Feb. 22, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nothing is coming easy – or free – for Florida State’s baseball opponents four games into the 2011 season.
The Seminoles improved to 4-0 on the year Tuesday with a 5-3 victory over rival Jacksonville at Dick Howser Stadium, thanks in large part to another outstanding pitching performance. For the third time in four games, Seminole pitchers did not yield a walk, forcing the Dolphins to earn a road win.
Florida State built an early 3-1 lead, added single runs in the fifth and sixth, then held off a late charge by the Dolphins (2-2). Senior right-handed sidearm slinger Daniel Bennett picked up the save with two innings of no-hit work, capped by a called third strike on JU’s Mike Parker for the final out.
“It was a good win against a good club,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “Any time you have gone through an opening weekend like we did, we know how competitive Jacksonville is. It isn’t like a Florida or Miami bout, but at the same time they enjoy beating us and they played extremely well today.”
Making his Florida State debut, junior transfer Gary Merians (1-0) turned in a solid five-inning effort, scattering five hits to go with three strikeouts. The Ocala native, who came to the Seminoles via Santa Fe Community College, did not issue a walk and further showed his mettle by escaping a bases loaded jam in the third with minimal damage.
Trailing 3-0, Jacksonville scored its first run in the third, loading the bases on three consecutive singles off Merians. JU’s Jonathan Murphy followed with a one-hopper back to the mound. Merians fired home to catcher Rafael Lopez for a force out, but FSU first baseman Jayce Boyd couldn’t hang on to Lopez’s throw to first for a would-be double play. That miscue enabled Chris Moye to come around and score from second.
Merians buckled down from there, retiring the next seven batters before yielding a two-out single in the fifth. His day was complete when FSU sophomore left fielder Seth Miller reached over the left field wall to rob Murphy of a game-tying, two-run homer.
“I’ve always wanted to play here,” Merians said. “This is the only place I’ve ever wanted to be. Going out there today was absolutely a dream come true. I was really nervous….
“I was glad to get out of there with a win and it makes it real easy when the defense plays the way they do. All I’ve got to do is let the players hit it at one of them.”
Contributing to the winning cause after a sluggish opening series, Florida State All-American Mike McGee singled, doubled, scored a pair of runs and drove home the Seminoles final run with a sixth inning sacrifice fly. It was his first multi-hit game of the season.
McGee doubled to lead off the fifth and ended the day for Jacksonville starter Chris Kaminski (0-2). Jayce Boyd’s one-out double pushed the Seminoles’ lead to 4-1, with McGee coming around to score the eventual game-winning run.
“I was really proud the way the team stuck with it,” said McGee. “It’s good to get a win like this after the weekend that we had, when we were up by nine constantly. You can lose that fight that we had because you start to maybe think the game is easier than it is. It’s good to get a game like this, where you’re up one or two (runs) and you’ve got to scratch and fight your way to a win, to keep that competitive edge.”
The Seminoles finished with 10 hits, including two from Devon Travis, but the real story was the collaborative efforts of Merians, Hunter Scantling and Bennett on the hill. The trio limited JU to six hits and a single unearned run over nine innings, to go along with eight strikeouts.
Redshirt junior Jack Posey entered the game in relief of Scantling in the eight; his first appearance since June 6, 2009 against Arkansas in the Super Regional. Posey missed the entire 2010 season following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and is still working his way back to form. He was touched for two runs on three hits in the eighth, before handing the ball to Bennett, who took matters into his own hands.
Bennett sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a run-scoring sacrifice fly to escape the eighth and mowed through the Dolphins in order in the ninth.
“Coach (Jamey) Shouppe has really emphasized this year putting pressure on the hitters; pound the (strike) zone early and put pressure on them,” Bennett said. “Hitters definitely take a defensive stance when you go 0-1, 0-2 right off the bat. … That’s just a credit to our whole staff, getting ahead, staying ahead and pitching smart.”
Before the Seminoles turn their attention to a weekend homestand against Hofstra, they will travel to Clearwater, Fla. and Bright House Networks Field to take on the reigning NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday at 1:05 p.m.