May 30, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
Florida State opened regional play Friday night in Tallahassee by downing intra-state rival Jacksonville (32-29) 6-0 in front 5,440 fans at Dick Howser Stadium. Senior Matt Lynch, a Ft. Pierce, FL native, was dominant for the top-seeded Seminoles (51-10-1) as he improved to 13-3 on the season by throwing his first shutout of 2003. Jerrod Brown led FSU at the plate going 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a home run. The win was Florida State’s 10th straight opening round victory in regional play and marked the 17th time in 18 years FSU has opened NCAA postseason play with a win.
“Obviously, I am very, very proud of each and every one on of our players, the way we got it done. I feel very excited right now. That was a big win for us,” said Florida State head coach Mike Martin. “When you have a bunch of winners you don’t hesitate doing what you feel needs to be done in a situation. These young men worked very hard at the bunting game. I thought that getting on the board quickly like we did was a big lift for our baseball team.”
Lynch had his best outing of the year as he pitched his first complete game, recorded his first shutout and allowed only three hits, equaling a season-best, which came in six innings versus Charleston Southern February 28. The southpaw has now gone 22.2 innings without allowing a run. After giving up a two-out double in the first, the leftie retired 21 straight batters before an eighth-inning double ended the run. Overall, Lynch struck out eight Dolphins and didn’t allow a single walk.
“We ran into a buzz saw tonight. Lynch was as good as you can possibly be. He had great command and fell behind very few hitters,” said Jacksonville head coach Terry Alexander. “I think it was more of a great performance by him (Lynch) than it was a poor performance by us.”
“Early in the game I was able to get ahead with my slider, and once I did that, I was working my fastball and getting a ball or two off the plate, and once Tony (Richie) caught a hold of that, I just went from there,” said Lynch. “Everything was just clicking after that. I just wanted to give our team a win and get this weekend started correctly.”
Florida State scored early as the national number one seed jumped on top of Jacksonville 1-0. Shortstop Bryan Zech started the home half of the first off by doubling to right field, his ninth two-bagger of the year. Zech advanced to third on a groundout and then came home on Tony Richie’s double to center field. The RBI was the junior catcher’s 70th of the season.
In the bottom of the second, Florida State added another run. For the second consecutive inning, FSU recorded a lead-off hit as Chris Hart started the bottom of the frame with a single. After moving up to second on a passed ball, Hart advanced to third on Daniel Wardell’s sac bunt. The Seminoles then tried to squeeze the run home as Matt Sauls laid down the bunt. JU was unable to get Hart out at the plate as the throw from starter Darren Truty (6-6) sailed past home plate. The suicide squeeze put the Seminoles up 2-0.
Zech led off the third with another lead-off hit, this time a single. He was followed by Richie who recorded his second hit of the game as the catcher’s single put runners on first and second with one out. Jerrod Brown then knocked a two-out single into left plating Hart and adding to the FSU lead. It was the third straight inning FSU’s lead-off hitter reached base and came around to score.
The Seminoles broke the game open in the fifth as they added three more runs on a Blake Balkcom double and Brown’s fourth home run of the year. The rally started with two outs as Richie registered his third hit, this one a single to right. It was Richie’s fourth three-hit game in his last six outings. Balkcom then laced a double down the right field line plating Richie with the Tribe’s fourth run. The hit extended the junior’s hit streak to 17 games. Brown followed Balkcom by going yard as he launched a shot over the 30 foot wall down the right field line. The two-run homer put FSU in front 6-0.
Florida State next faces South Alabama Saturday, May 31 at 3:00 p.m. in a winner’s bracket game. The Seminoles lead the all-time series with the Jaguars 32-24-1. Jacksonville and Rutgers will fight for their postseason life tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. The two schools have played once before and the Dolphins hold a 1-0 lead in the series.