May 18, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Top-ranked Florida State (42-12, 23-6 ACC) returned to its winning ways Friday night with a combination of outstanding defense and pitching and some timely hitting as the Seminoles defeated No. 13 NC State (38-14, 19-10) 3-2 on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
With the win, Florida State clinched the No. 1 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament which will be held in Greensboro, N.C. beginning Wednesday, May 23. It marks the ninth time in school history the Seminoles have earned the top-seed in the tournament.
“We wanted this really badly,” said head coach Mike Martin. “We had another goal but fell short on it, we wanted to set the league record for wins, but Maryland, Clemson and NC State said `not while we are playing.’ Take your hat off to our baseball team. They did a great job tonight. It was good and big win for our program.”
“It’s awesome,” said Sherman Johnson on locking up the No. 1 seed tonight. “We played totally different baseball than we did last night. We went back to the fundamentals and just got it done tonight.”
“They threw the ball extremely well tonight,” added Johnson. “They didn’t walk very many guys, kept the ball down and they let their defense play behind them – that’s a recipe for success. They have been doing that all year. They came out here and did it again tonight.”
Making his 14th start of the season, Leibrandt went 5.0 innings allowing a run on two hits as he walked two and struck out four. After giving up a run in the first, Leibrandt would allow just two runners to reach second base over the next four innings. He finished his outing retiring the last five batters that he faced.
“He is just in total control,” said Martin on Leibrandt’s performance. “He doesn’t let anything affect him. He focuses on the next pitch.”
“My command was pretty good tonight,” said Leibrandt. “My change-up was where I wanted it to be, that’s been my best pitch all year. I was able to utilize it tonight.”
Smith (3-0) earned the win on Friday night as he worked 2.1 innings allowing a run on five hits. He struck out one and did not walk a batter. After recording the first out in the eighth on a groundball to third, Smith gave up a double off the screen in right to Danny Canela. The base hit ended the evening for Smith as Benincasa came on for the five-out save.
Benincasa would do just that retiring all five batters that he faced to earn his 13th save of the season. The junior right hander recorded a groundout and a strikeout in the eighth to get the Seminoles out of the jam and then set down the Wolfpack in order in the ninth to preserve the victory.
“Before the weekend, coach Bell came over to me and said that they were going to start using me more in extra inning situations,” said Benincasa. “I was expecting to go out and start the eighth, but Gage was able to do his job and I was able to get us out of that little jam. It’s a situation that I will have to be ready for as the season goes on. It was fun and I am looking forward to more appearances like that in the future.”
With the save, Benincasa moved into a tie with Mike McGee for fourth place on the single-season save list at Florida State.
“He is such a competitor,” said Martin. “Benny just wants to compete. He just wants to be a part of it.”
Offensively, the Seminoles scored single runs in the first, fifth and seventh innings. James Ramsey drove in two of the three runs on a pair of sac-flies, while Jayce Boyd and Seth Miller recorded two hits apiece.
“Man that was a good ball game,” said Martin. “That was two good clubs getting after it. I thought our guys did a very good job of situational hitting tonight.”
The two teams exchanged runs in the first inning. NC State struck first as Trea Turner took the first pitch of the game from Leibrandt back up the middle for a base hit. After stealing second and third, Turner would score two batters later on a Ryan Mathews’ sac-fly to center.
Florida State answered the call with a two-out RBI single by Stephen McGee. Wolfpack starter Ethan Ogburn (4-3) recorded the first two outs of the inning before issuing a walk to Ramsey. The senior captain moved to third on a base hit up the middle by Boyd and scored a batter later on McGee’s single to center.
The Seminoles took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Sherman Johnson doubled off the screen in right, advanced to second on a groundout to second by Devon Travis and scored on Ramsey’s first sac-fly of the evening.
The Wolfpack tied the game at two on back-to-back doubles by Logan Ratledge and Turner. Ratledge dropped a double to right off Smith, while Turner followed with an RBI double to right. Smith would remove Turner from the base paths picking off the freshman at second. He then got Chris Diaz looking at a called strike three to end the inning.
FSU answered right back with a run in the seventh to take a 3-2 lead. Jose Brizuela led off the inning with a double down the left field line off Ogburn. He advanced to third on a fly out to center by Travis and scored a batter later on Ramsey’s second sac-fly of the evening.
“What a difference a day makes,” said Ramsey. “That’s a really, really good team over there, so we are pleased to get out with a win. To even the series tonight was huge.”
Florida State and NC State return to the diamond for game three of the series on Saturday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m. The Seminole baseball team will honor its senior class before the start of Saturday’s game beginning at 12:45 p.m. Saturday’s game will air live over the internet on ESPN3. Fans can listen to the games locally on 100.7 FM and over the internet on Seminoles.com. Live stats will be available via gametracker, while fans can receive updates on Twitter @FSU_Baseball.