April 5, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the third time in four games, top-ranked Florida State (24-5, 11-2) used some late inning heroics to secure a win and stay atop the ACC Atlantic Division standings. On Friday night, Casey Smit provided the game-winning hit lacing a walk-off RBI single to left to score Gage West from third as the Seminoles defeated Notre Dame (10-18, 1-12), 8-7 in 12 innings on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
“As I told the guys, there is no such thing as a bad win,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “There were some mistakes that were made, but we are not going to dwell on them; we are going to move to the next day and try and improve.
“This was a big win. Every conference win is important. That was a big win especially the way that game developed.”
Making their first appearance in Tallahassee since taking two of three from the Seminoles in the 2002 NCAA Super Regional, the Fighting Irish erased a four-run deficit scoring one in the seventh and five more in the eighth to grab a 7-5 lead.
Notre Dame took advantage of three Seminole miscues in the eighth inning to take the lead for the second time Friday night. Ryan Lidge drew the Irish within three of the lead on a pinch hit RBI single in the seventh and gave the lead back to Notre Dame with a double to left that scored a pair in the eighth. Robert Youngdahl closed out the scoring in the inning with a run scoring single to center.
The Seminoles would not go quietly plating a run in the bottom of the eighth to cut the deficit to 7-6. After Donnie Hissa struck out the first two batters that he faced, a walk to Ben DeLuzio led to a pitching change followed by three consecutive walks issued by Cristian Torres. The third walk to Smit drove in DeLuzio.
In the ninth, John Nogowski opened the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single to left by Jose Brizuela. Brett Knief tried to move both runners over on a sac-bunt attempt but Notre Dame first baseman Blaise Lezynski threw to third to get the lead runner for the first out of the inning. After a walk to John Sansone loaded the bases, DeLuzio lifted a sac-fly to center to bring home Brizuela to tie the game at 7-7 and force extra innings.
Notre Dame had its chances in extras leaving five runners on base over the final three innings. In each of the final three innings, the Seminoles left an Irish runner standing at third base.
“First and third, nobody out, we got out of it,” said Martin. “Bases loaded one out and we got out of it. There was just some outstanding pitching that went on tonight.”
Cavan Biggio led off the top of the 12th with a walk off Brandon Johnson. He moved to third on a fielding error by Sansone to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Taylor Blatch came on and calmly retired the side on a groundout to second with the infield drawn in, an outstanding catch by Knief on a line drive to right to hold the runner at third and a strikeout looking to retire the side.
“What a great play that was,” said Martin on Knief’s catch in the 12th. “I mean as soon as he came in (to the dugout) he was the first guy I was looking for. Just a tremendous play; that is one of the toughest plays you got, it’s when you’re coming in and the ball is making certain moves. You have to track it and he caught the ball knee high on the back end side, turned and fired a strike to Nogowski. It was a pivotal part of the ball game.”
Gage West opened the bottom of the 12th ripping his first career triple to straight away centerfield. After a walk to Josh Delph, Smit ended the game on the very next pitch from Nick McCarty (1-6) lacing a single to left that brought home West from third.
“I was looking to hit something hard to the outfield or a hard groundball through the infield,” said Smit. “Runner at third with the infield in, anything hit hard is more than likely going to get through.”
“I realized it at the last second,” said West on whether he noticed that Mike Martin, Jr. had the stop sign up as he rounded second. “I was looking at the ball the whole time. When I looked up I saw the stop sign, but it worked out.”
“Just battle, just fight, that is all anybody expects of you,” said Martin. “And we did just that. From Gage West leading off the 12th with a triple, you learn about guys when they get behind. Our guys were not happy campers with the way the five-run inning developed. But we come right back and tie the game up.”
It marked the second walk-off victory of the season for the Seminoles as both have come in extra innings. FSU is now 2-0 on the year when playing extra innings.
Smit finished the night 2-for-4 with a career-high four RBI. The senior, who started at shortstop for the second straight game in place of Justin Gonzalez, who missed Friday night’s game due to flu-like symptoms, reached base on five of his seven plate appearances. He gave the Seminoles their first lead of the night in the third as he took a 0-1 pitch from Notre Dame starter Sean Fitzgerald over the screen in right for a two-run home run, good for his first home run as a Seminole.
“He is a battler,” said Martin on Smit. “He goes 2-for-5 with four RBI and two walks. He is just a winner.”
DJ Stewart made a thunderous return after missing the last four games recording his first career multi-home run game. The sophomore left fielder hit a solo shot in the third followed by a two-run home run in the fifth. Stewart finished the evening with three RBI.
Delph and Knief both registered two hits apiece in the win.
Both starting pitchers did not factor into the decision Friday night. Luke Weaver went 7.2 innings allowing four runs on eight hits as he walked one and struck out eight. The Irish’s Fitzgerald gave up five runs, four earned, on seven hits as he walked three and struck out four in 6.0 innings of work.
Notre Dame’s pitching staff entered the game allowing just two home runs in their first 27 games with none of those off Fitzgerald. All three home runs hit by the Seminoles in game one Friday night came off the senior right hander.
Gage Smith worked a season-high 3.1 innings. He allowed three hits and a walk while striking out one. The senior right hander got out of a huge bases loaded jam in the top of the 11th getting an inning ending groundball double play off the bat of Kyle Fiala.
Blatch (1-0) picked up the win Friday night, the first of his career.
The Seminoles finished the game committing a season-high five errors.
“Obviously, when you see five in the last column, that is not Florida State and we got to improve in that area,” added Martin.
Florida State and Notre Dame return to action for game two of the series on Saturday, April 5 at 6:00 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3. Audio will be available on the Seminoles.com All-Access player. Locally fans can listen to the game on 100.7 FM.
Saturday is also Seminole Baseball’s alumni reunion with players dating all the way back from the 1950’s expected to be at Howser Stadium for the game. Players from the 1980’s will also be honored on the field before the start of Saturday’s game with Luis Alicea throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
As always, fans can receive in-game updates on Twitter @FSU_Baseball. Also, do not forget to like the Seminole Baseball team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball and to follow the team on Instagram (NoleBaseball). Live stats will be available via gametracker.