BLACKSBURG, Va. – Playing outside the state of Florida for the first time this season, top-ranked Florida State beat Virginia Tech 9-2 Friday afternoon at English Field. The Seminoles (14-5, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) used five extra base hits in the win and hit for the cycle as a team for the first time this season.
On the mound, starting pitcher Cole Sands shook off a pair of rough outings to allow just one run in 5.2 innings against a Virginia Tech (11-9, 1-3) offense that entered the game hitting .300 as a team.
“Anytime you see a zero in the [error] column, you have to be pleased,” head coach Mike Martin said. “We played an outstanding game, highlighted by six innings from Cole Sands, who got better as the game went along.”
On top of allowing just one run, Sands (3-1) struck out a career-high seven batters, including his final batter of the game, Sam Fragale, who was hitting .408 with eight home runs when Sands got him swinging in the sixth inning. Sands allowed three hits and walked a pair in his third win this season.
“Competitiveness,” Martin said of Sands’ outing. “He got out there and didn’t try to pitch perfect. He just trusted his stuff. It was a good outing for him.”
At the plate, catcher Cal Raleigh led the way with a fourth inning home run that got the Seminoles on the board. He added a double in the sixth and also walked twice, and leads the team with eight doubles on the year.
In the sixth inning, Nick Derr walked before Raleigh’s double, and Quincy Nieporte followed with a first-pitch RBI single to score Derr and make the game 2-0. Dylan Busby had a sacrifice bunt RBI to score Raleigh that proved to be the game-winner. After Tyler Daughtry recorded his second of three walks, J.C. Flowers had his second triple of the season to clear the bases and give FSU a 5-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Sands left the game after striking out Fragale with runners on first and second. Reliever Alec Byrd walked the only batter he faced, and Chase Haney hit the first batter he faced to score Virginia Tech’s first run. He rallied to force a pop out to second baseman Matt Henderson to avoid more damage.
Virginia Tech starting pitcher Packy Naughton (1-3) did not return for the seventh inning, and the Seminoles pounced on shaky Hokie relief pitching. Graham Seitz relieved Naughton and allowed an infield single to Taylor Walls and walked Derr. Kit Scheetz took over for Seitz and walked Raleigh before Nieporte hit his fifth home run, and third grand slam, of the season, pushing the FSU lead to 9-1.
Nieporte is the first FSU player with three grand slams in a season since Seth Miller also had three in 2012.
“There were a number of key hits, none bigger than the grand slam by Quincy, but there was a lot that led up to him having an opportunity,” Martin said. “That was an inning that was pieced together leading up to the grand slam.
“The triple by J.C. was just as big as Quincy’s grand slam because there were two outs. That was huge.”
Steven Wells pitched a scoreless seventh inning, and Clayton Kwiatkowski allowed a run on two hits in finishing out the game in the eighth and ninth innings.
Friday’s game was originally scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start, but was moved to 1:00 with a threat of inclement weather in the area. The game began with small snow flurries and the weather hovered around 40 degrees for much of the game.
Game two of the series will take place at English Field Saturday at 1:00 p.m., with the Seminoles throwing Tyler Holton (4-0, 0.36 ERA). The game will be available on radio only (106.1 FM in Tallahassee, nationwide on the FSU Gameday App). Eric Luallen will provide play-by-play.
– Raleigh’s home run was his second of the season. Both have come on the road to lead off an inning – February 28 at Jacksonville.
– When Daughtry was caught stealing to end the second inning, it was the first time FSU had been caught this season. The Seminoles opened the year perfect on their first 27 attempts.
– Daughtry entered the game ranked fourth nationally with 19 walks and added three on Friday. Teammate Taylor Walls leads the country with 25.
– As a team, FSU hit for the cycle for the first time this season.
– Starting pitcher Cole Sands set a career-high with seven strikeouts. He had six strikeouts three times, most recently against Samford earlier this season.
– Taylor Walls reached on a seventh-inning single, the 33rd consecutive game he has successfully reached base. The school record is 67 by Buster Posey in 2008.
– Quincy Nieporte’s seventh-inning grand slam was his fifth home run of the season, matching last year’s total. He also has three grand slams this season – the most for a Seminole in one season since Seth Miller also had three in 2012.
For more information on Florida State baseball, check Seminoles.com for the latest news and scheduling information, or keep up with the team on social media through Twitter (@FSUBaseball), Facebook (/FSUBaseball), and Instagram (@NoleBaseball).