Billy Zane once said it best in the movie Zoolander: It's a walk-off!
After 13 grueling innings of baseball, during the second game of a doubleheader, Jose Brizuela sent one to the opposite field, bringing across the game-winning run as the Noles won, 9-8, to sweep a top-5 NC State team.
Where do I begin?
There were five lead changes during this game, not including the first score, so that's what you would call a barn-burner.
After Trea Turner unloaded one into the left field foul pole giving the Wolfpack the early 1-0 lead, the Noles responded in the bottom of the second inning as they went on to tally four runs. Brett Knief, who finished the game 2-for-2 from the plate, would send a monster shot of his own into the scoreboard in left to tie the game, 1-1. And after a RBI double by Sansone and a 2 RBI single by De La Calle, the Noles had what seemed to be a commanding lead.
"That was certainly something that you truly enjoy no matter what time of the year it is," head coach Mike Martin said. "As a coach, it makes me proud to be a Seminole and part of a group that will not be satisfied and will continue to fight. What a great win that was in the manner that we got it done."
It just wasn't Mike Compton's day on Saturday as the Wolfpack hit him and hit him hard through 4.1 innings pitched, in which he allowed six runs on nine hits. Billy Strode would eventually come in to finish out the fifth inning, but the damage was done and the Wolfpack had the 6-4 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
The resilient Noles would again respond, though, as John Nogowski singled up the middle to cut the Pack's lead to just one, and Jose Brizuela's RBI double again tied the game, 6-6, as they headed into the sixth inning.
"This team never stops fighting," Nogowski said. "For us to play the way we did against a top-ten team is definitely a statement."
After Taylor Blatch retired the Pack in the top of the sixth, the Noles struck again. Ben DeLuzio led things off with a single to center, then quickly stealing second base to get a runner in scoring position. And Justin Gonzalez's double down the left field line would give Florida State the 7-6 lead.
It didn't last long.
Blatch would allow one hit before the call went out to the Florida State bullpen to bring out Gage Smith -- his third appearance in two days -- to keep NC State from causing anymore ruckus. But a fielder's choice eventually brought the tying run across for the Pack, making it 7-7.
"One of the perks of throwing down under like a girl is that you don't really get tired," Smith said jokingly, "but my arm is fine. I can throw every day. I knew I'd be good for an inning or two and coach Bell told me to be ready to go, too."
The next five innings would remain scoreless, but wouldn't lack excitement.
Jameis Winston made his way to the mound in the ninth inning and would strikeout the side in consecutive innings, giving life to Dick Howser Stadium after a really long day. Winston refused to give up a run during his 3 innings pitched, allowing only two hits and striking out seven batters, keeping the NC State bats silent.
"We were not going to go anymore with Jaboo," Martin said, "we semi stretched it. But he did exactly what we wanted him to do and had a quick inning."
Florida State's best chance may have come in the tenth inning where they had runners on first and second with one out and decided to have true freshman Gage West pinch hit for senior Casey Smit -- a move I still don't agree with. But it didn't work out as a pair of strikeouts would end that threat.
Kenny Burkhead took the mound for the Noles in the final two innings, striking out three batters of his own.
But in the top of the thirteenth inning, North Carolina State would again stick a one-run dagger in the hearts of every Florida State fan after a RBI single by Andrew Knizner would bring across the go-ahead and potentially game-winning run across the plate for the Pack.
The top of the lineup for Florida State was up for Florida State, though, and they wouldn't disappoint. Justin Gonzalez and DJ Stewart would both single, followed by a beautifully executed bunt-single by Josh Delph, and the bases were loaded for the Seminoles with only one out.
"It definitely gives you the confidence that they're not going to go up there and do something out of the ordinary," Martin said about having the top of the order due up in that situation. "They've been in this arena many times."
John Nogowski would come through -- as he had all weekend -- with a sac-fly RBI to left field to bring across the game-tying run for the Noles, But it was Jose Brizuela, who jumped on the very next pitch, that would send the Wolfpack home without a win with his first career walk-off.
"I just didn't wanna get stumbled on because I'm a little guy," Brizuela laughed about running into center field with his team to celebrate, "but someone was choking me. Couldn't breath for a couple seconds, but I'm fine. I knew it was good as soon as I hit it."
The Noles definitely made a statement against NC State, not only sweeping a top-5 squad, but beating them in the fashion that they did, scoring 23 runs over a three game span. They also toppled Carlos Rodon, a future first round pick who had never lost to FSU.
*Ben DeLuzio continues to improve at the plate, and I'm not just talking about his base hits, his line outs, too.
*I'm not with the whole weird X-factor thing, but Jameis Winston coming in for 3 innings -- two of which were extra -- and striking out seven batters is ridiculous. Has still only given up one run in 10.2 innings pitched.
*John Nogowski had a helluva weekend, seemed to be swinging the bat really well.
SATURDAY - GAME 1 RECAP:
The Florida State Seminoles tallied runs in chunks Saturday afternoon during the first game of their doubleheader against visiting NC State as they went on to win, 8-2, and are now looking for the sweep.
It wasn't the start to the day that Brandon Leibrandt was hoping for as he walked the lead-off hitter, eventually giving up a run on Trea Turner's RBI double to right-center field, giving NC State the early 1-0 lead.
