CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Fourth-ranked Florida State (38-11, 18-7) opened its three-game road trip in fine fashion Friday night thanks to the right arm of Luke Weaver and a three-hit performance from DJ Stewart as the Seminoles shutout North Carolina (29-20, 13-12) 7-0 inside Boshamer Stadium.
The shutout was FSU’s sixth of the season and fourth against ACC opponents. It also marked just the third time the Seminoles blanked the Tar Heels and the first since a 3-0 victory in Tallahassee back on March 23, 2001.
With Friday night’s win and Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame, the Noles clinched their eighth consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title assuring Florida State of no lower than the second seed in the upcoming ACC Baseball Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
“We are excited but at the same time we have six more games left to play and they are all important to us,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said on clinching the division title.
On Friday night, Weaver (7-3) put on a show as he shut down the Tar Heel offense scattering five hits and two walks over 7.0 shutout innings. The junior right hander allowed just one runner to reach third and that came in the first inning. After the first, Weaver faced no more than four hitters an inning from the second inning on.
“Luke gave us everything we needed tonight,” added Martin. “I am just so proud of the fact that he is what he is; he never thought about what happened to him last week. He knew what he needed to do to help his team win tonight. He was in complete control for the seven innings he was out there.”
The DeLand, Fla., native finished with six strikeouts and retired 15 of the last 18 batters that he faced. Weaver held an opponent without a run for the third time this year and for the first time since tossing a one-hit shutout against Boston College in Rhode Island.
“I was working in and out, trying to mix everything in there and it really worked out for me tonight,” said Weaver, “The fastball early, I was really throwing that pretty good. The change-up early and then later in the innings, the slider had good depth, throwing (that pitch) for strikes. It all just gelled together late in the ball game.”
“It was a huge victory for us,” said Stewart. “Last year when we came here they got the best of us, so we were glad to jump on them early. Luke pitched outstanding tonight he looked like the Weaver of last year. He was locating all of his pitches in and out. He did a really good job of keeping them off-balanced. It was very good for our team to get that early momentum and get some runs on the board.”
Stewart paced the Seminole offense with three hits, all doubles, and three RBI. He became the first Seminole to register three doubles in a game since Sherman Johnson performed the feat against Miami on April 27. 2012.
“DJ had a big night no doubt about it,” said Martin. “He was a very big part of this ball game. We needed this ball game tonight.”
“It was huge for me,” added Stewart. “I’ve been struggling a little bit lately, really just trying to go back to what’s gotten me here, right now, trying to hit the ball to the opposite field, not trying to pull everything; let my hands work for me.”
Casey Smit and Justin Gonzalez finished with two hits each in the win, while Jose Brizuela, Ben DeLuzio and Danny De La Calle had a hit apiece. DeLuzio finished with two runs and a stolen base, while De La Calle recorded his first career steal in the top of the seventh.
Billy Strode worked the final two innings to preserve the shutout. The junior southpaw faced the minimum as he erased a one-out single in the ninth getting Parks Jordan to ground into a game ending 3-6-3 double play. Strode finished with one strikeout.
North Carolina’s Trent Thornton suffered the loss falling to 7-3 on the year. The sophomore right hander gave up three runs on four hits as he walked two and struck out five in 5.0 innings of work.
The Seminoles grabbed the early lead in game one on a bizarre play in the second inning. With two outs and runners at second and third with De La Calle at the plate, Thornton unleashed a wild pitch that Tar Heel catch Korey Dunbar could not find. Brizuela scored easily from third, while DeLuzio scampered all the way from second sliding safely just ahead of the tag at the plate by Thornton to give Florida State a 2-0 lead.
“Scoring from second on a wild pitch just gave us the momentum that we needed,” said Martin. “He (DeLuzio) has that ability to put that uneasiness in the other dugout when he gets on base.”
“That’s DeLuzio’s game,” added Stewart on the freshman centerfielder scoring from second on the wild pitch. “He is unbelievably fast and he showed that tonight stealing some bases and on that play. On that play, the third baseman actually got in his way, slowing him down which made the play closer than what it really should have been. He’s got speed that you really can’t explain, that’s a big part of our team.”
Florida State pushed its lead to 3-0 in the fourth on a two-out single by Gonzalez. DeLuzio reached on a hit-by-pitch from Thornton and stole second on the very next pitch. He would score two batters later on a single to left by Gonzalez.
Stewart gave the Noles a five-run lead on a two-out double in the seventh. A pair of walks by UNC reliever Spencer Trayner would come back to haunt him as Stewart laced a double to the gap in left center scoring De La Calle and Smit.
The Noles added to their lead in the ninth plating two more runs to take a 7-0 advantage. Stewart’s third double, down the line in left, plated Brett Knief, who reached on a walk to open the ninth. John Nogowski drove in FSU’s seventh run on a groundball to short plating pinch runner Nick Graganella.
Florida State and North Carolina return to action for game two of the series on Saturday, May 10 at 1:00 p.m. The game will broadcast live on the Regional Sports Network and in Florida on Fox Sports Florida.
Audio for the game will be available on the Seminoles.com All-Access player. Locally fans can listen to the game on 100.7 FM. As always, fans can receive in-game updates on Twitter @FSU_Baseball. Also, do not forget to like the Seminole Baseball team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball and to follow the team on Instagram (NoleBaseball).