June 1, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Pitching, defense and a little timely hitting was the perfect combination for Florida State (44-15) Friday night as the Seminoles opened the 2012 NCAA Tallahassee Regional with a 2-1 victory over UAB (32-29) on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
“It was obviously a well-played game by both clubs,” said head coach Mike Martin. “It was a game in which I was very pleased with our guys, the way we showed tremendous poise…the play Sherman (Johnson) made. Our program is about pitching and defense and the play Sherman made was right up there with the ones that you remember.”
James Ramsey drove in both runs in the victory, while Sherman Johnson, who walked twice, scored both runs as the Seminoles’ extended their regional win streak to 14 straight. It marked the third time that Ramsey was responsible for driving in all the runs in a game this year.
Gage Smith (4-0) earned the victory in relief as the redshirt sophomore right hander worked 3.2 scoreless innings scattering three hits and one walk while striking out three.
FSU starter Scott Sitz did not factor into the decision as he allowed just one run on six hits in 4.1 innings of work. The junior right hander struck out eight, one shy of his career-high, marking the second most strikeouts in 26 career starts.
Robert Benincasa worked a scoreless ninth inning for his 14th save of the season. The junior right hander moved into sole possession of fourth place for saves in a single-season at Florida State as he picked up his eighth one-run save on the year.
“It was a game that many, many people contributed, which has been the success of this club all year,” added Martin. “It takes all of us to be successful and we got a lot of contributors tonight and we beat a very good baseball team. They really showed me a lot. They are extremely well coached and I was impressed.”
UAB had its chances to score Friday night but were turned away by several spectacular defensive plays by the Seminoles as the Blazers stranded 12 runners on base.
“We played really fundamental baseball today,” said Ramsey. “I remember Devon goes up the middle, keeps the ball in the infield that doesn’t allow them to score a run. Justin and Devon great communication on that double play that’s something we work really hard on in practice. We went back to Florida State baseball and that’s the way it’s going to be from here on out.”
Ryan Prinzing, Ivan De Jesus and Harry Clark each had two hits for the Blazers in the loss.
UAB recorded the first scoring threat of the game in the second after Jeff Schalk registered a walk and moved to second on a two-out infield single by Clark. Sitz would get out of the jam and keep the game scoreless as he got Keith DePew to fly out to right for the third out of the inning.
Delph picked up Florida State’s first hit of the game with a single back up the middle off UAB starter Michael Busby (5-5) in the bottom of the second, but the freshman right fielder was stranded on the base paths as John Holland grounded out to short to retire the side.
The Blazers left two more stranded for the second straight inning as Sitz recorded all three outs in the third on three strikeouts. Prinzing laced a single through the right side and John Frost drew a two-out walk, but Sitz would strikeout Patrick Palmeiro for the second time in as many at-bats to end the inning.
Florida State struck first on an RBI single by Ramsey in the third to give the Seminoles a 1-0 lead. Back-to-back walks issued by Busby to Johnson and Travis would come back to haunt the senior right hander as Ramsey found the hole through the right side to score Johnson from second as the Noles took a one-run lead after three.
Sitz worked out of another jam in the fourth as he received a great defensive play by Travis in the inning to save a run. With Schalk on at second after leading off the inning with a single, DePew hit a bounding ball back up the middle. Travis made a great stop on the ball keeping it from going into the outfield and holding Schalk to just one base. With runners at the corners, Sitz got Tanner Bryant to groundout to third to end the inning.
UAB tied the game at one in the fifth and in the process knocked Sitz from the game after 4.1 innings of work. Prinzing began the inning with a single through the left side and advanced to third on a double down the right field line by De Jesus. Frost would bring home Prinzing for the tying run on an RBI groundout to short. Sitz would throw one more pitch before being relieved by Smith.
Smith got Palmeiro to hit a groundball to Johnson but not before an outstanding defensive effort by the senior third baseman in which he leaped to grab the ball and then threw out De Jesus at the plate to keep the game knotted at one. Smith got out of the inning when Schalk grounded out to second.
“We were in cutting off the run and when he hit it I was just like try to catch it and when I caught it I was like we are in so I have to throw home,” said Johnson. “To be honest with you, I thought he was going to beat it but that was the only play we had. We were in for a reason so I just threw it. When we got the play I realized it was a big play and Gage (Smith) got us out of it.”
The tie was short lived as the Seminoles responded with a run in the bottom of the fifth to retake the lead for good at 2-1. Johnson walked for the second time in the game and scored all the way from first on a two-out double to the gap in left center off the bat of Ramsey.
The defense came through with another outstanding play to save a run in the sixth as Justin Gonzalez turned an inning ending double play. UAB put the first two runners on off Smith on back-to-back singles by Ryan Ussery and Clark. Smith responded by getting DePew swinging on strikes and then Bryant to ground into a double play. Gonzalez made a nice grab on the ball up the middle, stepped on second and threw on to first but not before a nice stretch and scoop by Jayce Boyd at first to complete the double play.
Florida State escaped a bases loaded situation in the seventh to maintain its one-run advantage. Smith registered two quick outs before Frost reached on a bunt single to third. An errant throw kept the inning alive, while a walk to Schalk loaded the bases. But the Seminoles would get out of the jam as Ussery sent a groundball to Gonzalez, who stepped on the bag at second for the final out of the inning.
Florida State returns to the diamond on Saturday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m. as the Seminoles face Samford in a winner’s bracket game of the 2012 Tallahassee Regional. Saturday evening’s game will air live on ESPN2.
Fans can listen to the games locally on 100.7 FM and online at Seminoles.com. Live stats will be available via gametracker, while fans can always receive in-game updates on Twitter @FSU_Baseball.