Feb. 6, 2005
Tallahassee, FL – The 18th-ranked Florida State baseball team completed its second straight sweep to start the season with a dominant 15-0 win in the series finale with VMI (0-3) Sunday. It is only the fourth time in program history that FSU has started a season with back-to-back sweeps of three-game series. Three FSU pitchers combined on the first shutout of the season and freshman Ruairi O’Connor recorded one of FSU’s season high 13 hits, which also happened to be the first Seminole home run of the season. Junior Barret Browning (1-0) picked up the win as FSU moved out to 6-0, its best start since 1999.
“It is exciting to see the way these young guys are playing,” said head coach Mike Martin. “It is fun to see people get better each day they come out. It is fun to see guys that haven’t started get a chance to play and have good games. I am just excited and pleased about how this team preformed today. We are off to a good start.”
The Florida State offense not only equaled a season high in hits, the 15 runs were the most scored so far in 2005. Overall, FSU either set or tied six single game season highs offensively in the game. Nine different players recorded RBIs and the first two home runs of the season were hit by O’Connor and back-up catcher sophomore Danny Diaz.
“You expect (Ryne) Malone or (Gibbs) Chapman to go deep but Ruairi and I can swing the bat as good as the rest of them,” said Diaz. “There is no weakness on this team up and down the line-up. We are a deep team.”
Eleven different Seminoles recorded a hit Sunday with Shane Robinson leading the way again going 3-for-4 with another RBI. He upped his team leading batting average to .565. Danny Wardell, Diaz and O’Connor each recorded multi-RBI games. The Seminoles are now averaging over eight runs a game in their first six outings and the team is batting .309.
While the FSU offense was cruising, the pitching staff was matching them inning by inning. The Seminole staff recorded its first shutout of the season and lowered the team ERA to 1.83. Browning had another impressive outing as the junior upped his scoreless innings streak to 9.1 while picking up the first win of his FSU career. Browning is the only FSU starter to not allow a run in any appearance.
“I have never been the type of person that is worried about my individual stats,” said Browning. “It is a great feeling to be successful and have good stats but the thing that sticks out most to me is we got a win today. That is all that matters. It is encouraging to come out and have good outings but in the end all that matters is that the team wins.”
“We like the way Barret threw the majority of the time today,” said Martin. “I think he walked four, which is not what we are looking for. He did show a lot of poise in getting out of a jam. He has a very live arm he is a good competitor and I am anxious to see how he improves each week.”
The FSU coaches also got their first chance to see Hunter Jones as the left-hander made his first appearance since a season-ending injury in 2004. The junior pitched three innings without allowing a hit or a walk while fanning three batters.
“It felt great to get back out there,” said Jones who was one of FSU’s top starters in 2004. “I am ready to get back out there and do it again. Everybody was joking around with me that I couldn’t get it over 80 anymore but today I finally felt like I used to. Hopefully I keep progressing and hitting my spots.”
“Hunter is going to make the other club beat him,” said Martin. “He is not going to go out and walk a lot of people. He spots the fastball very well normally. I thought today he was just excited to be Hunter Jones. That is the first time I have seen him throw like himself in almost a year. As a freshman he led our team in appearances and last year his was No. 1 in our rotation the majority of the year. We are excited that he is healthy.”
Like every FSU starter this season, Browning got off to a good start and needed just four pitches to record the first two outs of the game but a hit batter and a bloop double down the right field line put two VMI base runners in scoring position. The junior leftie got out of trouble though as designated hitter Jacoby Fields got caught looking at strike three to end the threat.
Brant Peacher continued his hot hitting from Saturday when he started the second inning off by doubling into left field. VMI starter Mike Anton (0-1) then hurt his own cause when he threw two balls away going to first base, both allowing FSU runs to score. Robinson then recorded his second hit of the game as his single to center field scored the Seminoles’ third run of the inning.
Browning got into some trouble in the top of the third. The junior issued three walks, two to start off the inning, to load the bases for VMI but a slow roller back to the mound ended the threat keeping the shutout in tact.
“Just like everyday, I put my trust in my defense and I just tried to throw strikes,” said Browning. “I just tried to bear down and get through that inning with as little damage as possible.”
The Seminoles added to their lead in the fourth. After new VMI pitcher Jimmy Thoms got the first two outs, Robinson recorded his third hit of the day and the second on an infield smash. Gibbs Chapman then scored the speedy left fielder on a double to deep right.
The Garnet and Gold bats came to life in a big way in the bottom of the fifth as the Seminoles added four more runs on five hits. Ryne Malone started things off with an extra base hit as he recorded his third double of the year. After Peacher was retired, Bryan Henry doubled off the wall and was followed by Tony Thomas, Jr. who singled. O’Connor, making his first start of the season, then came up and hit the first home run of the season for FSU as he blasted a 1-0 pitch off the scoreboard in left field.
“It was a great feeling,” said O’Connor. “I can’t even explain what I was feeling coming around the bases. I got a curtain call, wow. It was an even better feeling to go 6-0 and have us come out of the weekend healthy. It was a great day to play in front of our great fans.
“My first at bat their pitcher threw me a slider and a fastball in. The second at bat he did the same thing and I was looking for it. I happened to get my barrel on it and it went out. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
In the sixth, FSU went looking to bolster its lead. Three walks, sandwiched around one out, loaded the bases against VMI pitcher John Goode. Pinch hitter Nick Francis reached on an error at third allowing two more runs to score and bolstering the FSU lead to 10-0.
The offensive onslaught continued for Florida State in the seventh. New pitcher Alex Di Dio hit and walked the first two batters and new left fielder Danny Wardell plated them both with a double down the left field line. The senior wasn’t standing on second for long though as catcher Danny Diaz followed with a towering blast over the wall in left for first home run of his career and the 13th and 14th runs of the game for the Seminoles.
“It is nice to get that first career home run out of the way,” said Diaz. “Backing up a guy like Aaron (Cheesman) you try to learn from him every day you are out there and take advantage of the opportunities you get. That is what I tried to do.”
The Seminoles return to action next weekend as the Auburn Tigers (3-0) come to town for a three-game series beginning Friday, February 11 at 3:30 p.m. World Series champion and gold medal winner Doug Mientkiewicz will be at Saturday’s Auburn game taking pictures with FSU license tag owners prior to the game. If you “Brag with the Tag”, bring your drivers license to the game and meet the Seminole great. Sunday FSU will hold a special ceremony prior to the game to dedicate the “Lee Bowen Radio Booth”. Fans are asked to get to the 1:00 game at least 15 minutes early for this special dedication. Game Tracker will be available for all three contests along with a live radio broadcasts available on WFLA locally and on the Internet at seminoles.com.