Leibrandt, though, would soon find his rhythm during his next trip to the mound in the top of the second inning, striking out the side to set the tone that would continue throughout the game. Catching batters off-balance with his nasty change-up, Leibrandt went on to throw 5.1 innings, allowing only one run on six hits and striking out eight.
While Leibrandt kept NC State silent at the plate, Ben DeLuzio, who finished the day 2-for-5 with 2 RBI, decided it was the perfect situation for his first home run as a Seminole, sending a solo shot over the left field fence to tie the game, 1-1.
Florida State would run into trouble in the top of the fifth after a misplayed ball hit towards second(still baffles me) and a poorly fielded sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners with only one out. But the Florida State pitching staff continues to field their position well as Leibrandt would ruin an attempted safety squeeze by NC State -- second of the series, keeping the game tied, 1-1.
The Noles wouldn't be so kind in the bottom of that inning as they went on to load the bases and send the Wolfpack's starting pitcher, Logan Jernigan, to the dugout after 4.1 innings. Lefty reliever, D.J. Thomas, entered the game and immediately hit Brizuela to load the bases.
Then came the four-run onslaught.
Brett Knief, pinch hitting for Casey Smit, singles to the left side giving Florida State the 2-1 lead. John Nogowski, who finished the day tying his career high for hits going 3-for-3 from the plate, would follow with a RBI single to the left side bringing across two more runs for Florida State, with another coming across on an errant throw from the outfield that ended up in the dugout to give FSU the 5-1 lead.
Again, in the seventh inning, Ben DeLuzio came up big with a RBI single to center, reaching second on the throw home -- he would shortly steal third base. Then, Gage West, hitting for Josh Delph, would fly out to shallow center field giving DeLuzio a chance to show off his speed, which he did, as he made it safely across home plate making it 7-1 FSU. DJ Stewart would follow suit with a RBI single of his own to give FSu their eighth and final run.
Gage Smith and Dylan Silva would combine for 3.2 solid relief innings, giving up only three hits and one run(given up by Silva in the ninth inning), as they sealed the 8-2 victory for Florida State.
It was a pitcher's duel in every sense of the phrase Friday night as 2013 Team USA teammates, Luke Weaver and Carlos Rodon, took to the hill, divvying up eight of the first twelve outs to jump-start their strikeout totals.
It was Weaver, though, and a stubborn Florida State that took the lead and refused to give it back as they went on to win, 6-1, giving Rodon his first loss against the Noles.
"We knew it was going to be one of those low scoring games when you have to do a lot of things right to be successful," Florida State head coach Mike Martin said, "and our guys certainly did that. We know how difficult it is to win when you're facing a Carlos Rodon, an outstanding pitcher."
It wouldn't be until the fifth inning that the 4,504 Florida State faithful would see the first run come across the plate for NC State on a hard hit ball to the right side, which Nogowski was unable to handle.
But the Noles wouldn't wait long to strike back, when in the bottom of that very same inning, redshirt senior Justin Gonzalez, who finished the night with two RBI, tripled off the wall in deep right-center field bringing across the game tying run for the Noles. D.J. Stewart would follow with a RBI single giving Florida State the 2-1 lead, and they wouldn't look back.
"I've thought a lot of balls were gone that I've hit this year," Gonzalez said with chuckle, "but the way things have been going I just decided to start with my head down and just run as fast as I could. I was close, but I was just happy we got the run across."
Gage Smith would eventually make his way to the mound in relief of Weaver in the top of the seventh inning -- runners on first and second, one out -- and he would get the 1-6-3 double play to end it unscathed, keeping the 2-1 lead.
Weaver finished his night after 6.1 innings, striking out seven and only allowing one run.
But Weaver impressed on defense, too, beautifully fielding two intended sacrifice bunts for put-outs at third base and home plate, respectively, keeping the Wolfpack lead to only one after the fifth inning.
"Giving Carlos Rodon two runs," Martin said, "that would have been very difficult. When they had a runner on third they surprised us with that bunt and Luke just made a big time play bouncing off the mound and getting the guy at the plate."
Rodon threw a season high 125 pitches against the Noles, recording twelve strikeouts and allowing two runs, and continued to pitch a gem until he was pulled in the seventh inning after striking out consecutive batters with empty bags. But his relievers would not fare so well.
The three relievers that followed Rodon would give up five hits and four more runs in only 1.1 innings, putting the game out of reach for the visiting club.
Kenny Burkhead would come in for the ninth inning, keeping the Wolpack bats at bay and sealing the victory for the Seminoles. Danny De La Calle and John Nogowski each tallied a pair of hits during Friday's contest.
Florida State and North Carolina State are slated to play a double header Saturday, with the first pitch of the day scheduled for 1 p.m. The second game will follow 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
*John Sansone played stellar defense at second base on Friday, slowing what could have been detrimental rallies for NC State.
*Watching Weaver field those bunts reminded me of when DeLuzio referenced Luke as the second fastest player on the team. He got to those balls in a hurry.
*Gage Smith is incredibly underrated. I realize he's appreciated, but man, there's no stage too big for that kid. Love it.
*Also, they decided to let the guys swing away tonight and not bunt every chance they got.