TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No. 6 Florida State (10-0) held off a ninth inning rally by Villanova (1-6) to hang on to a 2-1 victory on Sunday afternoon to complete the series sweep on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
“This was a challenge in more ways than one,” said head coach Mike Martin. “It was a little bit chilly out there today, but I was just very pleased with the way our guys kept their composure, kept battling; it’s the greatest game in the world. After the Friday night game, you are just looking out there wondering what in the world is going on as you score 23 runs. Then you come out today and they are pitching a very good looking left hander that basically kept us in check. We had to earn everything that we got.”
The Seminoles came within two outs of posting back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2007 but Villanova’s John Cialone spoiled those plans with a sac-fly RBI in the top of the ninth to bring home their first run since plating a run in the top of the fifth in game one.
The Wildcats made things interesting in the ninth off Jameis Winston drawing a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch all with one out to load the bases. After a meeting on the mound from Martin, Winston got Cialone to sky a fly ball to center to score Connor Jones and cut the Florida State lead to 2-1. But the freshman right hander would not let the run faze him as he got Matt Beermann swinging on strikes for the final out of the game to earn his second save of the season.
“If we are going to use him as our closer, he needs to get that feeling and he needs to know what it takes to close it up,” said Martin on his decision to leave Winston in the ball game. “I think that it was a good learning experience for him. Sometimes I must admit I am very reluctant to do that as we had a very experienced Gage Smith and Brandon Johnson ready in the bullpen, but I wanted to see how he would do and fortunately he got the job done for us.
“He seemed to be in control of himself. He didn’t give me that ‘deer in head lights look’ (when I went to the mound), he seemed to understand where he was in the line-up and what he had to do to be successful.”
“I liked the fact that we had a game like this today,” said Stephen McGee. “It tested the club. We needed something like this to push us and to see how everybody would react under that kind of pressure especially for Jameis in the ninth. It was good to see him feel that pressure and really see him calm down, relax and go right back to pitching and be right on.”
Florida State got another stellar outing from starter Peter Miller (2-0) as the junior right hander worked 5.1 scoreless innings allowing three hits and four walks while striking out a career-high eight batters.
“Peter is slowly but surely maturing as a pitcher,” said Martin. “He is one of the few guys in college baseball that has four good pitches. Pete Miller is a talented young man. For him to go out and experience some toughness both mentally and physically and have success is very encouraging.”
Miller worked out of some early trouble in the first inning as Villanova loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of walks and a fielding error. Miller responded by getting Beermann looking at a called third strike to retire the side.
The Lutz, Fla., native struck out two batters in each of his first three innings of work. He picked up his eighth strikeout to open the top of the sixth but after issuing a walk to Brandon Carr, Martin went to the bullpen and called on Robby Coles.
Coles came out throwing hard striking out the first three batters that he faced. He finished the afternoon holding the Wildcats scoreless for 2.2 innings allowing just one hit and one walk while tying a season-high with five strikeouts.
“He throws a heavy baseball,” said Martin on Coles. “He is a guy that enjoys going out there and competing. He is not one to shy away from any situation. He will be counted on to help us in roles that we are not really sure of right now except that he will get the ball when he is ready.”
Between the three pitchers, Florida State recorded 14 strikeouts, the third straight game in which the Seminole pitching staff hit that mark this weekend.
“We got a good performance out of Peter Miller and Robby Coles,” added Martin. “Jameis came in and closed it up. It got interesting I must say in the ninth but that was good for all of us to be involved in a game like that, it showed a lot of composure on our part. I was just very pleased that we were able to accomplish what we did.”
The Seminole bats were held in check on Sunday by Villanova starter Josh Harris (1-1) who suffered the loss despite allowing just two runs, one earned, on six hits. Harris and Chris Haggerty did not issue a walk nor did they hit a batter marking the first time this year that Florida State came away empty handed in both categories.
Florida State took advantage of the Wildcats only error of the game in the third to break-up a scoreless ballgame. Winston led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Giovanny Alfonzo. Alfonzo reached on the play as Harris made a wild throw over to first pulling his teammate off the bag at first. After a wild pitch with one out advanced both runners 90 feet, Villanova got a big out at the plate when Josh Delph sent a groundball to first. Carr threw home to get Winston to keep the game scoreless. With Jose Brizuela at the plate and runners at the corners with two outs, Harris was charged with a balk bringing home Alfonzo to give FSU a 1-0 lead.
The Seminoles added to their two-out magic in the fifth when John Sansone laced an RBI double to the gap in right center to score Seth Miller for what would be the eventual game-winning run.
“It was big for us,” said Sansone on coming through with the RBI double. “I’ve been working with Meat (Mike Martin, Jr.) in the cages a lot and it was good to show it on the field today.”
Miller led off the inning with a single to center, stole second and moved to third on a groundout to short by Winston. After Alfonzo popped up a bunt attempt to first, Sansone came through with his third double of the season taking a 3-1 pitch from Harris to the gap in right center plating Miller for a 2-0 FSU advantage.
Winston led all hitters on Sunday with two hits on a single and a double for his first multi-hit game of the season. Stephen McGee, John Nogowski, Seth Miller and Sansone all finished with a hit apiece.
Villanova had its chances to score runs on Sunday as the Wildcats left 14 runners on base compared to just three by the Seminoles.
With the win on Sunday, FSU has now won 16 straight games when donning the gold uniforms.
Florida State returns to the diamond on Tuesday, March 5 for a two-game mid-week series against Presbyterian College. Game time for both games on Tuesday and Wednesday is set for 4:00 p.m. Both games will also air live over the internet on Seminoles.com All-Access, while fans can listen to the games live on the All-Access player. Locally, fans can listen to the games on 1270 AM. 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 for all three games will be available via gametracker.