Durham, NC - No. 7 Florida State (44-15) concluded the 2013 ACC Baseball Championship with a heartbreaking 7-4, 12-inning loss to No. 5 Virginia (47-10) Saturday afternoon inside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park as UVa’s Kenny Towns provided the game-winning heroics connecting on a walk-off, three-run home run to seal the victory for the Cavaliers.
“Give Virginia a lot of credit, they did a great job,” said head coach Mike Martin. “In all areas, they did a great job. And on top of that they’re just great people, class people. And everyone in this league is the same way. That was a well-earned win for them.”
The loss was FSU’s seventh straight at the ACC Tournament while it marked the second year in a row the Seminoles finished the championship at 0-3. It also was the fourth consecutive loss for the Garnet & Gold this season – their longest losing streak since dropping four straight in 2010.
“We all understand, our Seminole Nation understands, it is disappointing, but our season begins Friday night,” added Martin. “What we’ve been working on since August begins Friday night. That’s the bottom line. You credit all the teams that beat us; they earned every one of them. We’ll be ready to go on Friday night, whoever it is, wherever we play.”
Jameis Winston (1-2) suffered the loss as the home run by Towns in the 12th was the first allowed by the freshman right hander all season long.
Nick Howard (6-4) picked up the win working a scoreless top of the 12th allowing just one hit while striking out two.
“Last year we definitely struggled toward the end of the year,” said FSU pitcher Brandon Leibrandt. “We came out, first game in the regional, played great from there on out, made it to Omaha, played extremely well and we’re hoping that happens again this year.”
For the third time in as many games this tournament, DJ Stewart collected multiple hits for the Seminoles finishing the game on Saturday 2-for-5 with a run scored. The freshman outfielder concluded his first ACC Baseball Championship hitting .667 (8-for-12) with a double, triple and three runs scored.
Casey Smit also went 2-for-5 in the game as he drove in two runs on a two-out double in the sixth. Making his first start since April 2, Josh Delph drew a walk in three plate appearances finishing with a run scored and one RBI.
It was the second extra-inning game played by the Seminoles this year (1-1) and the sixth all-time in the ACC Tournament (3-3).
Both starting pitchers did not factor into the decision on Saturday as FSU’s Brandon Leibrandt gave the Seminoles 5.0 strong innings allowing just one run on six hits as he walked one and struck out four. Whit Mayberry worked 5.1 innings allowing three runs on four hits as he walked one and struck out one.
Florida State went on top early plating a run in the third to take a 1-0 lead. Seth Miller was hit by a pitch to open the inning and moved to third on a base hit to center by Giovanny Alfonzo, who took second as the throw from centerfield went to third base. The Seminoles tried to squeeze a run in when John Sansone laid down a bunt, but Mayberry threw home on the play to get Miller for the first out of the inning. Delph gave FSU the lead one batter later driving in Alfonzo on a fielder’s choice groundout to second.
The lead was short lived as Joe McCarthy tied the game at one with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the third. The ACC Freshman of the Year took a 3-2 pitch from Leibrandt out of the park to right for his fourth home run of the season.
The Seminoles escaped a jam in the bottom of the fifth when the Cavaliers put runners at second and third with only one out following a single by Nate Irving and double by Jared King. But Leibrandt retired the next two hitters on a strikeout and pop-out to short to end the inning and keep the game tied at 1-1.
FSU retook the lead in the sixth with three runs to give the Seminoles a 4-1 advantage. