May 21, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After clinching the Atlantic Division title with Thursday night’s victory, Florida State simply couldn’t get in the last word against Clemson in the final two games of the series.
For the second consecutive game the fourth-ranked Seminoles spotted the 12th-ranked Tigers a big early lead, battled back into to contention, but could not come up with a definitive, final answer.
John Hinson belted a one-out, solo home run in the ninth as Clemson scored twice to break open a one-run game and escape with a series-clinching 8-5 victory.
“We have to be very careful as a program and team not to lower our heads,” Martin said. “We lost a very tough series, but we won the division, so we can’t lower our heads and feel anyway but, `Hey, they [Clemson] won a series.'”
Celebrating Senior Day in the regular season home finale, the Seminoles (40-15, 19-11 ACC) hoped to honor their 10 out-going players with a series victory that would seemingly clinch a top-eight NCAA national seed. While the pregame ceremonies came off without a hitch, senior starter Mike McGee was roughed up for five runs in 3.1 innings and pulled from the game shortly after FSU coach Mike Martin was ejected by home plate umpire Barry Chambers.
The Tigers opened up a 5-0 lead with a four-run fourth, sparked by Richie Shaffer’s solo homer. McGee issued a pair of walks before Spencer Kieboom singled to center, scoring two runs when Taiwan Easterling misplayed the ball. Hinson’s sacrifice fly gave the Tigers their largest lead.
As they did a night earlier, when rallying from a 7-0 deficit, the Seminoles responded in the home fourth. James Ramsey followed a Rafael Lopez single and a McGee walk with a scalded line drive, three-run homer to center field. Ramsey’s ninth homer of the season pushed his team-leading RBI total to 57 and provided the `Noles with new life.
Brian Busch, who relieved McGee in the fourth, kept the Seminoles in the game with 4.2 innings of three-hit, one-run baseball. It was his longest outing since working five innings as a starter at Georgia on March 5.
“He was light’s out,” Martin said of Busch.
Busch’s lone blemish came in the fifth when the Tigers (39-17, 17-13) got one of those runs back on Jeff Schaus’ RBI single, good for a 6-3 lead.
“I don’t even know if I’ve gone five innings once this year; maybe back in my second start,” Busch said. “The way I prepare I still act like I’m a starter, so when I do come in and I can pitch for long periods of the game.”
It took a few innings, but the `Noles came through with a counter-punch in the eighth as red-hot Jayce Boyd launched his fifth homer of the season to left and Sherman Johnson followed with his second double of the game. Senior Stuart Tapley’s RBI pulled FSU within 6-5.
Florida State’s momentum, however, was fleeting. Closer Daniel Bennett got a quick out before Hinson sent his 1-1 offering over the right field screen. Two singles and an errant throw on would-be, inning-ending double play brought home a second insurance run.
Clemson closer Scott Weismann worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.
“They really can hit, so to say we go them where we wanted them, for them to come back and put two on the board that’s something we usually do,” said Ramsey. “We’re going to see them, NC State and Georgia Tech in the tournament and we’re really excited about that. We’re going to get right back at them.”
Lopez, Boyd and Ramsey had two hits each for the `Noles, who were out-hit for a third consecutive game (9-8) by the ACC’s top hitting team.
With their five-series winning streak over, Martin’s club must turn its attention to the ACC Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The defending tournament champions, FSU will try and bolster its postseason resume as the No. 2 seed.
“We hope we don’t get pushed to the background because of losing two-out-of-three against a very good Clemson team that has won 25 of their last 30 games against very good competition,” Martin said. “We haven’t played a better baseball team than Clemson. That was a good looking club.”
It won’t be an easy road for the Seminoles, who will face NC State, Clemson and Georgia Tech in their half of the round-robin bracket.
“Our job now is to throw this series away and be ready to play when we go and play … NC State,” Martin said.
Coastal Division champion and No. 1 seed Virginia will be joined by North Carolina, Miami and Wake Forest in the opposite bracket.
The Atlantic Coast Conference office will release the tournament schedule Sunday at 3 p.m.