Florida State University’s sophomore left-fielder, DJ Stewart, made his presence felt on Friday night as he returned to the Seminole lineup.
Stewart hadn’t played since Florida State (24-5, 11-2 ACC) and Florida had a bench-clearing “brawl” almost ten days ago. The word ‘brawl’ is in quotations because it really wasn’t much of a brawl at all, but it did cost Stewart four games in the form of a suspension — one that he served as his teammates took on BC and Florida Gulf Coast.
On Friday night Stewart was back with a vengeance, homering twice and driving in three runs to lead no. 1 Florida State over Notre Dame, 8-7.
But it was a lot closer than it probably should have been. Florida State utilized 5 errors and a handful of other miscues to give Notre Dame chance after chance, ultimately pushing the game into extra innings behind a three error, five-run 8th for the Irish.
Luke Weaver got off to a bit of a rough start early on, allowing three hits and a run in the top of the first to give the Irish the early lead.
But FSU quickly pulled ahead with a three-run third inning that included back-to-back shots from Casey Smit and Stewart. After Josh Delph singled, Smit hit a ball over the right-center field fence to make it 2-1. The next batter, Stewart, followed suit with a no-doubter to the same part of the field.
Two innings later, with Smit on first, Stewart struck again — this time going opposite field — to make it 5-1. It was the sophomore’s 6th home run of the season and the 11th of his career.
But Notre Dame got a run back in the top of the 7th when Ryan Lidge drove in Cavan Biggio to cut the Seminole lead to three.
In the top of the 8th, the ‘Noles gave the Irish an assist with three errors that put Notre Dame in position to make it a big inning. With two on and one out, Weaver struck out Kyle Fiala but C Danny De La Calle attempted to throw out the runner stealing second — not noticing that no one was covering the bag — and put the ball into center-field.
That scored a run, and when CF Ben De Luzio’s throw to third couldn’t be scooped by Jose Brizuela, another came in as well, making it 5-4.
Billy Strode came on to relieve Weaver (7.2 IP, 8H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) and promptly plunked the first hitter he faced to put the tying run aboard.
That brought in Jameis Winston. After a four-pitch walk, Winston gave up a two-run double to Lidge to put the Irish ahead 6-5. The next hitter, Robert Youngdahl, then singled up the middle (advancing to second on the throw) and scored the Irish’s 7th run of the game to make it a two-run Notre Dame lead.
Gage Smith came on to record the final out of the inning and stayed on to work 3.1 innings — keeping Notre Dame off the board while Florida State worked to tie it back up.
In the bottom of the 8th, FSU utilized four two-out walks to load the bases and cut the Irish lead to one. But Stewart flew out to the track in left-center for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the 9th the Seminoles tied it on a one-out sac-fly from Ben DeLuzio.
Then things went quiet, with both teams squandering opportunities in extra innings.
The Irish had their best chance in the top of the 12th when they had two on — the go-ahead run just 90 feet from home — and no outs, but couldn’t push the go-ahead run across. Just an inning before they had threatened in a similar fashion and failed to plate anything as well.
It all came back to bite them in the bottom of the 12th inning when Gage West led off with a triple over the head of the centerfielder. Two batters later, Smit singled to drive in West and give Florida State an 8-7 win.
Taylor Blatch earned his first career victory after helping the Seminoles escape the jam in the top of the 12th. Meanwhile, Winston blew his first save.
The Seminoles were out-hit by Notre Dame 13-11 and committed four more errors but were able to win with solid plate discipline (drawing 13 walks) and the gritty relief work of Smith and Blatch.
Florida State hosts Notre Dame for two more this weekend.
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