TAMPA, Fla. – The opportunity to knock off the top-ranked team in college baseball doesn’t come often, but it did come early for Mike Martin’s Florida State team.
And the Seminoles (8-0) didn’t waste it.
Fifth-ranked FSU parlayed a five-run third inning into a 5-3 victory over consensus No. 1 Florida in Tuesday’s Florida Four Classic night-cap at Steinbrenner Field.
Mike McGee came out of center field to close down the win, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his first save of the season.
“It was so loud here, you can’t not have adrenaline,” McGee said.
In front of a Seminole-heavy crowd of 7,869, Martin’s club handed the Gators (7-1) their first defeat of the season, winning for the fifth time in the last six meetings with their in-state rivals.
“It was great for college baseball,” said FSU coach Mike Martin of the meeting between unbeaten top 10 teams. “It’s always going to be intense. It’s Florida-Florida State – that’s all you have to say. No matter what the records are, it’s just a fun atmosphere. Tonight was just electric.”
The Seminoles put a charge into Florida in the third inning, chasing starter Tommy Toledo when Justin Gonzalez singled, Devon Travis doubled and Mike McGee drew a walk to load the bases. At that point Gators turned to left-hander Alex Panteliodis to face left-handed clean-up hitter James Ramsey.
Ramsey promptly lined a single off Panteliodis’ leg, which caromed into foul territory. Florida first baseman Austin Maddox’s toss to Panteliodis covering the bag was off target – hitting Ramsey in the head - as Travis chased home Gonzalez for a 2-0 lead. Jayce Boyd followed with a two-run triple off the into a 30 mph wind and off the left field fence for a 4-0 cushion.
Martin called it one of the hardest balls he’s seen hit in his 32 seasons as the Seminoles’ coach.
“He turned the wind around, literally,” he said. “Shockingly, it didn’t get out.”
“To go first pitch and hit a ball as hard as I did, it was a good feeling,” Boyd said of his blast, which proved to be the winning blow. “I was surprised it didn’t, but I wasn’t at the same time. The wind was howling. I knew I hit it good when I saw it come off the bat.”
Designated hitter Stuart Tapley, battling an 0-for-9 slump, countered with a two-out RBI single to center for the Seminoles all-important fifth run. The five-run cushion stood up behind a solid pitching performance from the FSU staff.
Seminoles’ starter Scott Sitz (2-0) turned in five solid, scattering four hits and departing with a 5-1 lead – good enough to earn his second consecutive victory over the Gators.
“Sitz had a pretty good outing,” Martin said. “He had good command of both sides of the plate. The slider was just missing, but he did a good job of keeping Florida off balance.”
Sitz was replaced by staff ace Sean Gilmartin, who was scheduled to throw a bullpen session. The Gators promptly parlayed three hits, a walk and an error into a pair of sixth-inning runs, trimming the deficit to 5-3. Gilmartin struck out a pair, including Zack Powers with runners at first and second to end the inning and kill Florida’s last threat of the night.
Daniel Bennett, who worked two innings of no-hit relief, and McGee tag-teamed to retire the final nine Florida batters in order.
Gonzalez led FSU’s eight-hit attack with a pair of singles as the Seminoles season-starting streak of double-digit hits was snapped at seven by four Florida pitchers.
Following their sixth game in eight days, the Seminoles will get a short reprieve before heading to Athens, Ga. for a weekend, three-game set with Georgia. It is FSU’s first visit to Foley Field since falling to the Bulldogs in the 2006 NCAA Super Regional.
Gilmartin is the scheduled starter for the series opener as the Seminoles aim to extend a five-game winning streak against the Bulldogs.
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