Feb. 18, 2011
By Bob Thomas, seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a command pitching performance by Sean Gilmartin, timely hitting and perfect glove work, Florida State opened its 64th baseball season with a 12-0 shutout of VMI, Friday at Dick Howser Stadium.
Gilmartin (1-0) scattered six hits and struck out six in a walk-free performance which delivered the Seminoles their first opening day shutout victory since 1985. On an error-free day featuring a pair of big defensive plays, Mike Martin ushered in his 32nd season at the helm of the Seminoles with his third shutout victory on opening day.
“The zero in the last [error] column excites me as much as the zero our pitching staff did,” said Martin. “It was a well-played baseball game on our part. We had some very good at-bats and certainly some timely hitting.”
The Seminoles broke out the new BBCOR bats with a 12-hit performance, including four doubles, and produced eight two-out runs behind their junior left-hander on the hill. That was more than enough to deliver a 13th consecutive, season-opening win before a crowd of 5,539 sun-splashed fans.
“It was a fun atmosphere; a great crowd,” Martin said. “I don’t know when we’ve had better weather for opening day. … Now that’s over and we’ve got to understand this a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve got to be ready to go tomorrow. We can’t fall in love with what happened today because this game is an everyday affair.”
Still, there was plenty to like about the victory, including the performance of sophomore second baseman Devon Travis in his debut as the leadoff batter. Travis reached base three times in five plate appearances in a 2-for-4 effort, driving in three runs on a pair of two-out doubles.
Junior cleanup hitter James Ramsey added a pair of hits, including a two-run, two-out single in the fourth which pushed Florida State to a 5-0 lead the Keydets never threatened. Jayce Boyd contributed a two-out, two-run double in the third inning and No. 9 hitter Justin Gonzalez scored three times as the veteran Seminoles displayed top-to-bottom productivity.
On a team that lost just two position starters from last season’s College World Series club, Travis had the dubious distinction of filling the void created by Tyler Holt in the leadoff spot.
“For day one that’s not too bad, but it’s just a grind,” said Travis, who worked the count for a walk in his first at-bat. “I’ve kind of learned from Tyler that hitting first is like an art and something that you really have to work at. You have to take pride in taking those borderline pitches. … Being behind Tyler for a full year was huge.”
So was the performance of Gilmartin and FSU relievers Tye Buckley and Mack Waugh, who combined on the six-hit, shutout. FSU registered eight strikeouts without issuing a single free pass. Gilmartin set the tone by pounding the strike zone.
“Tonight I located the fastball in and out pretty well,” said Gilmartin, who notched his second consecutive opening day victory. “That was basically my main focus, to go out there and work off my fastball with the change-up and off-speed stuff.”
“They were very aggressive and a perfect opponent for Sean Gilmartin,” said FSU pitching coach Jamey Shouppe. “If you’re aggressive, he has that perfect change-up that can hold a team in check.
“I’ll take that all year off Sean Gilmartin. What we’ve got to understand as a pitching staff is we can’t walk people. We’ve got a good defense. The play (James Ramsey) made late was just an indication -everybody talks about our infield – but our outfield is pretty good too.”
It took a pair of outstanding defensive plays by FSU’s retooled outfield to preserve the shutout. Ramsey crashed into the right field wall to steal an extra-base hit off the bat of Cody Holder for the second out in the ninth, but the biggest defensive play came in the first.
Florida State senior Stuart Tapley, making his first career start in left field, thwarted VMI’s most serious run-scoring threat in the top of the first inning. Following a pair of two-out singles, VMI’s Jacob Morley followed with a single to left. Tapley came up throwing, firing a perfect one-hop strike to catcher Rafael Lopez, who gathered the ball and tagged out Graham Sullivan to retire the Keydets.
“It was a nice little boost for him (Tapley) and for us,” said Gilmartin, who yielded on three hits over the next six innings. “The whole entire momentum of the game changed on that play. It put everything on our side and we took advantage of it.”
The Seminoles struck first in the second on Travis’ two-out double to right – the first of eight two-out runs on the day – scoring Gonzalez. Boyd’s two-run, two-out double in the third, which followed walks to Ramsey and Seth Miller, gave FSU a 3-0 lead.
“Getting two-out hits are huge,” Travis said. “[The coaches] stress it. When you’re up at the plate with two outs, the first thing they say to you is, `Two-out hits win ballgames.'”
Florida State finished strong with Travis driving home two more runs with his seventh inning, two-out double pushing the lead to 7-0. The `Noles closed with five runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by senior Parker Brunelle’s three-run double. A pair of freshmen – Peter Miller and Sean O’Brien – closed out the scoring with an RBI double and single, respectively.
FSU displayed patience throughout the lineup, working four VMI pitchers for 10 walks; not surprising for a program that has led the nation in walks drawn two of the past three seasons. Seven Seminoles earning free passes came around to score.
Junior left-hander Brian Busch is the scheduled starter on Saturday (2 p.m.) for the Seminoles. VMI will counter with left-hander Jason Farley.