TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Fifth-ranked Florida State scored two runs in the first inning, the second of which proved to be the game-winner, en route to an 11-1 win over visiting Xavier to open the 2018 season. Friday’s victory at Dick Howser Stadium was the Seminoles’ (1-0) 36th on Opening Day over the past 39 seasons.
“Definitely a better start this year,” head coach Mike Martin said. “I was proud of how the young men approached the game. Had some key hits, but we had some outstanding pitching.”
Florida State scored five runs over the first three innings and led 9-0 before Xavier broke up the shutout with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. That run was unearned, giving the FSU pitching staff an unblemished earned run average through one game. Starting pitcher Tyler Holton allowed just one hit over 4.2 innings, but left before finishing the fifth with muscle tightness. Martin said after the game that Holton will undergo an MRI before making any further decisions.
Redshirt junior Andrew Karp entered after Holton’s exit and pitched 1.1 innings, striking out two hitters, to earn the win. Sophomore Clayton Kwiatkowski allowed a hit in the seventh inning and struck out two, while redshirt junior Cobi Johnson pitched the final two innings, allowing one hit and striking out four. Johnson’s appearance was his first since mid-2016 after missing the 2017 season with an elbow injury.
“I’m so happy to be able to compete again and be pain-free on the mound,” Johnson said. “I can be myself again.”
FSU drew 10 walks in the game, with four coming in 1.1 innings against Xavier starter Trevor Olson (0-1). Three sophomores – Drew Mendoza, Nick Derr and J.C. Flowers – tallied two hits each, while Flowers and true freshman Reese Albert each earned two of the Noles nine RBI.
FSU scored two runs in the first on just one hit thanks to a bases loaded walk and a passed ball. In the second, graduate transfer Rafael Bournigal singled in his first at-bat as a Seminole and scored on junior Jackson Lueck’s RBI single. Junior Mike Salvatore scored on Rhett Aplin’s sacrifice fly.
Derr’s second career home run made the score 5-0 FSU after three innings.
“I was anxious in my first at-bat,” Derr said. “That second at-bat, I tried to slow everything down. I was looking for a fastball away, it was a good pitch to hit, and I took a hack.”
FSU had all the run support it would need at that point. Holton allowed just one fifth-inning single and a walk in his outing, striking out six in 4.2 innings before leaving with the injury.
In the sixth, Xavier reliever Sam Czabala allowed four runs, including two-run singles from Flowers and Albert, who entered that inning in place of Steven Wells.
Johnson pitched the final two innings, hitting 93 on the radar gun while striking out four of seven batters faced.
“That’s so encouraging for all of us,” Martin said of Johnson. “He’s a great man, a great student majoring in engineering. He goes out there every day and does his work…weather warmed up a little bit, so did his velocity.”
After getting just one hit in last season’s opener, the Seminoles scored a pair of runs in the opening frame tonight. Rhett Aplin scored on a passed ball by Xavier catcher Nate Soria, making the score 2-0.
– As a team, FSU hit 13-for-35.
– Nick Derr’s third-inning home run was his first of the season and second of his career. His first career home run came last year against Jacksonville.
– After leading the NCAA with 396 walks in 2017 (5.7 per game), FSU drew 10 Friday against Xavier.
– Freshman Reese Albert entered for Steven Wells in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs and two runners on base, Albert singled to right field for his first career hit and first career runs batted in. Senior Rafael Bournigal, freshman Cooper Swanson and redshirt freshman Jared Herron also recorded their first career hits for FSU in their first plate appearance.
– Xavier finished 0-for-10 with runners on base.
FSU’s win was head coach Mike Martin’s 1,945th of his career. He needs just 31 more to become the winningest coach in college baseball history. He currently trails only Augie Garrido (1,975 wins).
Game two between Florida State and Xavier will take place Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Dick Howser Stadium. Junior righthander Cole Sands will pitch for FSU, while the Musketeers will throw freshman lefthander Nick Zwack.