The 1st time Florida State and Tennessee played at the College World Series, the Seminoles’ agony was prolonged to the final out.

Or more accurately, the next-to-last out.

Because the Volunteers came roaring from behind with 4 runs in the 9th to walk off with a win before FSU could put that final out into the books.

And it was pure agony.

So if there’s anything positive that the Seminoles can take away from Wednesday’s rematch, a 7-2 loss that sends them home from Omaha, it’s that Tennessee put them out of their misery early this time.

Chalk it up to a pitching staff taxed by injuries and the grind of battling back through the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament, an explosive Vols lineup or the uncharacteristic defensive and base running lapses committed by the last of the ACC’s record-tying 4 teams in the field.

All those factors contributed to a result that felt all but inevitable once Tennessee scored 3 times on freshman John Abraham in the top of the 1st.

That’s not exactly a surprise considering that the Vols are the top overall seed and that FSU would have had to beat them twice in 2 days to advance to this weekend’s national championship series.

But it’s also not the way Seminoles coach Link Jarrett had it drawn up when he arrived in Omaha talking openly about honoring his mentor, the late Mike Martin, by accomplishing the 1 goal that eluded the Hall of Famer during his storied career in Tallahassee

FSU has now been to the College World Series 25 times without winning a title. That’s by far the most in the event’s 75-year history.

“I want to win it for him,” Jarrett said of Martin, who died in February, during a pre-tournament press conference. “I owe it to the program, to him, to figure out how to finish it.”

A former Seminoles shortstop who played on 3 CWS teams during his college career, Jarrett returned to his alma mater last year after a successful tenure at Notre Dame with 1 goal in mind.

Filling the corner of the school’s baseball trophy case in which “there’s something missing.”

“That is what all of that means to me,” he said. “And what I need to accomplish here to really feel that I’ve completed this.”

It’s little consolation to Jarrett that his team outlasted ACC rivals North Carolina, NC State and Virginia in Omaha and did all it could to break up the SEC’s monopoly on the championship series.

Tennessee will take on either Texas A&M or Florida in the 2nd straight final – and 4th in the past 7 tournaments – to be contested between SEC teams.

This FSU team may not have helped Jarrett complete the task that has become his mission. But it did at least succeed in restoring the elusive national title as a reachable goal.

You can’t bring home the championship trophy from Omaha unless you get to Omaha, after all.

And the Seminoles hadn’t been there since 2019.

But that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how far the Seminoles came this season.

The Seminoles didn’t just miss out on the NCAA Tournament in 2022, the 1st time that had happened in 44 years, They finished with a dismal 23-32 record (9-21 ACC) as Jarrett tore the program down in order to build them up in his 1st season at FSU.

He replenished the roster by adding six starting position players through the transfer portal to supplement returning stars James Tibbs III and Cam Smith, and established the kind of grit and toughness he learned under Martin.

The team reeled off 19 straight wins to start the season to become the nation’s last undefeated team and continued to build confidence despite a series of injuries that decimated its pitching staff.

Those injuries finally caught up to the Seminoles this week in Omaha.

Losing twice to one of the most dominant offensive teams in recent memory, one that averages nearly 10 runs a game and has 5 players with 20 or more homers, is a disappointment. Especially since Jarrett so desperately wanted to honor his former coach with the title he never won.

He and his players may not be bringing home something to fill that empty spot in their school’s trophy case.

But they still would have made Martin proud.