If Florida State (4-0) was looking for another ace to replace Mike Compton alongside Brandon Leibrandt, then sophomore RHP Luke Weaver made a strong case with his performance against Jacksonville on Wednesday evening.
Behind the 19 year-old righty's shutdown performance, Florida State had little trouble with the Jacksonville University Dolphins (1-3), beating them 9-7 in front of 3,861 people at Dick Howser Stadium.
"He was obviously beautiful [pitching tonight]. He went out there and totally dominated with his fastball and the slider," said Florida State manager Mike Martin. "This one of those games you hope that Luke can grow from because he certainly pitched a beautiful baseball game."
Weaver was excellent for the Seminoles from the outset, striking out the side in the first inning, working six scoreless, throwing 83 pitches and striking out a career high nine batters while giving up just one hit and walking no one.
"It was great, I know last year I was a little shaky [against Jacksonville]," said Weaver. "You never forget about something like that especially in your first start.
"It felt good though, everything was locked in. I felt good every inning going out there just pounding the strike zone, not trying to do too much. It just worked out good."
Florida State got on the board in the second inning when sophomore 3B Jose Brizuela hit a grounder down the first base-line to bring in junior C Stephen McGee. The next inning senior SS Justin Gonzalez smashed his second home run of the season to put Florida State up 2-0.
But FSU really broke things open in the fourth inning.
JU Manager Terry Alexander started the inning by replacing junior starter Zach Gordon (3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB) with freshman LHP Josh Baker and the Dolphins quickly found themselves in a jam. After recording the first two outs Baker walked freshman LF Jameis Winston and freshman 2B John Sansone. The next hitter, sophomore RF Josh Delph doubled off the right-field wall and scored on a throwing error to make it 5-0.
That was all for Baker who left the game after just two-thirds an inning having given up three runs on a hit.
Senior RHP Drew Woods replaced Baker for JU and found himself in trouble just as quickly. After walking Gonzalez, Woods gave up a double to freshman CF DJ Stewart and McGee brought both in with a single to right.
A batter later junior DH Marcus Davis homered over the right-field wall to make it 9-0 Florida State.
In the other dugout, it was a difficult evening early on for the JU offense. After replacing Weaver, sophomore LHP Kyle Bird worked through a jam for a scoreless seventh for Florida State.
But Jacksonville finally found some offense in the 8th against junior RHP Hayden Jordan, who gave up four hits and two runs to allow the Dolphins on to the scoreboard for the first time.
The ninth inning became a comedy of errors for the Seminoles, who committed three in the inning and let Jacksonville load the bases before finally escaping with the win. Freshman LHP Dylan Silva took the hill to start the inning and was quickly saddled with a runner on third after freshman LF Ryan Valdes (who came into the game as a pinch hitter) dropped a fly-ball.
A batter later senior 2B Jake Huxtable hit a grounder to first that brought the runner in. Three walks and a fielding error later it was 9-4 and the bases were loaded for Silva's replacement, junior RHP Robby Coles.
After falling behind to the next batter, Coles pushed the count to full before losing him and walking home another run to bring the tying run to the plate. Coles caught freshman SS Kris Molter looking for the second out, but junior C Braddock Rowe singled to center to drive in two more and pull the Dolphins to within two runs with the game-winning run at the dish.
Coles buckled down though, striking out sophomore 1B Alex McRae for the third and final out to pick up his first save and give Florida State the 9-7 win.
"When you look at a game like this, the first thing that some people might do is look at the negatives. We don't do that here, we look at the positives," said Martin. "We got seven [runs] with two outs and nobody on, we had exceptional discipline at the plate. The game didn't get away from us, [Jacksonville] did a good job of battling and I'm proud of our young men for doing their job and keeping their poise and getting it done when it counted."
Next up for the Seminoles, USF comes to town for a weekend series.
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