March 13, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One-hit through six innings and trailing Boston College 3-0, fifth-ranked Florida State rallied for its 22nd consecutive Sunday victory, 4-3.
Rafael Lopez’s sacrifice fly to left in the bottom of the ninth scored Taiwan Easterling from third as the Seminoles (15-1, 3-0) completed their first Atlantic Coast Conference series sweep at home since March 26-28, 2010 against Maryland.
“What was so encouraging for me is the way that we persevered,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “We stayed tough. We were down 3-0. (John) Leonard was doing a great job, but we didn’t panic. We didn’t start chasing pitches out of the zone. We just fought and got it done.”
Count Lopez, who began his career at Boston College, among the Seminoles who remained confident throughout the early innings. Seth Miller’s third inning single was the only hit the FSU could muster off Leonard.
“I knew we would come back,” Lopez said. “We were just getting a little bit out of our approach the first few innings. … We just started to buckle down a little bit mentally and you saw what happened.”
The Seminoles erased the three-run deficit in the seventh when Mike McGee doubled to lead off the frame – just the second hit of the game off Leonard – and James Ramsey lifted a shallow fly that BC left fielder Marc Perdios lost in the sun. Ramsey ended up on second with a double and Jayce Boyd put the `Noles on the board with a sacrifice fly to center.
Senior DH Stuart Tapley lined an RBI single through the left side of the Boston College defense, but was erased at second on Seth Miller’s ground ball for the second out. Miller promptly stole second and Justin Gonzalez ended Leonard’s stellar performance with an RBI double to the gap in right-center, knotting the score at 3-all.
Florida State, however, wasn’t out of the woods. The Seminoles needed a sliding grab by Miller in left and a full-sprint catch by Ramsey in right to help reliever Daniel Bennett retire the side in order in the eighth.
“You saw the two catches there my outfielders were making,” said Bennett, who made his ACC-leading 10th appearance when he replaced starter Scott Sitz with two outs in the seventh. “It’s hard to not have confidence when you’ve got a defense like that behind me. My job was to let them put it in play and let one of my guys make a play.”
An inning later, Bennett had to dig his own way out of trouble.
Tom Bourdon led off with an infield single before Brad Zapenas reached on a sacrifice bunt attempt when Bennett and Lopez had a “communication error.” Andrew Lawrence’s sacrifice bunt put Eagles at second and third with one out and brought Anthony Melchionda – BC’s RBI leader – to the plate. Melchionda had already doubled home BC’s third run of the game back in the seventh.
“I tried to nibble at the corners,” Bennett said of his match-up with Melchionda. “I didn’t want to give him anything to put a good swing on. He happened to swing at a ball low and away and I was lucky to get away with it.”
The momentum-shifting strikeout was followed by an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a force out. Marc Perdios’ fly ball to center ended the BC threat.
“The fly out to McGee to end the inning was huge momentum for our team to get back in the dugout with the score tied,” Bennett added. “Getting that strikeout was real big.”
FSU didn’t waste any time capitalizing. Tapley – who was replaced on the basepaths by Easterling – and Miller worked reliever Matt Brazis (0-1) for walks to start the ninth.
“Once that Seth walked the momentum shifted our way,” said Gonzalez, who was in the on-deck circle. “We knew we were going to have to put a lot of pressure on the defense to make that play. We knew that once we got that bunt down they’d have to make a perfect pitch to get out of the inning.”
Boston College (6-8, 0-3) turned to Garret Smith, who made an unsuccessful attempt to retire Easterling at third on Gonzalez’s sacrifice bunt, which brought Lopez to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded.
“I was just trying to hit a fly ball,” Lopez said. “I knew they would go fastball away – they had been trying to do that the whole series – and I knew it was going to happen. I just put a bat on it.”
That’s all the `Noles would need to come away with a win on a day when they were out-hit 9-6. McGee was the lone FSU player to collect multiple hits.
The late heroics made a winner of Bennett, who worked a season-high 2.1 innings and yielded just one hit.
“I don’t get too many decisions, but when you have a bullpen like ours, any of those guys could come in and do the same job that I do,” said Bennett. “It doesn’t mean a whole lot to me to get a `W’ as long as the team gets a `W’. That puts us 3-0 in conference now. Anybody could have got that win and it’s the same feeling.”
With a Tuesday trip to No. 1 Florida up next, the Seminoles will take their perfect 3-0 league mark to Virginia for next weekend’s marquee series between Top 10 opponents.