March 20, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Sunday is the first day of a new week, but it was also the end of the longest of weeks for the fourth-ranked Florida State baseball team.
Playing their fourth consecutive extra-inning game, the fourth-ranked Seminoles got a leadoff homer from Rafael Lopez in the top of the 10th inning and Mike McGee made it stand up in a wild 12-11 victory over No. 5 Virginia.
The Seminoles (16-4, 4-2 ACC) snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided a series sweep by registering their 23rd consecutive Sunday victory, dating to their 2009 ACC Tournament championship game loss to the Cavaliers (19-2, 5-1). In the process, FSU ended Virginia’s 13-game winning streak, which included a pair of extra-inning triumphs over the ‘Noles to begin the series. It was the Seminoles’ fifth consecutive one-run game.
“I can’t express enough to our team how pleased I was with the fight,” said FSU coach Mike Martin, who shuffled his lineup in an effort to break the skid. “We fell behind by three runs in the middle part of the ballgame, came back and tied it up. We got a four-run lead with six outs (to play), yet lose that lead an end up winning it late. It was a big win for us. It’s huge in the RPI situation. You’ve got a team that’s just lost its second game in 21.”
James Ramsey (2-for-4) drove in a career-high five runs and Lopez (3-for-5) knocked in three more to lead the Seminoles’ 10-hit attack.
McGee, who suffered a quadriceps strain in the series opener and wasn’t available when the Seminoles couldn’t preserve late leads Friday and Saturday, earned the win with two innings of relief on Sunday.
“Michael had had all the sitting he could stand,” Martin said. “He told me before the game, ‘I’ll close it if it’s necessary.’ I went to him in the seventh and said, ‘Are you ready?’ He said yeah and I said, ‘You’ve got the ninth.’ Little did I know, we were going to play like we did to get them back in the ballgame, yet we persevered.”
The senior right-handed closer came on in the ninth with the Seminoles leading 11-9, but Virginia tied the game on a single and a pair of FSU errors.
Lopez regained the lead for the ‘Noles, depositing a 1-1 offering from Artie Lewicki into the right field bleachers for a 12-11 advantage.
“I’m pretty sure it was a change-up that he left over the outer third of the plate,” Lopez said of his game-winning homer. “I knew it was over his head and once I saw him look back to the crowd I knew it was gone.”
“Raffy hit the stew out of that ball and it was certainly a big, big home run for us,” Martin said.
McGee (1-1) picked up the win by striking out series-long nemesis Steven Proscia with the tying run at second base to end the long weekend. The victory allowed the Seminoles to maintain a one-game lead in the Atlantic Division over favorite Clemson.
At the end of it all the Seminoles and Cavaliers had played 31 innings of baseball with each game decided by a single run. Outscored 20-19 (each team totaled 18 earned runs), FSU held a 28-27 advantage in hits.
Given the quality of competition and nearly dead-even production, it was critical for the Seminoles to come away with a win on a day when they overcame 2-0, 4-3 and 7-4 deficits, but also squandered 3-2 and 11-7 leads.
“It’s huge – really big, especially after losing on a walk-off three games in a row,” said McGee. “Another one would have really been crushing. To fight it out and get a win, especially on the road and not get swept, it’s just huge.”
It was also a relief.
“Everyone always knows, win or lose, we’re going to fight,” Lopez said. “Come the end of the season, winning one (game) can be huge. When you lose three, that’s really painful. At least we got one. … Now we can take momentum into next week.”
The Seminoles play host to Stetson Wednesday at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised by FoxSports Florida.