After dropping their first series of the season to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last weekend, the no. 5 Florida State Seminoles (25-4, 8-4 ACC) came into Tuesday night's home date with no. 25 Florida Gulf Coast University (18-7) looking for a chance to redeem themselves.
On the strength of two five-run innings and some solid relief work from Gage Smith the Seminoles were able to overcome several defensive miscues and a scrappy Eagles lineup to win the first of two games with FGCU by a score of 12-9.
"It was just a well-fought ballgame, in that [FGCU] is a very good baseball team," said head coach Mike Martin after the game. "We had some very good at-bats and I'm just very pleased with that."
Every Seminole in the lineup had a hit (with the exception of CF Seth Miller) including four who had multiple hits. Stephen McGee drove in four runs on a grand slam while DJ Stewart also went 1-3 with a walk and three RBI's.
The Seminoles got on to the board first with a five-run third inning.
After 1B Casey Smit doubled down the line with one out, 2B John Sansone hit his first career home run, a no-doubter over the left field wall, to make it 2-0 Seminoles.
"[Sansone] is really making a marked improvement offensively. He played very well defensively also," said Martin.
RF Josh Delph followed up Sansone's bomb with a single to left before LF Marcus Davis doubled off the right-centerfield wall to put two men in scoring position with one out. That sent Florida Gulf Coast to the pen, where starter RJ Brown was replaced after 2.1 IP by Zack Tillery.
Tillery couldn't escape the jam though, after drawing the count to full, Stewart doubled to drive in Delph and Davis and make it 4-0. Two batters later Jose Brizuela singled in Stewart to put the Seminoles ahead 5-0 at the end of three.
The Eagles got one back in the top of the fourth though. After FSU starter Billy Strode hit LF Sean Dwyer with a pitch, he advanced to third on 2B Brandon Bednar's double and scored on a fielder's choice to shortstop.
FGCU got to Strode (4.1, 4H, 4ER, 2BB, 3K) again in the top of the 5th when they parlayed a pair of singles and a walk into a bases-loaded, one-out jam. That sent Mike Martin to the pen where he called on Jameis Winston.
It was, however, not Winston's day. After allowing one run to score on a wild pitch, Winston walked the first batter he faced to reload the bases. The next hitter sent a grounder to short, but a throwing error on SS Giovanny Alfonzo let two more runs score.
After a single put men on the corners with two down, another wild pitch tied the game at five before a single down the rightfield line gave the Eagles a 6-5 lead and sent Winston packing. Gage Smith came on to replace Winston- who lasted just 1/3 of an inning, giving up two hits and two runs in just 14 pitches- and closed the book on the FGCU 5th.
The junior RHP stayed in the game for another two innings after replacing Winston, striking out two while giving up a hit and an unearned run. It was good enough to earn him his 4th win of the season.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, let them get themselves out. My slider worked well, I actually threw my changeup, which I don't do very often, that worked," said Smith. "We were able to put up that big five run inning [afterwards] and then they're on their toes trying to come back so you've just got to throw strikes. That's what I did."
That five-run answer came in the bottom of the sixth for Florida State.
Smit started the inning with a one-out single, Sansone walked and two batters later the bases were loaded when Davis was plunked by an errant fastball. That brought Stewart to the plate who was able to work the count for a walk and score Smit from third.
With the bases loaded once again and two out, C Stephen McGee launched a ball over the left field wall for a grand slam to give the Seminoles a 10-6 lead.
"I had a pretty good idea [it was gone], I squared it up pretty good, I would have been upset if it didn't go out," joked McGee after the game. "I was actually looking fastball away but I mean when you hang a ball like that it's pretty easy to just put the barrel on the ball."
The Eagles got one back in the top of the 7th when a throwing error and a fielder's choice allowed C Mike Reeves to score and make it 10-7, but a throwing error on FGCU 3B Nick Rivera in the bottom of the inning gave the run back to the Seminoles and extended the lead back to four runs.
Florida Gulf Coast refused to go quietly though, in the top of the 8th their offense continued to scratch and claw its way back into the ballgame. After three straight singles loaded the bases, a fielder's choice brought in Rivera.
With men on the corners and one down, the Seminoles went to the pen, replacing Brandon Johnson with Bryant Holtmann. Holtmann was able to induce another grounder for the second out, but the Eagles plated their second run of the inning on another fielder's choice. A batter later the Seminoles escaped with an 11-9 lead following a pop-fly to Brizuela in foul territory.
After an RBI single by Alfonzo made it 12-9 in the bottom of the 8th, Robby Coles came on to work the ninth and pick up his 7th save of the season.
Florida State hosts Florida Gulf Coast for another game tomorrow, Wednesday, April 3, at 6 PM before heading down to Coral Gables for a three-game set with Miami this weekend.
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