TAMPA, Fla. – A four-run first and eight innings of shutout baseball by the Seminole bullpen was the recipe for success Wednesday afternoon inside the USF Baseball Stadium as second-ranked Florida State (10-1) defeated USF (9-4), 4-1, to sweep the two-game mid-week series.
“I am very proud of this baseball team,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “We played a very good South Florida club. I was very impressed with them. We played solid baseball and got it done. We always know anytime you lineup against Lelo’s club you better not give them extra outs or they will take advantage of them. It was a good win for us; a good series win for us.”
The win marked FSU’s 12th straight over USF.
Bryant Holtmann (2-0) worked a career-high 4.0 innings allowing just two hits and a walk as the junior left handed picked up his second win of the season.
Billy Strode followed with 2.0 shutout innings giving up two hits and a walk while striking out one.
Gage Smith and Jameis Winston pitched the eighth and ninth inning, respectively, to secure the Seminoles’ 10th win of the season.
Smith retired the side in order on just seven pitches as the senior right hander has now appeared in eight straight games for the Seminoles and 10 overall.
Winston worked around a fielding error to open the ninth setting down the next three USF hitters he would face to pick up his second save of the season.
“Mike Bell does such a great job with our entire staff,” said Martin. “Today was one of those days we knew we were going to give the ball to multiple guys. Holtmann, Strode, Gager and Jaboo were all very impressive today.”
Over the two-game series against USF, the Seminole bullpen turned in 12.0 shutout innings allowing seven hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
Offensively, Florida State did all its damage in the first inning taking advantage of the Bulls’ only error of the game to plate all four runs.
The error came on a failed catch in left field on a fly ball off the bat of Justin Gonzalez. After a DJ Stewart single put runners at first and third with only one out, John Nogowski drove in the first run of the game on a groundout to third.
The next three Seminoles to the plate registered run scoring hits as Jose Brizuela laced an RBI single through the right side, Winston had an RBI double off the wall in right and John Sansone dropped a bloop single to right to score Brizuela.
All four unearned runs were tagged against USF starter Jimmy Herget who suffered the loss and fell to 2-2 on the year. The Bull right hander went 5.0 innings allowing eight hits and three walks, while striking out five.
USF cut the deficit to 4-1 with a run in the bottom of the first off starter Kenny Burkhead. Kyle Teaf led off the inning with a single to center and scored on a two-out single by Buddy Putnam. Burkhead got out of the early jam getting Levi Borders to groundout to short to retire the side.
Burkhead, making his first career start on Wednesday, went one inning allowing a run on two hits as he walked one and struck out one.
FSU squandered a golden opportunity to add to its lead in the second loading the bases with one out on a double to right by Josh Delph, a single by Gonzalez and a walk to Stewart. Herget battled back to get Nogowski swinging on strikes and then Brizuela to groundout to short to keep the Seminole lead at 4-1.
The Bulls put runners at the corners with no outs off Holtmann in the fourth but could not plate a run. Zac Gilcrease sent a groundball to first that Nogowski went home with to get Levi Borders for the first out of the inning. The Seminole southpaw then got Nik Alfonso to ground into an inning ending double play to end the threat and keep FSU’s three-run lead intact.
“I thought the key to the ball game was when we did a good job of getting out of a first and third situation with nobody out in the fourth without anyone scoring,” added Martin. “We were very fortunate to get out of that inning with no runs being scored.”
USF once again threatened in the seventh but came away empty. The Bulls put together a two-out rally off Strode as Alfonso drew a walk and Teaf followed with a single to left. After a visit to the by Martin, the junior left hander got Michael Arencibia to hit a groundball to short that Gonzalez easily handled and threw on to second for the third out of the inning.
Stewart paced the Seminole offense with two hits as he reached base on four of his five plate appearances on Wednesday. The Yulee, Fla., native singled in the first and fourth while drawing walks in the second and sixth. Stewart extended his streak of reaching base safely to 38 straight games. He also turned in two outstanding catches in left, both on diving catches. The first came in the fifth as Stewart robbed Daniel Portales with a diving catch in left center to retire the side. The second came to open the seventh as Stewart denied designated hitter Hayden Kelley of extra bases with a diving catch toward the left field line.
Gonzalez’ single in the second pushed his streak of reaching base in consecutive games to 23 in a row.
Florida State will head back to Tallahassee this weekend as the Seminoles open ACC play against Maryland on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium. First pitch for Friday’s game is set for 6:00 p.m., while Saturday’s game is slated to start at 2:00 p.m. and then an 11:00 a.m. first pitch on Sunday. All three games of the series will be streamed online at Seminoles.com All-Access. Fans can listen to all three games on All-Access and locally on 1270 AM (Friday) and 100.7 FM (Saturday and Sunday). Live stats will be available via gametracker.