Tallahassee, FL - No. 8 Florida State (37-9) captured its sixth consecutive victory with a 6-1 victory over No. 30 UCF (26-21) Saturday evening on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium to clinch the season series from the Knights. A crowd of 4,215 was on hand in game two to watch the Seminoles and Knights battle under unusually cold and windy conditions.
“It was a good win,” said head coach Mike Martin. “There’s no two ways about it; it was a good win. The conditions were tough for both clubs tonight.”
The Seminoles once again got another outstanding performance from their starting pitcher as this time Brandon Leibrandt went 7.0 strong allowing an unearned run on five hits as he walked one and struck out nine to improve to 7-4 on the year. The sophomore southpaw also registered two more pickoffs to bring his season total to 10.
“I felt like I had pretty good stuff tonight,” said Leibrandt. “I was able to make some pitches here and there and I had a great defense behind me; some of the best catches I have ever seen. No doubt, it was a great team win.”
Over the last six games, FSU’s starting pitchers have combined to allow just three runs, two earned, in 40.0 innings of work – good for an ERA of 0.45. They have registered 48 strikeouts while yielding 26 hits and just 10 walks over that span.
Gage Smith worked the final two innings on Saturday night allowing a pair of hits while striking out two to preserve the victory.
“Leibrandt did a very good job; Gage did an outstanding job and let’s face it that’s what it’s about (good pitching),” said Martin.
Leibrandt and Smith were also the beneficiaries of a few defensive gems turned in by the Seminoles Saturday night. The first came from Jameis Winston in the third as he got a great jump in right to catch a liner off the bat of Erik Barber and keep a Knight runner from tagging up and scoring from third. The UCF centerfielder was the victim once again in the sixth when Giovanny Alfonzo climbed the ladder to take away a base hit. Seth Miller added to the highlight reel in the seventh with an over the head catch in straight away center, while John Nogowski made a great diving, over the head grab on a pop-up in foul territory off the bat of Parker Webster in the top of the ninth.
“I was blocked off from Nogowski’s catch, but Seth’s was a thing of beauty and Gio’s was pure athleticism,” added Martin. “Don’t forget the outstanding play Jameis Winston made; my gosh that was going to be a base hit and he comes in and makes an unbelievable catch to hold the guy at third. All of them were pretty impressive.”
“It is huge for momentum,” added Leibrandt on the defense’s ability to make big plays. “Anytime a guy makes a play like that, it takes away a base hit and kills the rally.”
Offensively, Winston led all Seminole hitters with two hits in the game two victory as his two-run double in the fifth broke open a two-run Florida State lead. Alfonzo also picked up two RBI drawing a pair of walks with the bases loaded.
Florida State tied a season-high with five hit-by-pitches Saturday night as John Sansone led the way with two.
UCF’s Chris Matulis suffered the loss falling to 5-3 on the year. The senior southpaw was charged with six runs, five earned, on seven hits in 4.1 innings of work.
The Knights scored first Saturday night taking advantage of a Seminole error in the top of the third. Austin Johnston led off the inning reaching on a two base throwing error at third, moved to third on a groundout to short and scored on Erik Hempe’s RBI double to the gap in right center. Leibrandt avoided further damage in the inning as he recorded a lineout and a groundout to hold the Knights to just one run in the inning.
The lead was short lived for UCF as the Seminoles came right back in the bottom of the inning with a run to tie the game at 1-1. Alfonzo led off FSU’s half of the third with a double to left center, moved to third on a groundout to second by Brett Knief and scored on DJ Stewart’s RBI single to center.
Florida State grabbed its first lead of the night in the fourth when Alfonzo drew a two-out walk with the base loaded to bring home Marcus Davis, who led off the inning with an infield single. Winston kept the inning alive with a two-out base hit to center and Sansone reached on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases.
The Seminoles broke the game open in the fifth scoring four runs off Matulis as Florida State sent 10 batters to the plate to extend their lead to 6-1. After Stephen McGee doubled off the fence in right center to start FSU’s one-out rally, the junior catcher would score on a fielding error at second on a groundball off the bat of Davis. The Seminoles then loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch and a walk as Winston came to the plate and delivered with a two-run double just inside the bag at third. Following another hit-by-pitch to Sansone, Alfonzo picked up his second RBI of the night as he drew his second walk off Matulis with the bases loaded.
“With the bases loaded, you just have to get the job done,” said Winston. “Luckily there was one out so I didn’t have that much pressure on me. Everyone (in front of me) did their job so I could have a chance to get the hit.”
Florida State and UCF will wrap-up its three-game series on Sunday, May 5 at 1:00 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3. Fans can listen to the game on the Seminoles.com All-Access player and locally on 100.7 FM. As always, Seminole fans can follow the Noles on twitter @FSU_Baseball and remember to like the Seminoles on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball). Live stats will be available via gametracker.