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Noles Suffer Second Heartbreak in ACC Tournament

FSU drops second game of the tournament off another 9th inning solo homerun.

Ryan Syrkus

A day after a deflating loss to No. 7 seed Georgia Tech, Florida State (44-14) came out to face Virginia Tech (37-19) in a must-win situation to remain in the hunt for an ACC Tournament title berth. Paired with the Georgia Tech loss earlier in the day to Virginia, the Seminoles’ need to win-out and have the Yellow Jackets drop their game against the Hokies on Friday. Unfortunately for the Noles, déjà vu would come in a painful way as a solo homerun in the 9th downed Florida State 3-2.

As the away team, FSU got a quick look at VT’s starting pitcher Brad Markey. The Hokie starter would baffle Seminole hitting, or lack thereof, through most of the game. Markey would try to go for the complete game, but fail to finish it off as the Seminoles started to get after him in the 9th. The righty lasted 8.1 innings, giving up six hits and striking out 10. Both runs for FSU were credited to Markey.

Not to be outdone, Florida State starter Luke Weaver went pitch for pitch with Markey. At times, Weaver looked better than Markey. It wasn’t until late in the game that Weaver began to falter. Weaver would exit the game in the 7th after Virginia Tech put up the first runs of the game. The righty would finish the game with 6.1 innings pitched, facing 24 batters. Weaver would get the no-decision, even after tying a career-high nine strikeouts.

The Seminoles had a chance to score the game’s first run in the 6th inning when Seth Miller led off with a single. However, Markey quickly shunned that threat away by getting DJ Stewart to strike out on a 1-2 pitch and Marcus Davis to ground into a fielder’s choice. Stephen McGee would pop out to end the inning, leaving Davis at first base.

The Hokies would get on board first in the 7th inning. Starting with a swinging bunt single from Tyler Horan, Virginia Tech would make sure their leadoff hit would not go to waste. During their following at-bat, VT’s sophomore right fielder Mark Zagunis hit a triple to right center, bringing in Horan. The struggles would continue for Weaver as Andrew Rash brought in Zagunis with a sacrifice fly to left and give the Hokies a 2-0 lead late in the game. Gage Smith would relieve Weaver and close out the inning for the Noles, limiting the damage and giving FSU a chance to come back.

Virginia Tech would threat again in the bottom half of the 8th as Sean Keselica doubled with two outs. Chad Pinder would rip the ball to right field giving Keselica a chance to score from second. Jameis Winston would then unload his right arm with a perfect throw home, getting Keselica and keeping the score 2-0 at the end of the inning.

Looking for a last breath of hope, the Seminoles entered the 9th inning down by two. Leading off, Stephen McGee ripped the ball to left field for a double. John Nogoswki would then ground out to short, advancing McGee to third. Barely able to keep the ball in play, Casey Smith managed to smack a 2-0 pitch down the right field line, bringing in McGee and cutting the score to 2-1 Hokies. Josh Delph would enter the game pinch hitting for Winston as Brett Kneif pinch ran for Smit at second. The changes worked out for the Noles as Delph singled to right and Kneif beat the throw home, tying the game at two. Virginia Tech was unable to get Delph out as the lead runner after Giovanny Alfonzo’s soft roller to second. The Hokies still managed to get Alfonzo out at first and keep FSU within scoring position. John Sansone would then groundout to end the inning for the Seminoles.

With a little more life in them, Florida State went back out in the bottom half of the inning. Smith would remain the pitcher for FSU and get a quick fly out to left field to open the 9th for VT. In another heartbreaking fashion, solo homeruns would doom the Seminoles. Leaving a 2-0 pitch up, Hokies’ Zagunis went deep to left, giving Virginia Tech the walk off 3-2 win over Florida State.

The loss secures FSU a losing record in the ACC Tournament for the second straight year and prevents the Noles from having a chance to play in the title game. Florida State has not won the ACC Tournament title since 2010 when they were the No. 5 seed playing against No. 7 seed NC State.

Florida State will play Virginia in Saturday’s first game in what might determine the pool winner. Virginia Tech has the chance to advance to the title game with a win over Georgia Tech tomorrow. If the Yellow Jackets win, they would then need Virginia to lose in order to advance. The Cavaliers can compete for the title if they win paired with a Hokie loss.