After the Florida State Seminoles smoked Clemson 11-1 in the first game of their doubleheader against the Tigers today, Jameis Winston’s 2.1-inning save secured yet another series victory for FSU, which reclaimed sole possession of first place in the ACC Atlantic division on the strength of a 4-3 victory this evening.
FSU starter Mike Compton got some timely defensive help in the first. After allowing a Tyler Krieger single to left, Garrett Boulware hit what looked to be a ground-ball single up the middle. But ‘Nole second baseman John Sansone ranged behind the bag to snag the ball and execute an accurate cross-body relay to Justin Gonzalez, who fired it to first to complete the highlight-reel double play.
The Seminoles struggled to take advantage of Tiger gifts early. Clemson starter Jake Long handed out walks to start both the first and second innings, escaping the former on a diving catch in right and a running grab in center. He was even more fortunate in the second, when, after walking Jose Brizuela, he also issued a free pass to Brett Knief. He then hit John Sansone, loading the bases with nobody out. Clemson argued the play, saying Sansone leaned into the pitch. A Gage West pop out followed by strikeouts of Danny De La Calle and Josh Delph saw Long escape with an elevated pitch count but unscathed on the scoreboard.
The Tigers did capitalize on errant pitching in the bottom of the inning, getting a two-RBI double from Jay Baum after Compton walked Steven Duggar and Shane Kennedy with two outs, which gave Clemson a 2-0 lead. Baum then scored on Weston Wilson’s RBI single up the middle, pushing the Tiger advantage to 3-0.
Long continued his generosity to FSU hitters in the third, walking D.J. Stewart. But he was also stranded as the ‘Noles continued to search for their first knock. Through the first four frames, Florida State struck out five times without registering a hit.
That hit came in the fifth, when Justin Gonzalez doubled to left, but in what was a theme for FSU in the early going, the ‘Noles were unable to capitalize on the chance, and he was left standing on second.
John Nogowski led off the sixth with a single and advanced to second on a wayward pick-off attempt. Jose Brizuela walked for the second time, and when Brett Knief singled to left, the Seminoles once again found themselves with the bases loaded and nobody out. John Sansone was again hit by a pitch, but this time home plate umpire Scott Erby decided that Sansone did lean in a bit too far, and he was called back to the plate and assessed a strike. He still delivered, though, driving in Nogowski on a sacrifice fly to center. But a Casey Smit pop out and a De La Calle fly out retired the side with the score 3-1.
A Chris Okey lead-off double down the left-field line got the Tigers going in the sixth, and after Compton walked Steve Wilkerson, Gage Smith took the hill for the ‘Noles. Nogowski made a big play on a bunt, getting the lead runner at third, and the Seminoles looked primed to escape the inning when a taylor-made double-play ball was hit to Gonzalez. But Sansone dropped Gonzalez’s flip to second, and Clemson found itself with the sacks packed and just one down. Smith, however, was his usual unshakeable self, fanning Wilson, who requested a timeout that wasn’t granted, and getting Tyler Slaton to fly out to left.
Clemson pitcher Zack Erwin came in to pitch the seventh, and Josh Delph appeared to initiate something for the ‘Noles, as his dribbler to the pitcher was thrown away, and he advanced to second. However, Erby again removed a Seminole runner from base, ruling that Delph ran inside the baseline to obstruct the throw. As a result, Delph was called out. The call especially stung when the next batter, Gonzalez, drove his first home run of the season over the left-field fence, bringing the tally to 3-2. D.J. Stewart followed that by dropping an opposite-field double into left field. With the tying run at second and one out, the Tigers went back to the bullpen for righty Clate Schmidt, who promptly walked Nogowski on four pitches. Jose Brizuela delivered, grounding his first hit of the series up the middle, which scored Stewart and tied the score, 3-3. Again Tiger skipper Jack Leggett went to the pen, this time opting for right-hander Matt Campbell, who hadn’t allowed an earned run all year. Campbell struck out Knief, but Sansone got out in front of some Campbell heat and pulled a double down the left-field line to give FSU its first lead at 4-3. Pinch hitter Casey Smit also went down swinging to end the Florida State rally.
A one-out double by Garrett Boulware put the tying run at second in the Tiger seventh, prompting Mike Martin to bring in lefty Billy Strode. Strode retired Duggar, and Martin made the call for Jameis Winston with two outs and the tying run on third. Predictably, Winston was greeted by heavy boos from the Clemson faithful. He retired John Nogowski on a chopper up the middle. Gonzalez’s throw was high, but Nogowski made a crucial stretch and got his toe on the bag to preserve the ‘Nole lead.
Campbell stayed on for the Tigers in the eighth, and posted a 1-2-3 inning. Winston also returned to the mound and set down Clemson in order.
Brizuela worked Campbell for his third walk of the night with two down in the ninth, but Knief’s third strikeout sent it to the bottom of the inning with FSU clinging to a 4-3 edge.
Winston retired one before Slaton’s grounder back through the box put the tying run on base. But Winston induced a game-ending double-play, and the ‘Noles left Clemson with a 2-1 series win.
Top-Ranked Florida State is now 19-4, with a 7-2 ACC record. The Seminoles return to action on Tuesday, when they face the Florida Gators in a neutral-site matchup in Jacksonville. The ‘Noles will look to get one back from UF, which topped FSU 3-1 on March 18.