As you would expect from two of the best teams in the nation tonight's game was close and competitive. Florida State struck first off of ACC Pitcher of the Year Nathan Kirby with a single down the right field line by John Sansone scoring Nogowski after he led off the inning with a single. Freshman Ben Deluzio did not advance to 3rd on a ball hit in the right field corner and this would prove costly as Gonzalez hit a fly ball to center that would have given the Florida State a two run lead. The inning ended with the Noles leading 1-0 after a De la Calle flyout.
The Cavaliers didn't wait long to strike back as they jumped on Luke Weaver who started out strong looking perfect through the first two innings. A 32 pitch third inning which included two walks, a two run homerun and a run scoring single would give Virginia a three run lead. It was an odd night for Weaver as he looked brilliant at times and completely off at others. Weaver would end up pitching 6 innings allowing 6 hits and 4 runs with a season high 4 walks and 6 strikeouts. His performance tonight is not overly concerning given the circumstances of this game and how he has pitched over the course of the entire season.
Innings four through six were pretty uneventful as both pitchers worked quickly and hitters appeared to be aggressive. The Noles started the 7th inning with a strikeout from Sansone and then back to back walks to Gonzalez and De la Calle, a wild pitch and fielders choice later would make it a 4-2 game. Back to back singles from Stewart and Nogowski would tie the game and the Seminoles would take a 5-4 lead on another single off the bat from Jose Brizuela.
Gage Smith pitched a perfect 7th inning but ran into trouble in the 8th after striking out the first batter of the inning, he allowed back to back singles but another freshman mistake from Deluzio in center would allow runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out. Smith would be replaced by Jameis Winston who allowed a line drive shot to the left side but it was snagged by Gonzalez who went completely horizontal catching the ball and throwing it to second doubling off the Cavs and ending the inning.
Florida State would add another run in the 8th inning with a bases loaded sacrifice fly off the bat of Casey Smit giving the Noles a 6-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Winston would have no problems closing out the game as he recorded two strikeouts to end the game and give the Seminoles the victory. It was a great comeback win against one of the best teams in the country.
The Seminoles will be awarded a regional host tomorrow night and a national seed on Monday night when they find out what teams will be in their regional. Stay tuned as we will have you covered all week with previews of each team.
Game 2, Florida State 3, Maryland 5
It was two great starting pitchers through the first two and a half innings of the game, Compton pitched around a couple of two out hits and Shawaryn was perfect. The bottom of the third is where the wheels came off for the Noles, two fielding errors both by Gonzalez, a miscalled hit by pitch, a missed swinging strike three, an intentional walk and two hits mixed in left Florida State with a four run deficit.
The story of the game though was the starting pitching by Mike Shawaryn who for the second time this season stifled the Seminoles bats. It wasn't until two outs in the fifth inning when Ben DeLuizo broke up the perfect game with an infield single. The threat was quickly ended when Sansone popped out to end the inning. Shawaryn was tremendous this game, he was in complete control and had great command of his pitches. Florida State would threaten in the 6th but Nogowski popped out with the bases loaded and De la Calle flew out with two runners on in the 7th swinging on the first pitch after the previous two batters walked. He was removed next inning for Ladson Montgomery.
Florida State would fight back in the 8th inning as the top of the lineup led off the inning with a walk, single and a walk. A wild pitch plated the Noles first run of the game and then Nogowski would make it a 5-2 game with a single. With runners on the corners the umpires made another crucial error as they missed an obvious balk. Another run would score on another wild pitch and Florida State still had a chance to tie it up after a DeLuizo walk put runners at 1st and 2nd with one out. The inning would come to an end on back to back strikeouts (looking) from John Sansone and Justin Gonzalez; those two have now accounted for 29% of the teams strikeouts this season. Umpiring in college baseball is bad but it was absolutely horrid today and I am not just saying that because the Noles were on the unfortunate end. Very obvious calls were missed and the strike zone was inconsistent and completely ridiculous.
