The top-ranked Florida State baseball team dropped an 8-0 contest to rival Florida on Tuesday night in front of a bustling crowd at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee. The Gators swept the regular-season series from the Seminoles, taking all three contests played.
As it had in the previous two meetings, FSU once again failed to take advantage of early scoring opportunities against the Gators. Casey Smit smacked the first pitch from UF starter Danny Young down the first-base line for a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. But two groundouts to the pitcher and one to first stymied the threat.
The speedy Ben DeLuzio worked a one-out walk in the second, but was picked off en route to second, and nothing came of the inning. Smit again led off the inning with a hit in third, blooping a single to left-center. After a Justin Gonzalez strikeout, Brett Knief bunted Smit to second, and he made it to third once more after another Young wild pitch. But John Nogowski was caught looking, and the inning came to a close.
Junior lefty Billy Strode got the ball for the ‘Noles and held the Gators hitless through the first three innings. Florida shortstop Richie Martin led off the fourth with a single up the middle, and stole second, but Strode struck out the side to keep the Gators off the board.
Seminole third baseman Jose Brizuela drew a base on balls to start the bottom of the fourth, but Young retired the next three hitters in order.
UF again got its leadoff man on in the fifth, on a single back through the box by Zack Powers. When Strode walked Peter Alonso, Florida State manager Mike Martin summoned reliever Gage Smith. When Powers strayed too far from second base, FSU catcher Danny De La Calle picked him off for the inning’s first out. Ryan Larson sliced a single to right field to put two men on base again, and John Sternagel’s double drove in the first run of the game to give the Gators a 1-0 lead and all the offense they would need.
Casey Turgeon then delivered the big hit, drilling a ball over the right-field wall to extend Florida’s lead to 4-0. It was the first home run surrendered by Smith on the year. After Smith hit Martin, he was replaced by Peter Miller. De La Calle again showed off his arm, picking Martin off first when his lead grew too large. A Miller strikeout got the ‘Noles out of the inning.
The Gators pushed the margin to 5-0 in the sixth, as Braden Mattson led off with a single, and was bunted to second. He advanced to third and then scored on two Miller wild pitches.
After throwing five innings of two-hit, shutout ball, Young gave way to Justin Shafer, who worked around a Brizuela base hit to set down the Seminoles in the sixth. The hard-throwing Taylor Blatch pitched an impressive 1-2-3 seventh for FSU.
The ‘Noles put a couple aboard after the stretch, when Jameis Winston reached on an error and De La Calle walked with one out. Florida brought in southpaw Bobby Poyner to face the red-hot Smit, the reigning ACC player of the week. Smit hit into a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners as rain began to fall on Mike Martin Field. Gonzalez drew a bases-loading walk, prompting UF skipper Kevin O’Sullivan to go to the pen again. Righty Aaron Rhodes went to a full count with Josh Delph before inducing a ground ball out to end the inning.
Kenny Burkhead became the fifth FSU hurler in the eighth and was greeted by Gator clean-up man Taylor Gushue, who doubled into the right-centerfield gap on the first pitch. Burkhead then walked Mattson, and Martin opted for Brandon Johnson. Gushue scored when a bunt to Brizuela resulted in a throwing error, and then a mishandled ball by Gonzalez loaded the bases. Another run came across on a Johnson wild pitch, making the score 7-0. After Nogowski gunned down a runner at the plate for the second out, he was unable to tag out Turgeon after his swinging bunt plated another, even though Turgeon appeared to run well out of the baseline to avoid the tag. Winston took the mound with the score 8-0 and fanned Martin.
Rhodes stayed on and worked a hitless eighth for Florida, and Winston followed suit in the top of the ninth. Karsten Whitson pitched the ninth for UF and surrendered an infield hit to DeLuzio before issuing Winston’s third walk of the night to start the frame. But Ladson Montgomery lined out to third, and DeLuzio was doubled off second. With Winston at first, Smit struck out to end the game.
FSU sorely missed the ACC’s top hitter, DJ Stewart, who rolled his ankle over the weekend and didn’t play in this one: Florida State finished with just four hits on the night. The loss drops the Seminoles to 26-6 on the season (they’re in first place in the ACC with a 13-2 conference resume). Next up for the ‘Noles is a weekend series against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Looking for College World Series tickets? Check out Red Zone Tickets!