May 24, 2006
Jacksonville, FL – Sixth-seeded FSU may not have had the chance to see ACC Player of the Year Sean Doolittle (11-1) during the regular season but after the opening game of the 2006 Baseball Championships, the Seminoles hope it is another before they have to see the Virginia sophomore again. The Cavalier ace struck out nine Florida State batters and allowed just one run in six innings of work as third-seeded Virginia (45-12) downed FSU (39-18) 6-2 Wednesday. It was the first opening round loss in the ACC Tournament for FSU since 1994.
“Well from our standpoint it was just a situation where Sean Doolittle was extremely impressive,” said FSU Head Coach Mike Martin. “He just did a great job spotting his pitches. He kept us off balance. You have to credit the great job he did.”
Florida State out hit the Cavaliers in the first meeting of the year between the teams but it was Virginia baseball at its finest that helped the Hoos cruise to the victory. UVA knocked in two runs on sac flies, the Cavs swiped five bases and they did not commit an error.
“Virginia does so much right,” said Martin. “They are the epitome of a team that does not beat themselves. They’re a well coached baseball team. I am very impressed with their staff.”
“We knew going in they were a team that scrapped for all their runs just like we do,” said FSU starter Bryan Henry of the Cavalier offense. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight and that’s exactly what it was. They came out on top this time.”
It wasn’t just Doolittle that did the job against the Seminole hitters. Three Cavalier pitchers combined to limit FSU to just two runs and the UVA staff struck out 15 Seminoles, a new season high. The three hurlers issued just one walk as well.
“Their pitching and some of our lack of aggressiveness with two strikes,” said Martin when asked about the why his team struck out 15 times. “I don’t know how many (of the strikeouts) were taking but 15 strikeouts are too much.”
Henry pitched into the eighth inning for the third time in his last four starts but he was saddled with the loss as his record fell to 9-3. The junior walked three and did not record a strikeout in a game he started for the first time since his first career outing March 6, 2005 versus Hawaii-Hilo. He was charged with all six runs, five of which were earned.
“I was just so pleased with Brian Henry and the guts he showed out there,” said Martin. “He fought to keep this ball club in the game. He just kind of ran out of gas in the eighth inning but did a great job of competing. That has been his M.O. for the two years he has pitched at Florida State. If this team is able to get to the next level of play, (Henry) will certainly have the ball.”
“I felt good,” said Henry. “I went out there and just let them put the ball in play. My defense worked great behind me. We battled all day. They found a couple holes here and there, they ball bounced their way a few times. That’s the game of baseball. We fought the whole time. That is all we can do.”
The first batter for each team kind of summed up the way things were going to go in the opening game of the ACC Tournament. Shane Robinson smoked a Doolittle pitch that was snared by shortstop Greg Miclat who dove to his right to make a catch that was worthy of web gem status. FSU followed by striking out and fouling out to end the top of the first. On the other side, the first Virginia batter lined one right back to Henry that hit off his glove and rolled meekly to short for a single. A steal, a bunt and a sac fly followed putting the Cavs up early.
“The first play of the game was one of those where you go dad-gum that was a big time play,” said Martin of the diving stab by Miclat. “Then he gets up to the plate and racks a ball right back up the middle on a good fastball and you’re impressed with him.”
FSU put runners on the corners with two away in the top of the third as Travis Anderson started the inning with a bunt single. After Doolittle fanned the next two hitters, a Robinson single put the tying run 90 feet away but Doolittle K’ed his seventh batter to keep UVA in front.
A one out double and an error put the Cavs back in business in the bottom of the third. Another sacrifice fly brought in the second run of the game.
Ryne Malone rocketed a two out double off the wall in right with two outs in the fourth as FSU looked for its first run of the game. Malone moved to third on a wild pitch but for the second time in four innings FSU left the runner standing 90 feet from home.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth. Brandon Guyer sent a 1-1 Henry offering over the fence in left field. It was just the fourth homer allowed all season by the junior.
The second Seminole error of the day helped the Cavaliers plate the fourth run. After back-to-back walks, the first two of the day, an errant throw on a double steal put Virginia into a commanding 4-0 lead.
Doolittle’s shutout bid came to an end in the sixth inning. Jack Rye sent a 2-1 offering into the seats in right field. It was his team-leading 12th homer of the year.
Robinson got FSU a little closer in the eighth. The junior was hit by a Michael Schwimmer pitch. He then swiped second and third, moving him into second place on the all-time steals list at FSU. Buster Posey then got a key two-out single to bring the run home and make in 4-2. A Dennis Guinn double put runners on second and third. With the tying run in scoring position, ace closer Casey Lambert entered the game. The leftie got Ryne Malone swinging for the 14th K of the day for the Cavalier pitching staff.
“I thought the sequence Lambert used with Malone in the eighth inning was baseball at its best,” said Martin. “He threw three fastballs with two strikes, which surprised me so I know it surprised Malone. His best pitch seems to be the breaking ball. Then after the three fastballs with a 3-2 count he breaks off a curveball for strike three. That is baseball at its best. My hat goes off to him on that.”
Virginia really broke the game open in the eighth. A single and a walk followed by a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third. After reliever Brian Chambers intentionally walked David Adams to load the bases, a single brought in two more runs as the Cavaliers moved out to a 6-2 lead.
Florida State continues play at the 2006 ACC Tournament Thursday. The Seminoles will play an elimination game at 10:00 a.m. versus either NC State or North Carolina.
“It is not somewhere we have never been but it is going to be a monumental task,” said Martin of playing out of the loser’s bracket. “It is not one that’s impossible. We know it is going to be difficult with the level of teams that are here.”
The game time is 10:00 a.m. and the opponent will be the loser of the NC State/North Carolina game being played right now. Tickets for the tournament can be purchased on line at www.sunsbaseball.com or by calling (904) 358-2846.