It was just one of those days for the Seminoles offense, for as great as they looked Tuesday night they looked completely off balance and out of synch today. You have to give credit to Maryland though, Shawaryn finished the day just allowing two singles, while striking out six and walking three over seven innings. Forget about this game and move on, it does not change the fact that they will earn a national seed come Monday. The Noles still have one of the best offenses in the country, what they have done throughout the majority of the season carries more weight then what happened today.
Not to be lost in the defeat was the pitching from Mike Compton who wasn't as sharp as previous starts but was solid when keeping the ball down in the zone. He finished the day with 6.1 innings issuing two walks, one intentional and striking out three. Compton is always a guy who pitches to contact but allowing four of the seven hits allowed to go for extra bases isn't ideal. He left with one out in the seventh and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Dylan Silva would relieve him and only allow a sacrifice fly giving Maryland a 5-0 lead. He went on to face six batters, striking out three of them, walking one and allowing zero hits.
Florida State plays again tomorrow against Virginia and still has a shot to make the title game on Sunday. They would need a UNC win tonight against UVA and another win against Maryland tomorrow. That would cause a three way tie between Florida State, Maryland and North Carolina with the tie-breaker going to the Noles because they hold the best conference record.
Game 1 - Florida State 7, North Carolona 1
The game started off perfectly for Florida State as Billy Strode struck out the first batter of the game on three pitches. It took just nine pitches for the lefty to work through the first and ten for him to work through the second. The senior was dominant early and it wasn't until the 4th inning of the game that North Carolina registered their first hit, an opposite field single to right.
Florida State would jump out in front first in the second inning thanks in part to a two out single from Justin Gonzalez through the left side of the infield that scored DeLuizio from second. The Noles would strike again with three runs in the fourth inning as Danny De la Calle doubled which plated two runs after Sansone and Gonzalez both walked on four straight pitches. A fielders choice by Delph would drive in the fourth run of the game for the Florida State which was followed up by a single from from Smit giving the Noles a five run lead at the end of four.
Going into the game head coach Mike Martin was hoping his starting pitcher could give him five innings. Strode was up to the challenge as he pitched 6 innings allowing only four hits, all singles, while striking out a career high five batters and more importantly walked none. With the return of Brandon Leibrandt and Bryant Holtmann unknown it was great to see Strode pitch as well as he did tonight. If Strode can give Florida State just a few quality innings as the third starter there is no reason the Noles can't make a legitimate run at a title.
With a five run lead and only at 71 pitches Strode was lifted in the seventh inning for Gage Smith, the side armed righty allowed allowed the first two batters two reach via ground balls that were just out of reach of the infielders. A fielders choice and a grounder through the left side gave the Tar Heels their first and only run of the night. Smith would induce his fifth ground ball to as many batters and end the inning with a double play. UPDATE: Martin said postgame the Strode was pulled early so that he is available again this week if needed. This is understandable but using Smith and Winston like he did still doesn't make sense.
Justin Gonzalez continued to have a great night as he led off the 6th inning with a homerun to left that was absolutely crushed and was a no doubter the instant it left the bat. John Nogowski would hit his fifth homerun of the season leading off the seventh as he turned on a 3-2 pitch up in the zone and sent it sailing into left field.
Inexplicably, Gage Smith would come back out to pitch the 8th inning for the Seminoles, with two maybe three more games left in the tournament plus a lot of postseason ball left to play there is absolutely zero reason that Smith should have been extended more than one inning. Adding to the frustration was Martin's decision to pitch Winston with a six run lead in the ninth. While I understandable that Martin wants his relievers to get work Winston did pitch twice last weekend and there is a great chance that Winston will have opportunities the rest of the tournament. To pitch him tonight seemed unnecessary.
The Seminoles looked extremely sharp tonight and played a complete game defeating the Tar Heels by a 7-1 score. The fielding, baserunning, pitching and plate approach was excellent, if they can continue this they will be very tough to beat moving forward. Florida State has Thursday off to prepare for Maryland on Friday and Virginia on Saturday.