April 3, 2007 - by
GAMEDAY CENTRAL: Florida State & Florida Square-Off Tonight in Jacksonville at 7pm.

April 3, 2007

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In this the 204th meeting between these intra-state rivals, Florida State and Florida square-off for the first time in Jacksonville at the Baseball Grounds, site of the 2007 & 2008 ACC Baseball Tournament. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 112-90-1, while the Gators hold a 6-2 advantage on neutral turf. The last victory for the Seminoles against the Gators on a neutral playing surface was May 21, 1981 when FSU downed UF 5-1 in the NCAA Regional in Miami. This is the second of three games between the two squads as Florida State defeated Florida 14-6 down in Gainesville back on February 20. Last year, the two schools exchanged wins on the opposing team’s home field with Florida State winning in Gainesville 6-4 and Florida winning in Tallahassee 8-3. Five of the last six games in the series have been played at Alfred McKethan Stadium including the 2005 NCAA Super Regional won by the Gators, two games to none.

After starting the season 10-10, Florida has won eight of its last 11 games and come into Tuesday’s contest winners of seven straight. The Gators have swept their last two conference road series beating Auburn and Georiga and earned their first national ranking of the season as they sit at No. 22 in the nation in Collegiate Baseball. Matt LaPorta leads the way for the Gators as he is hitting a team-high .430 with 13 home runs and 29 RBI’s. He joined FSU’s Tony Thomas, Jr. as one of four student-athletes named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week. LaPorta established a school record by homering in five straight games. As a team, Florida is hitting .295 and has accumulated a team ERA of 4.40. The Gators have posted a .956 fielding percentage through 31 games this season.

In game one of three against these intra-state rivals, Florida State pounded out 20 hits as seven Seminole batters in the starting line-up registered at least two hits or more. Freshmen Jason Stidham and D’Vontrey Richardson hit their first collegiate home run, while Tony Thomas, Jr., Jack Rye and Richardson each posted three hits in FSU’s 14-6 victory in Gainesville.

The win also gave head coach Mike Martin his 1,445th victory as he moved ahead of former High Point and Virginia Tech head coach Chuck Hartman for sole possession of fifth place on the NCAA all-time career wins list.

Travis Burge earned his first victory of the season pitching three solid innings in relief of starter Bo O’Dell, who threw 1.1 innings allowing four runs on four hits. Burge, a lefty, pitched three innings allowing one run on one hit, while striking out four Gator hitters. Brian Chambers was equally impressive pitching a season-high 3.2 innings out of the bullpen giving up one run on four hits.

Of the Seminoles on the 2007 roster, Jack Rye and Tony Thomas, Jr., have seen the most playing time against Florida as the two have played in all eight games the past three seasons. Thomas has garnered a .321 (9-for-28) batting average with two home runs, two triples, 10 runs and six RBI’s. Last year, Thomas went 3-for-8 with a home run and three RBI’s. Rye has hit .296 (8-for-27) in eight games against the Gators posting a pair of doubles and three RBI’s. A season ago Dennis Guinn hit .333 in two starts with three hits in nine at-bats. He hit a home run, a double and scored twice.

TUESDAY: Caleb Graham will make his third straight mid-week start as he faces the Florida Gators for the second time in his career and for the first time as a starter. Graham pitched four shut out innings a year ago allowing one hit while striking out three Gator batters. The sophomore right hander bounced back nicely last week againt North Florida after suffering the lost in his first career start against Jacksonville back on March 21. Graham posted his first collegiate victory as he pitched a career-high six innings in a 6-0 win over the Ospreys. He set the down the first eight batters he faced as he allowed just three batters to reach second base in his six innings of work. Graham threw six scoreless innings allowing just two hits. He also struck out a career-high five batters. With the win, Graham evened his record to 1-1 on the year and now boasts a team-leading ERA of 1.90. Graham has appeared in 10 games this season and has pitched 23.2 innings allowing 11 runs, five earned, on 15 hits. He has struck out 21 batters, while walking 11. Graham is limiting opponents to a .176 batting average on the year. He earned his first collegiate save in his three innings of work against Siena. After striking out one batter in his first four appearances, the Tampa, Fla., native has posted three or more strikeouts in six consecutive games.

Florida State is 3-1 in mid-week contests this season suffering its first loss of the season at Jacksonville back on March 21. FSU’s three wins have come against Florida (14-6) in Gainesville and North Florida twice, 16-3 and 6-0, with both games being played in Tallahassee. Following Tuesday’s game against the Gators, the Seminoles will play three more mid-week contests including two more against JU and one more against Florida in Tallahassee on April 18.

Tony Thomas, Jr. was recognized by the Atlantic Coast Conference for the third time this season as the ACC Player of the Week. Thomas had a career week as he hit .579 in four games going 11-for-19 with five home runs, five singles and a double. The junior second baseman scored nine times and registered 8 RBI’s, while going a perfect 4-for-4 in the stolen base category. He also tallied 27 total bases, slugged 1.421 and was perfect in the field converting on all 16 opportunities at second base last week. In the series finale against Duke, he set a career-high with 10 total bases and tied career-highs in runs scored (4) and home runs (2). He was 3-for-3 in leading off the game vs. the Blue Devils with a home run, a double and a single.

Thomas was previously honored as the season’s first Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Player of the Week on Monday, February 12. He won the award for a second time on March 5. Thomas joins a list of six other Seminole greats to be recognized by the league office three times in the same year. The last Florida State player to perform such a feat was Mike Ziegler in 2000.

Thomas also became the second Seminole this season to be named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week. He joined fellow teammate Bryan Henry, who was recognized back on Monday, February 5 for his performance on opening day against Tennessee.

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