DURHAM, N.C. – It was not the start No. 7 Florida State (44-13) was hoping to get off to on Wednesday afternoon as the Seminoles dropped the opening game of the 2013 ACC Baseball Championship to Georgia Tech (34-23) 4-3 inside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Yellow Jackets hit back-to-back solo home runs with two outs in the top of the ninth off Robby Coles (4-2) to claim the come-from-behind victory over the Seminoles. Georgia Tech was down to its last out of the game after Coles recorded consecutive groundouts to start the ninth. Then A.J. Murray tied the game with a solo shot over the blue monster in left followed by a solo shot to almost the exact location by Mott Hyde to give the Yellow Jackets the lead for good.
“Obviously that was a tough one, but you’ve got to tip your hat to Georgia Tech,” said head coach Mike Martin. “That was a great job of perseverance and fight. You have to understand that it’s a 27-out ball game and you never know and they did an outstanding job of getting it done.”
It marked the first time this year a Seminole pitcher has given up back-to-back home runs and the first time since March 24, 2012 when Wake Forest’s Carlos Lopez and Charlie Morgan performed the feat in the second inning in Winston-Salem, N.C. It also marked the first time this year that the Seminoles lost a game in which they led after the eighth inning (40-1).
“I’m sure that the greatest closer of all-time has given up a home run or two in a last inning situation and it’s just baseball,” said Martin. “You have to credit them because Robby Coles will get the ball if we’re in that situation again in the next two games. We wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in without him.”
Daniel Palka worked the final two innings to earn the victory as he moved to 2-1 on the year. The junior left hander did not allow a run or a hit while striking out one.
The loss for FSU was its fifth straight in the ACC Tournament and fourth loss in a row in the opening game of the championship. The Seminoles fell to 0-1 in their pool, while Georgia Tech improved to 1-0.
All three of Florida State’s runs on Wednesday came off sac-flies with two in the sixth and one in the eighth.
Both starting pitchers did not factor into the decision in the tournament opener but both pitched extremely well.
Scott Sitz went 7.0 strong allowing two runs on six hits as he walked one and struck out six. The senior right hander retired seven straight Jacket hitters until Brandon Thomas led off the top of the fourth with a triple. That inning would turn into the only hiccup for Sitz as Georgia Tech scored both its runs off the Seminole starter in the fourth to grab a 2-0 lead. Over the next three innings, Sitz would give up just two hits as no runner advanced past first base.
“I threw some pitches that got too much of the plate (in the fourth) and they put them in play,” said Sitz. “I threw pitches that were too good to hit, but I settled down after that.
“I knew that I couldn’t give up any more than the two runs I gave up because I knew he (Farmer) wasn’t going to give up much more than that.”
Buck Farmer was equally impressive allowing three runs on six hits as he walked two and struck out eight. The senior right hander worked out of two early jams courtesy of the Yellow Jacket defense turning a pair of double plays in the first and fourth innings.
In the first, DJ Stewart was hit by a pitch and Marcus Davis singled. Stephen McGee was robbed of a hit when Sam Dove made a great diving stab on a groundball, got to his feet and completed the 5-4-3 double play to end the first. In the fourth, the Seminoles put together singles by Stewart and McGee followed by a four-pitch walk to Jose Brizuela. After falling behind Casey Smit 2-0 and a quick visit to the mound, Farmer got the Seminole first baseman to hit a groundball to short for an inning ending double play.
Farmer retired the side in order three times on Wednesday and went out to start the eighth but left after facing just one batter as Stewart laced a triple to right center.
After both teams combined for a hit a piece through the first three innings, Georgia Tech broke the scoreless tie in the fourth plating two runs off Sitz to take a 2-0 lead. Brandon Thomas led off the inning with his fourth triple of the season and scored one pitch later on an RBI groundout to first off the bat of Palka. Zane Evans and Dove followed with a walk and single, respectively, and two batters later Hyde gave the Jackets a two-run cushion with a two-out RBI single to center. Sitz would get out of the inning without further damage as he got Matt Gonzalez swinging on strikes for the second time in as many at-bats.
The Seminoles finally broke through off Farmer in the sixth using a pair of sac-flies to tie the game at 2-2. Seth Miller was hit by a pitch to open the bottom of the inning and moved to third on a double to the gap in left center by Stewart. Davis brought home Miller on a sac-fly to right with Stewart taking third on the play. After a walk to McGee put runners at the corners and one out, Brizuela drove in Stewart for the tying run on a sac-fly to center.
The two runs by FSU in the sixth snapped Farmer’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 14 against the Noles – a streak spanning three starts dating back to last year’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
In the eighth, Florida State grabbed its first lead of the game when Stewart led off the inning with his second triple of the season. He would score two batters later on a sac-fly off the bat of McGee on a ball that was caught in short right by back-pedaling second baseman Thomas Smith.
“My Coach (Mike Martin, Jr.) was talking to me the whole way when Marcus (Davis) popped his up and he said that if the second baseman keeps back-pedaling and doesn’t have momentum going to the plate then we’re going to go home,” said Stewart. “We’re usually only going to do it with one out when we have to have the run. It just worked out that he kept back-pedaling and wasn’t able to get anything on the throw so I was able to slide in safely.”
Stewart finished the game 3-for-3 as he was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. The freshman left fielder was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat and then followed with a single in the fourth, double in the sixth and triple in the eighth.
Florida State returns to the diamond for its second game of the ACC Baseball Championship on Thursday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m. against Virginia Tech. The Seminoles will start RHP Luke Weaver against the Hokies. All three of Florida State’s games at the ACC Tournament will air live on the Regional Sports Network (fans are encouraged to check their local listings). Fans can listen to games 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.