Florida State opened up its 2013 baseball season on Friday afternoon looking to extend their 14-game opening day winning streak against the University of Rhode Island. And behind five solid innings from Brandon Leibrandt and some offense from newcomers CF DJ Stewart and DH Marcus Davis as well as sophomore 3B Jose Brizuela, the Seminoles had little problem making it 15 in a row.
"On an opening day with a lot of new guys you're a little bit cautious of what to expect," said FSU head coach Mike Martin. "After the nine innings I just saw I was very pleased with how we played. We had good at-bats and we showed good poise on the mound."
Florida State wasted no time getting ahead, scoring three in the first inning after Stewart doubled in senior SS Justin Gonzalez in his first at-bat and Marcus Davis hit a two-run home run in his. Both Seminoles were making their debuts at Florida State.
The next inning Gonzalez tripled to drive in freshman 2B John Sansone. But the Rams fought back in the top of the third, plating two runs after 3B Mike LeBel singled one in and CF Jeff Roy stole home for the second to make it 4-2.
The Florida State offense would continue to tack on more and more runs and work deep into counts though, quickly getting into the URI bullpen. Rams starting pitcher Mike Bradstreet worked just 3.1 innings before being knocked out. He surrendered 6 runs over that time while walking two and giving up five hits.
For the Seminoles, Brandon Leibrandt was far from perfect but still picked up the win in five-plus innings of work after allowing four runs on five hits and a walk. Leibrandt struck out six, but also ran into a couple of jams and was knocked out of the game after giving up a two-run homer to start the sixth inning.
"Brandon pitched well, probably should have gotten him after that long inning that we had [in the 5th]. When a guy sits over here in this weather- for probably 20 minutes is how long he was over here- it's something you don't experience when you're getting ready to pitch," said Martin.
"There's room to get better for sure," said Leibrandt. "But I'm coming out of here feeling good about myself, feeling good about how the team looked."
The two-run homer that knocked out Leibrandt put the Rams back within reach, trailing 7-4. But it wouldn't last for long. After hitting three straight batters, URI reliever Brad Applin managed to strike out Jameis Winston before Brizuela hit a grand-slam over the right-center field wall. It marked the second opening day grand slam of the sophomore thirdbaseman's career.
"It's a great feeling, I guess I'm making it a tradition," joked Brizuela after the game. "I thought it was too high, I was kind of scared because I was just looking at the ball, I hadn't even touched first yet. I didn't want it to hit the wall and me still be at first. I'm really glad it went out."
Up 11-4, the Seminoles cruised the rest of the way behind sophomore LHP Bryant Holtmann (two scoreless innings), junior RHP Robby Coles (scoreless 8th) and sophomore RHP Luke Weaver. Only Weaver surrendered a run in the ninth to make the final score 11-5.
It was a solid opening day for the Seminoles who enter 2013 with more than a few questions following the departure of the core of 2012's CWS team.
In their Seminole debuts DJ Stewart and Marcus Davis both impressed. Stewart belted a double to plate the first FSU run of the season before Davis hit the first Florida State homer of the 2013 campaign. On the day Stewart was 1-4 and Davis 1-3, but both made one heck of an impact in their first at-bat.
Jameis Winston on the other hand went 0-3 in his much anticipated debut. The two-sport star is also going to contend for the starting QB job next season on the football team, but plenty of eager Seminoles fans were looking for a peek of the freshman's athleticism in the baseball opener on Friday. Unfortunately, Winston was quiet in his three at-bats and aside from awkwardly banging into the fence as he attempted to rob a home run, didn't really make much of an impression in his first game.
Overall though Florida State should feel good about starting 2013 off on the right foot. After losing the middle of their batting order to the MLB over the summer, it looks like there may well be some pop in the 2013 Seminoles' bats. Tomorrow the Seminoles will get more answers as they look to replace Mike Compton (lost to Tommy John surgery) with a new Saturday starter.
FSU host URI the next two days before Jacksonville heads to town on Tuesday.
For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter.Follow @PatrikNohe_MH