowed first basemen Jayce Boyd to hit a sacrifice fly to score second basemen Devon Travis. Following the sacrifice, designated hitter Rafael Lopez hit a two RBI single.
FSU added on the hurt in second inning where they broke out for four runs including a three-run homer by right-fielder James Ramsey. The Blazers’ pitching didn’t help their own cause, they walked a combined 12 batters and hit five.
“I would attribute a lot of that to nerves,” said head coach Greg Guilliams. “Our guys, I think, were trying to overthrow a little bit and they just got out what they do well.”
VSU managed to avoid the shut-out scoring two runs on seven hits. In the seventh, VSU designated hitter and Tallahassee native Cameron Graves, singled to score catcher Josh Vining reached base on a double. In the ninth, Chaz Bagwell, who reached via single, scored on fielding error FSU Sherman Johnson.
“My whole family is here. I’m from Tallahassee. It was awesome. It was great. I’ve never got to play there before. It’s was a big deal to me. It was an awesome experience,” Graves said of the experience of playing at Dick Houser Field and in his hometown.
When asked about the game, Coach Guilliams said, “It was a great experience for our guys to come play on Dick Houser Field. I think it was a great atmosphere and I think our guys really enjoyed the experience.”
The loss follows last weekend’s series against West Alabama in which VSU took two out of three. The Tigers edged VSU in game one, 6-2. In the remaining two games of the series, the Blazers scorched their opponent for 28 total runs, winning game two 11-2 and ending game three on the mercy rule, 17-2.
The Blazers will return to NCAA Division II action this weekend as they continue their road trip with a three-game Gulf South Conference series against Alabama-Huntsville. Games one and two will be played in a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m. Game 3 will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday.