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March 24, 2013

Seminoles Take Series Against Yellow Jackets with 8-6 Comeback Win

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Down 5-0 in the bottom of the 2nd inning, sophomore 3B Jose Brizuela wasn't about to let the Florida State Seminoles (22-2, 7-2 ACC) go quietly like they had in the first game of their series against Georgia Tech (18-5, 6-3 ACC).

In the day game of Friday's doubleheader the Seminoles had gone without a whimper, letting Georgia Tech plate 10 runs and failing to produce any offense whatsoever to back starter Brandon Leibrandt and the Seminole bullpen.

On Sunday, after allowing the Yellow Jackets to jump out to an early 5-0 lead, Brizuela wasn't about to let history repeat itself. After battling to a full count to lead off the bottom of the 2nd inning, the sophomore third baseman belted a ball to right field, took a big turn around first base and beat the throw into second.

"After we got out of the [top of the] inning, Jameis [Winston] brought us all together, like I thought I was just a lineman or something and he was a quarterback talking to me," joked Brizuela. "He just pumped me up and I was in the batter's box trying to have a good at-bat, 3-2 count he fortunately left a pitch up and I drove it and fortunately started things off for the team." 

That hit- and the run that followed two batters later- were the start of a Florida State comeback that saw FSU make up a five run deficit and win 8-6 on Sunday to take two of three from the ACC-rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

"It was just an outstanding win for [the team]," said head coach Mike Martin. "You just can't say enough about what a good job the bullpen did, every single pitcher that went out there held the other club in check.

"After three innings we're down 5-0, our bullpen did a great job of keeping them right there for the next six innings and that's exciting for us. It goes to show you what a great job [pitching coach] Mike Bell has done with our pitchers."

Georgia Tech jumped out to a big lead early, knocking Florida State starter Peter Miller out of the ballgame after just one and a third innings.

The Yellow Jackets plated two in the first inning when RF Daniel Palka singled and a throwing error on Miller allowed everyone to advance and a run to score. The next batter, C Zane Evans hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the second Georgia Tech run of the inning, making it 2-0 before the Seminoles even came to the plate.

After a quiet bottom of the first from the Seminole offense, the Jackets got after it again in the top of the 2nd, scoring three more and knocking Miller from the game with just one out in the inning.

SS Mott Hyde and DH Daniel Spingola singled to start the top of the 2nd inning, LF Kyle Wren (son of Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren) doubled to drive in Hyde and make it 3-0. 3B Sam Dove cleared the bases with a double of his own the next batter to make it 5-0 and Martin had seen enough. He replaced Miller with Bryant Holtmann who was able to settle things down for Florida State.

"Bryant had a very good outing, his cutter was working as well as I've seen it this year," said Martin. "His cutter was getting in on their outstanding hitters, I mean they had ten hits in the first four innings. It was just a great job of pitching from Bryant Holtmann."

Tech finished the day with 11 hits.

Holtmann would work the next 3.1 innings, giving up just one run and two hits while striking out five. His presence on the mound was enough to calm the Yellow Jacket bats and allow the Seminole offense to get Florida State back in to the game.

And the Seminole offense wasted little time clawing their way back in.

After Brizuela doubled to lead off the 2nd inning, two straight sacrifice flies brought him in for the first Florida State run of the game. Two innings later in the bottom of the 4th they got another when 2B John Sansone singled home CF Seth Miller.

But Georgia Tech answered with an insurance run in the top of the 5th when 1B AJ Murray singled in CF Brandon Thomas to make it 6-2.

Florida State wasn't going quietly on Sunday though. The Seminoles used two-run innings in the 6th and 7th to tie the game at six heading into the final two frames.

In the 6th inning the Seminoles chased Tech starter Cole Pitts when they put two men on with one out in the inning. Pitts took the no-decision, going 5.1, striking out one, walking five and giving up five hits. He was also charged for three of the four runs he surrendered, including one of the baserunners that RHP Alex Cruz inherited from him in the top of the 6th.

With two on and one out, Cruz came on to face Sansone who he plunked to load the bases. RF Josh Delph grounded to shortstop next, scoring Seth Miller on the fielder's choice, but a throwing error on the secondbaseman allowed Giovanny Alfonzo to score too and kept Tech from getting out of the inning.

An inning later, trailing 6-4, Florida State tied the game when Miller drove in 1B Casey Smit and C Stephen McGee with a double to right center. The Seminole threat may have continued but with two outs, and men on the corners, Miller was thrown out attempting to steal home after a pick-off attempt at first base to end the inning. 

Gage Smith, who finished the top of the 7th for Florida State to work out of Brandon Johnson's jam, created one of his own to start the top of the 8th. Smith gave up a single to Murray, before a fielder's choice recorded the first out of the inning. Smith then gave up a walk to Mott Hyde which made Martin go to the Florida State pen for Robby Coles.

"We went down there a little quickly and got Robby," joked Martin afterwards. "But Mamba pitched well."

Coles quickly induced two pop flies to help the Seminoles escape the inning without any damage, leaving two Yellow Jackets stranded in the process.

Cruz came back out to work the bottom of the 8th for Tech but was replaced after recording the first out by Jonathan King. 

That ended up being a mistake. 

King quickly walked Josh Delph before giving up a single LF Marcus Davis to put two on with one out for DJ Stewart. After both runners advanced on a wild pitch, Stewart drove them both in with a single up the middle to give Florida State the lead 8-6. 

Robby Coles came back out to a work a 1-2-3 9th inning to give Florida State the win. It was Coles' first win of the season, and improved the Seminoles to 22-2.

"It was just a team win," said Martin. "And a very important win for us."

It was the 18th straight victory for FSU when wearing their Sunday gold uniforms.

Florida State battles Florida in Jacksonville on Tuesday before traveling to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech for three games next weekend.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Sal Sunseri Bringing Blue-Collar Approach to Florida State Defensive Line

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Florida State overhauled their coaching staff this past offseason when the rest of the nation made a run on Jimbo Fisher's assistants. 

After three years of continuity, schools like Kentucky, Cincinnati and Miami came after the Seminole coaching staff hard and Fisher was left trying to hold together a recruiting class while cobbling together a talented group of coaches to help run his program. 

It went pretty well by all accounts. 

“I’m extremely excited to be here at Florida State," said new D-Line coach Sal Sunseri. "I had the opportunity to be down here during the bowl practice and these young kids work hard. Jimbo does a great job with them. They’re finding out what it takes to win, and they did win last year and they have high expectations. We just have to teach them to get to those high expectations.”

Sunseri is just one in a group of coaches new to the program this Spring as the Seminoles kick off practices. Sunseri spent last season at Tennessee where he admits he learned the hard way that, "you need good players."

Sunseri joined the staff as DJ Eliot's replacement and helped coach before the Orange Bowl. That gave him a chance to get to know the players a little bit it still probably didn't prepare them for what to expect once the Spring rolled around.

“I think they’re in a little bit of shell shock right now," said Sunseri after the team's first practice. "They’re probably in there saying ‘boy the man is crazy.’ But I want them to think that because the thing is that every time I go out on the field, it’s like if I was coaching my own son. I am going to demand him to do it right. First of all, for protection. Because if he doesn’t do it right and he gets lazy, to me that’s the most important thing.

"And if they play with the technique and they do what they’re supposed to do, someday they’re going to have the opportunity to fulfill a dream that they’ve been waiting to do for a long time. I’m excited about it. I think they got an idea of what I am going to ask for, so tomorrow will be another day. Hopefully, we get better and they’ve got to learn. They’ve got to understand not just assignments, they’ve got to understand concepts of what’s going on out there.”

That's a big part of this year's new defense, learning the concepts and not just the assignments. It's something that should give everyone a better chance in the NFL where the defenses are even more complex than what Jeremy Pruitt is implementing in Tallahassee.

One thing the guys can expect along the defensive line is that if they aren't learning the concepts they'll hear about it.

Loudly.

"[He] coaches the way that I like to be coached, hard-nosed, they coach with their hair on fire," said DT Tim Jernigan. "He makes sure things get done the way they’re supposed to get done and he lets you know when you’re not doing something right. He don’t care who you are, they let you know.”

"If he's on you and yelling at you it's because you know he cares about you and he's trying to coach you for the player you could be and not the player that you are," added DE Mario Edwards.

So far Sunseri has already told Edwards he needs to get in shape in about as many words. It may be jarring but it's the kind of tough love a lot of players need. 

Sunseri has an extremely impressive resume, he's coached some very good players like Julius Peppers for instance and given the NFL ambitions of most of the team's defensive linemen, this group has figured out that Sunseri is a good guy to listen to.

Guys like Edwards and Casher both point to the pros Sunseri has helped create before admitting they need to take in all the coaching Sunseri can give.

Even if it's a bit harsh.

"I was always taught to listen to the message, not how it's delivered," said DE Chris Casher.

“Oh I love it, I came up playing football you know, you understand that they’re just trying to get a point across," said Jernigan. "They’re just trying to get you better and it’s only going to set you up for life after football, it’s going to make you a tougher person and make you be able to adapt more easily to certain situations.”

That blue-collar, lunch-pail approach is exactly what the Seminoles defensive ends need. Florida State's defense will need to be nasty next season to compensate for breaking in a new quarterback. That all starts up front in the trenches where Sunseri is installing a workman-like ethic and trying to elevate the level of play of the whole unit.

"I’m going to demand and they’re going to be relentless competitive people," said Sunseri. "I’m going to push them to the ultimate. They’re not going to have a chance to relax because this game is very physical and you’re playing a four-three and two defensive ends, you have to be dominating, you have to rush the passer and stop the run. When fatigue sets in, most of us turn into cowards, so what I try to do is work them as fast as I can and as hard as I can to get them to play with the best technique because that’s what’s going to happen in the game.

"Technique ultimately wins on the field.  If you have technique and you have smarts, you’re going to be a good football player.”

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...


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