CLEMSON, S.C. (seminoles.com) – Top-ranked Florida State (40-10, 21-4 ACC) could not overcome the long ball by Clemson (30-20, 15-10 ACC) Saturday night falling to the Tigers 7-2 in front of 5,822 inside Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Clemson registered three home runs including a three-run shot from Spencer Kieboom in the bottom of the sixth to break a 2-2 tie to give the Tigers the lead for good. Brad Felder and Richie Shaffer added solo shots for the Tigers in sending the Seminoles to their fourth straight defeat in Clemson.
With Saturday’s loss coupled with two wins by NC State so far this weekend, FSU’s magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division and the overall No. 1 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament remains at two.
Five of Clemson’s seven runs came on two-outs, while the Seminoles could not seem to find the key hit leaving 14 runners on base including seven in the final four innings.
“They did a very good job of getting key hits,” said head coach Mike Martin. “It was an impressive performance on their part. You just have to tip your hat to them; they did a very good job tonight.”
Brandon Leibrandt (6-2) suffered just his second loss of the season as the freshman southpaw was charged with four runs on six hits in 5.2 innings of work. Leibrandt walked just one while striking out six.
After keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard through the first four innings, Clemson finally pushed across a run in the fifth and four more in the sixth off Leibrandt. The Alpharetta, Ga., native entered the game allowing just two home runs in 12 starts. Clemson matched that number on Saturday night hitting a pair of solo shots in back-to-back innings in the fifth and sixth.
“Leibrandt pitched very well, he really did,” added Martin. “It’s just one of those games you have to tip your hat to them. I mean three home runs that is pretty darn impressive.”
The Tigers’ Daniel Gossett (6-2) picked up the win as he threw 4.0 innings of two-hit relief. The freshman right hander walked five and struck out three.
Clemson starter Dominic Leone did not factor into the decision after working 5.0 innings allowing two runs on five hits. He finished with five strikeouts and three walks.
Devon Travis paced the Seminole offense on Saturday night with two hits as he scored one of FSU’s two runs. James Ramsey reached base on three of his five plate appearances collecting a single and two walks. Stephen McGee and Josh Delph were credited with driving in one run each.
Florida State struck first in game one on an RBI single by Delph to score Gonzalez from second in the top of the second. Gonzalez reached on a bunt single with one out, stole second base and scored on Delph’s single to left.
Phil Pohl registered Clemson’s first hit of the evening in the bottom of the second dropping a bloop single to right. Leibrandt followed with three straight strikeouts including two looking on strikes to end the inning keeping FSU’s lead at 1-0.
The Tigers looked to threaten in the third after back-to-back one-out singles by Jason Stolz and Steve Wilkerson, including a come-backer by Stolz that went off the knee cap of Leibrandt. But the Seminole southpaw would come right back to get a pop fly off the bat of Thomas Brittle and Shaffer to ground into a fielder’s choice put out at second to escape the jam.
Gonzalez reached for the second time in as many at-bats drawing a walk off Leone to open the fourth. He would swipe second for his second stolen base of the game, but the Clemson right hander would keep the Seminole shortstop stranded getting Sherman Johnson swinging on strikes to end the inning.
The Seminoles added to their lead in the fifth on a sac-fly by McGee to give FSU a 2-0 advantage. Travis led off the inning with a single to center and moved to third on a one-out double down the line in left off the bat of Jayce Boyd. Travis scored a batter later on McGee’s sac-fly to right.
Clemson got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on a solo home run off the bat of Felder to cut the deficit to 2-1. The senior right fielder took the first pitch he saw from Leibrandt out of the park to right for his sixth round tripper of the season. It marked just the third home run given up by Leibrandt this year.
The Seminoles could not take advantage of a Tiger error to extend their one-run lead in the sixth. With Delph on at second after drawing a walk, Johnson reached on a fielding error at first to extend the inning. But Jon McGibbon would atone for his error at first as he threw to the plate to get Delph for the final out of the inning.
Clemson connected on two home runs in the sixth to grab its first lead of the evening at 5-2. Shaffer tied the ball game at two taking a 1-2 pitch from Leibrandt off the left field foul pole for his team leading 10th home run of the season. Leibrandt’s night would come to a close after giving up a two-out double and a walk to Jay Baum and McGibbon, respectively.
Gage Smith entered out of the bullpen and quickly fell behind Kieboom at 3-0 before battling back with two called strikes. Kieboom then took the next pitch out of the park for a three-run shot to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead. Jose Brizuela looked as though he would come up with a miraculous catch, but the ball glanced off his outstretched glove and over the fence. The home run was the third of the season for Kieboom and the first allowed off Smith this year.
“He made a great pitch,” said Martin on the home run Kieboom hit off Smith. “The ball was down, it wasn’t elevated. The guy went down and got it and did a good job of hitting it.”
Florida State squandered a golden opportunity to cut into the Tiger lead in the seventh as the Seminoles left the bases loaded. Ramsey and McGee drew walks, while Stephen Spradling reached on his 11th hit-by-pitch of the season. Gossett would get out of the jam as Gonzalez flew out to center for the third out.
The Tigers pushed their lead to 7-2 on a two-out, two-run double down the line in left off the bat of Phil Pohl. Stolz led off the bottom of the seventh with a single off Bryant Holtmann and moved to second on a sac-bunt by Wilkerson. Brittle drew a walk and both runners would score on Pohl’s double down the line in left.
Brandon Johnson threw a perfect eighth inning for the Seminoles as he retired the Tigers in order on a pair of fly outs and a strikeout.
Florida State continued to battle but would leave three more runners on over the final two innings in the loss.
“We had some chances tonight, no doubt about it,” said Martin. “Disappointing? Yes, but we just have to play better tomorrow.”
Florida State and Clemson are back in action on Sunday, May 13 at 1:00 p.m. for game two of the three-game series. Sunday’s game will air live on ESPN3. Fans can listen to the games locally on 100.7 FM and over the internet on Seminoles.com. Live stats will be available via gametracker, while fans can receive updates on Twitter @FSU_Baseball.