Indiana ousts FSU, advances to CWS

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- One of the things Indiana coach Tracy Smith loved about his team was that it never seemed overwhelmed by its own success. There had been season-defining wins against Florida and Louisville, history-making victories in the Big Ten tournament and regionals, but each was followed by resolute handshakes and quiet bus rides.

Sunday's win was different.

With the bases loaded, left fielder Tim O'Conner gloved a line drive for the final out of an 11-6 Indiana win over Florida State on Sunday, clinching the Hoosiers' first trip to the College World Series, and there was ample cause for celebration.

Catcher Kyle Schwarber hopped from behind the plate and charged the mound, hoisting closer Ryan Halstead into the air before slamming him into the ground. A sea of Hoosiers soon added to the pile, players sliding off the heap of bodies only to leap back to the top again.

"This is what you dream about," said first baseman Sam Travis, who mashed his 10th homer of the season and drove in four on Sunday. "The fact that it's actually happening, it feels like you're living in a dream. It's an unbelievable experience."

Indiana can be forgiven for relishing the moment. For the past week, the Big Ten champions were painted as fish out of water on the hallowed grounds of Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium. This was, after all, a team that reached the super regionals for the first time in program history, that spent the winter practicing indoors, that hand't played a home game until March 20.

There's a perception of Big Ten teams, Smith admitted before Game 1 of the series, and it existed for a reason. The last team from the conference to reach a College World Series was Michigan in 1984.

"I was a senior in high school," Smith said after Sunday's win. "I probably shouldn't admit that."

But the Hoosiers arrived in Tallahassee unintimidated, dominating Florida State from the outset.

The Seminoles led just once in the series, a 5-4 edge in Game 1 that last just one inning, while Indiana choked back one FSU rally after another, repeatedly silencing a raucous crowd.

"I couldn't be happier that it happened here, because I think it makes the statement that it's not a fluke," Smith said. "Our team is pretty good."

It was no fluke, but Florida State certainly wasted its share of opportunities. In the two games, the Seminoles stranded 27 runners, including the tying run at third in the ninth inning of Game 1 and the bases loaded in the final frame of Game 2.

Indiana's starters combined for just 7⅓ innings in the series, but its bullpen was sturdy, and no pitches loomed larger than the ones thrown by freshman reliever Will Courson-Carr. He wiggled out of Saturday's jam and turned in four strong innings of relief Sunday, a coming-of-age performance he struggled to grasp in the aftermath.

"It was awesome, but I don't really even remember what happened," Courson-Carr said.

It was a sentiment shared by nearly everyone in the Indiana locker room. Each pitch in this series was uncharted water for the program, and Smith said he hopes this win sets a new standard for baseball at Indiana.

On the other side, it was another abrupt end to a promising season for Florida State. The seventh-ranked Seminoles hadn't lost a series at home all year, but the upstart Hoosiers had little trouble halting FSU's quest for a 22nd College World Series appearance.

Starters Luke Weaver and Scott Sitz were a combined 17-3 entering the series, but both were roughed up by Indiana's bats. Sitz, pitching his final collegiate game, allowed seven runs Sunday before being pulled in the fifth. Florida State's bats, meanwhile, offered only limited resistance. The Seminoles had 44 baserunners in the two games, but mustered just two extra-base hits.

"It's funny how you sit over there, and you just say, 'Somebody, somebody pick us up,' " FSU coach Mike Martin said. "But you've got to credit them for making pitches when they needed to make them."

When Indiana arrived on Friday, Smith offered ample deference to Martin and his team, repeating the refrain of how happy the Hoosiers were to simply be there.

"I'm aware of all the records," Smith said Friday. "We're happy to be here, but we're going to compete like we've competed all year."

For two games, that's exactly what Indiana did. And then, for the first time this season, the Hoosiers finally celebrated.