3 takeaways from FSU baseball's loss to Tennessee in College World Series

Florida State baseball season is officially in the books.

Its turnaround season led FSU to the College World Series semifinals, where its postseason run ended with a 7-2 loss to No. 1 Tennessee Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska.

FSU coach Link Jarrett couldn't help but be proud of what he saw from his players after what they had endured last season. The Seminoles' 49-17 finish represented a nation-best 26-win improvement from 2023.

"This was the most dynamic team I've coached," Jarrett said.

"The personalities on this team, I think it made this team enjoyable to watch. (It) made it enjoyable for myself. "

The Volunteers moved to the best-of-three national championship starting Saturday, where they will face Texas A&M at Charles Schwab Field.

The Aggies eliminated the Florida Gators 6-0 Wednesday in the opposite semifinal.

It is the first time the Volunteers have made the championship series since 1951.

Jarrett gave props to the top-seed Vols after losing twice to them in the CWS bracket. Tennessee rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat FSU 12-11 in last Friday's opener.

"That's a good team in the other dugout, clearly," Jarrett said. "Well-constructed, variety of arms, physical offensively, dynamic, athletic.

"They made some exceptional plays. You could basically go around the diamond and make note of the exceptional plays they made."

Tennessee coach Tony Vitello also credited the Seminoles for their turnaround season.

"Both teams struck a bunch of balls very well. Both teams made great defensive plays. And both teams have explosive lineups that leave you on the edge of your seat, at least where I was standing," Vitello said.

"So hopefully the fans felt that way too and got their money's worth. And if you were a Florida State fan you obviously got your money's worth all year long, in particular the year that it was for them, remembering a legend (former FSU coach Mike Martin) as their former coach."

Here are the takeaways from Wednesday's game.

Joe Charles, Brennan Oxford kept game alive for FSU baseball

Jun 19, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida State Seminoles pitcher Brennen Oxford (8) pitches against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first inning at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida State Seminoles pitcher Brennen Oxford (8) pitches against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first inning at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

FSU was put in a deep hole from the start.

Down 3-0 in the first, Jarrett made an immediate pitching change after freshman John Abraham struggled.

Abraham, who made his third start, scuffled with his command and went a third of an inning. There were questions about whether Jarrett was considering starting ace pitcher Jamie Arnold, who threw in Friday's game.

"We talked to him," Jarrett said. "He was not ready to go.

"He wasn't really ready to go. And John, you've seen it. When the breaking ball is working, he's pitched in an extended role against some really, really good teams.

"And you expect -- this is clearly new for him to be in this setting. You still expect them as competitors to give you their A stuff."

Brennan Oxford took over as the relief pitcher. In 3.1 innings, he fanned four. Joe Charles took over in the fourth inning, throwing a career-high 4.1 innings, struck out five batters and allowed one earned run.

"We did not get out of the gate well against them," Jarrett said.

"We found ourselves in a little bit of a hole. Oxford settled things down. I think Joe pitched great. One of the longest outings of his season and career and was on it. The slider was good. The fastball velocity stayed there."

Charles credited pitching coach Micah Posey with preparing the right-handed pitcher.

"Coach (Micah) Posey is the best pitching coach I've ever had the pleasure to work with," Charles said. "And I have a lot of trust in him, and he trusts me. He just radios in those pitches, and I try to execute them as well as I can.

"So the credits gotta go to the coaches doing all the scouting and kind of putting me in the best position to succeed and make my job easy where I've just got to go make those good pitches."

FSU's baserunners make costly mistakes in beginning of inning

Florida State's Daniel Cantu (32) celebrates a home run during a NCAA College World Series game between Tennessee and Florida State at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.
Florida State's Daniel Cantu (32) celebrates a home run during a NCAA College World Series game between Tennessee and Florida State at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

FSU had chances to produce a run, but Tennesee's defense took advantage of FSU's mistakes.

On the bottom third, after getting a pair of hits and runners on base, Jaxson West hesitated from running to home plate after a Max Williams single and was thrown out.

Volunteers followed up with a double-play, with Max Williams failing to score after Cam Smith was tagged.

FSU was shut out for six straight innings before Daniel Cantu and Alex Lodise homered back-to-back in the bottom seventh.

Tennessee's defense capitalizes on FSU's batters

Tennessee's Kavares Tears (21) makes a catch before slamming into the wall during a NCAA College World Series game between Tennessee and Florida State at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.
Tennessee's Kavares Tears (21) makes a catch before slamming into the wall during a NCAA College World Series game between Tennessee and Florida State at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

Tennessee's defense made plays that counted.

FSU got robbed twice on potential homers by UT's outfielders. Centerfielder Kavarest Tears made the best catch of the day while running into a wall to retire in the first inning.

The Seminoles couldn't get any runs with Zander Secrest on the mound. Going into the semifinals, Secrest has only allowed two earned runs in his past 24 innings pitched.

He did allow back-to-back in the bottom seventh to Daniel Cantu and Alex Lodise before being relieved by Kirby Connell.

Max Williams was 2-for-4 with his 11th double, for the Seminoles, ending the year with a career-high 11-game hitting streak and 21-game on-base streak.

"I don't think the score was -- it wasn't reflective of some of the quality of the at-bats with really nothing to show for it," Jarrett said.

"And we may have swung the bat today as well in areas as we did in the tournament with little to show. And that's part of it.

"That's why it's difficult, in some cases, to get here and win games on this stage when the other team can pitch and has the athleticism to make so many of those above-average plays."

What's next for FSU baseball

FSU's season was a season to remember as the Seminoles return home to Tallahassee.

In his second year, Jarrett led FSU to host regional and super-regional tournaments, sending the Seminoles to their first College World Series appearance since 2019 and making the final four.

James Tibbs III, who is likely not to return and will enter the 2024 MLB Draft, makes a reflection this season and the four years he's been with FSU.

"I'll never be able to thank Coach (Link Jarrett), the coaching staff, and all the people who have made this possible enough for believing in me and for allowing me to be a part of it," Tibbs said.

Peter Holland Jr. covers Florida State athletics for Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at PHolland@Gannett.com or on X @_Da_pistol.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Takeaways from FSU baseball

Advertisement