It was Opening Day in Tallahassee as FSU and the Niagara Purple Eagles played Game 1 of the three game set. Niagara showed great determination as they took a plane to Houston, flew to New Orleans, and finally bused 6 hours to make it to Dick Howser Stadium. Luke Weaver (6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K) was dominant in his 1st outing of the season as he no-hit Niagara in his 6 innings of work. The Seminole ace was pulled after 89 pitches; something Coach Mike Martin noted was pre-determined.
"No-hitters are something you just don't think about until the 5th inning, but we knew he was only going to go close to 90." said Martin.
The Seminole bats slowly heated up as in the 1st inning DJ Stewart's (4-5, 1 RBI) double to Center would plate Josh Delph (2-3, 1 RBI) giving the Noles a 1-0 nothing lead. That base hit would extend Stewart's hit-streak to 18 games dating back to the 2013 season. Florida State would tack on 2 more runs in the 3rd and 2 more in the 5th via a Jose Brizuela (2-3, 2 RBI) double to RF. Niagara would tighten the game in the 7th as Billy Strode would struggle in his opening relief appearance (0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K). Gage Smith would enter the game with the bases loaded and just 1 out. "The exquisite mustache" delivered for FSU, escaping damage as he induced a strike out and a pick-off to end the inning. Clinging to a 5-2 lead the Seminole bats would come to life plating 5 runs in the 7th and 3 runs in the 8th highlighted by a 2-RBI single from Justin Gonzalez and a 2-RBI single from Lee Howard (1st career hit) during the span. The Noles' would claim victory in Game 1 of the season 13-2.
WP: Luke Weaver (1-0)
LP: Jordan Schwartz (0-1)
Brandon Leibrandt (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) got the start on Saturday and turned in an impressive effort as he held Niagara scoreless through 6 frames. The southpaw from Alpharetta, GA was his usual self, spotting his fastball and mixing in a nasty change-up to put batters away. Niagara's Drew Fittry was solid in his own right holding FSU to just 1 hit in 5.1 innings of work. The score remained locked at zero until the bottom of the 6th inning when Brett Knief broke the deadlock with a RBI single to center field plating Justin Gonzalez. Later in the same inning John Nogowski's double to the gap in left center would bring home Knief giving FSU a 2-0 edge. Florida State would add another run in the 7th on a DJ Stewart. Stewart, who would go hitless on the day, saw his 18 game hit streak come to an end. In the 8th FSU and Niagara would trade runs, as FSU would eventually finish the game winning 4-1.
The day also saw Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) make his season debut on the mound, in which Winston would also get the save. Winston entered the game in the 8th with Niagara threatening to score as the Purple Eagles had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Winston would record three consecutive outs to end the Niagara threat. Winston commented on his first appearance in 2014.
"I just wanted to get out there and pitch", said Winston. "So obviously I was excited when they called me down to the bullpen, I was ready."
WP: Brandon Leibrandt (1-0)
LP: Drew Fittry (0-1)
S: Jameis Winston (1)
Florida State headed into Sunday's game looking to sweep the series vs. Niagara. Unlike the first two games the Noles' would make quick work of the Purple Eagles. Mike Compton got the start after missing all 2013 with an elbow injury. The RS Sophomore was fantastic as he pitched 5 innings of shutout ball to receive his first win since the 2012 College World Series against Stony Brook. Compton (5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K) pounded the strike zone using his sinking fastball to force groundout after groundout. Compton was pulled after 80 pitches, due to the fact it was his first live pitching performance in nearly a two years.
At the plate the Seminole bats were blazing, as they would total 15 hits on the day. Led by Justin Gonzalez's (3-3, 1 RBI) three hit performance FSU would score 13 runs en route to a 13-0 win completing the sweep. The Noles' would score two runs in the 3rd via a Jose Brizuela (2-3, 2 RBI) single to right center field plating DJ Stewart and Gonzalez. Florida State would break it open in the 5th as O' Canada was being sung by the Seminole faithful. Brett Knief would highlight the inning with a 2 run single up the middle to score Justin Gonzalez and Josh Delph. When the 5th inning ended Florid State had racked up 8 more runs pushing the lead 10-0. FSU added 3 runs in the 8th as Tallahassee native (and fellow Lincoln High alum may I add) Gage West would deliver his first hit as a Seminole, a towering shot to right field to give FSU a 11-0 lead. West talked about hitting the first Seminole homer of his career.
"I barely remember running the bases it was all a blur", said West. But it was a great experience to hear the crowd react to it, it was awesome."
Casey Smit's 2 RBI double to left center field capped the scoring for the day pushing the lead to 13-0. Neither team scored in the 8th as the game was called to due Niagara's 2:30 PM curfew time to catch a plane home.
WP: Mike Compton (1-0)
LP: Liam Stroud (0-1)
Florida State's starting pitching was the story on the weekend combining to allow just 5 total hits and zero runs in 17 innings pitched. The hype of the off-season was this rotation and they did not disappoint with each starter going at least 5 innings. The bats showed patience all weekend walking 22 times as opposed to only striking out 10 times. FSU outscored Niagara 30-3 over the 3 games and also outhit the Purple Eagles 33-12.
In the field the Seminoles were mostly solid except for the 3 errors committed by Jose Brizuela at 3rd base. I feel that's something to keep an eye on as Casey Smit had a nice weekend all around and was referred to as the team's "6th" man by Assistant Coach Mike Martin Jr. Overall, Niagara had a scrappy team and Florida State showed its experience early in the year on both the mound and at the plate fighting the Purple Eagles off in a few tense moments throughout the series. This was a series FSU was expected to win with ease and they did just that.
Weekend MVP: SS Justin Gonzalez (4-7, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 3 HBP)
Gonzalez was sensational this weekend, as he seemed to get on base with ease throughout the entire series. The Senior Captain walked or was hit by the pitch 8 times and did not strike out once all weekend. Gonzalez was also smooth in the field making some strong throw, including one that would be worthy of a Baseball Tonight "Web Gem". Gonzalez gets the MVP award for the weekend from me.
Florida State will take on the Jacksonville Dolphins today at 4 PM (radio coverage only) followed by a 3 game set against the Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC this coming weekend. The Dolphins had a nice series where they traveled to #23 TCU and were able to avoid a sweep while the Dawgs lost a series to Georgia Southern at home in Athens.