March 14, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Friday night’s ACC Atlantic Division showdown between second-ranked Florida State and No. 7 NC State lived up to its billing featuring two of the best arms in the nation. When the dust settled and the last out was recorded on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium, it was Luke Weaver and the Seminoles (15-2, 3-1 ACC) who were standing on top with a 6-1 victory over the Wolfpack (14-3, 3-1 ACC).
“I am very, very pleased with the entire ball club,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “It takes all of us to be successful. We are obviously excited right now because we know how difficult it is to win when you’re facing a Carlos Rodon, an outstanding pitcher. They are a solid baseball team. This is of course very early in the ACC schedule, but it is certainly a very good win for our program.”
Weaver and NC State’s Carlos Rodon went toe to toe in game one for the second straight year. This time around the result was a little different for Florida State and the junior right hander from DeLand, Fla. Weaver picked up his fourth win in his fifth start of the season working 6.1 innings on Friday night giving up just one run on seven hits as he walked two and struck out seven.
“I felt like I threw the ball well,” said Weaver. “It wasn’t quite up to my standards but it was good enough for our hitters to scratch some runs and play some defense and get the win.
“It was a hyped up match-up. I didn’t treat it any differently. I know a guy (Rodon) like that you can’t make too many mistakes. You really just got to zone in and have your best game and not put up any runs because a guy like that is tough to scratch them across. He is a great guy and a huge competitor. He threw very well tonight but it just ended up in our favor and I’m really happy for our guys.”
Weaver was fired up coming out of the gates striking out the side in the top of the first. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters that he faced before getting into a jam in the top of the fourth. But Weaver worked around a pair of hits and a walk as he picked off Trea Turner at first and then got Logan Ratledge to pop out to second to end the inning.
In the fifth, NC State broke the scoreless tie on an RBI single by Brett Austin which scored Andrew Knizner from second. The Wolfpack was looking to add more with runners at the corners and one out when Jake Fincher laid down a bunt between first and the pitcher’s mound. Weaver made a tremendous defensive play to get to the ball throwing a strike to Danny De La Calle at the plate to get Garrett Suggs out at home. Weaver held the Wolfpack to just the one run in the inning as he got Turner to fly out to left to retire the side.
“Being able to field your position is crucial,” added Martin. “They surprised us with the bunt and Luke just made a big time play bouncing off the mound and getting the guy at the plate. Huge; giving Carlos Rodon two runs, that would have been very difficult.”
Florida State responded right back in the bottom half of the inning plating two runs off Rodon to take the lead for good. Casey Smit got things going with a one-out single to left. He scored all the way from first when Justin Gonzalez unloaded on a Rodon fastball hitting it off the screen in right center for a stand-up triple to tie the game at one. Three pitches later, Gonzalez would trot home when DJ Stewart hit a single up the middle past a drawn in infield to give the Seminoles a 2-1 lead. The hit extended Stewart’s streak of reaching base to 44 straight games.
“It was a very important inning for us to bounce back,” said Martin. “When you get a lead, you just hope that you can hold on to it. You know NC State is going to come at you.”
“I had been seeing the ball well off him,” said Gonzalez. “He had been throwing everything pretty much at me. He started me off with a fastball and I jumped on it; was fortunate enough to hit it hard and help my team win.”
The Wolfpack made some noise in the seventh as the first two batters reached off Weaver on a fielding error and a walk. But the Seminole righty responded by getting Austin swinging on strikes for the out number one. Martin then went to the bullpen and called on Gage Smith, who calmly turned an inning ending double play, getting Fincher to send a groundball right back to the pitcher’s mound.
“What was impressive was when he caught the ball, there was no herky, jerky (by Smith),” said Martin. “It was catch it; where is he, where is he; just beautiful stuff. Being under control in those situations is fun to watch.”
Rodon (2-3) suffered the loss on Friday night as the junior southpaw gave up two runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out a season-high 12 batters, while walking four on 125 pitches.
After striking out the first two batters that he faced in the bottom of the seventh, Rodon was replaced by Joe O’Donnell. O’Donnell faced just two batters as he issued a walk to Brett Knief and a single to center by John Nogowski to put runners at the corners. Following another Wolfpack pitching change, Jose Brizuela gave the Seminoles a 3-1 lead on an RBI single to right to plate Knief.
Florida State would tack on three more runs in the eighth. Gonzalez brought home the first run drawing a bases loaded walk. Stewart followed with a sac-fly to center and Knief rounded out the scoring with an RBI single to left center.
Smith retired all four batters that he faced en route to working 1.2 scoreless innings in relief.
Kenny Burkhead worked a perfect ninth picking up a strikeout to preserve the win.
Nogowski and De La Calle finished with two hits apiece, while Gonzalez and Stewart each drove in two runs.
Florida State and NC State return to action for a doubleheader on Saturday, March 15 with the first game starting at 1 pm and the second to begin 45 minutes following the completion of the first. Both games will air live on ESPN3. Fans can listen to the games on the Seminoles.com All-Access player and locally on 100.7 FM. Live stats will be available via gametracker.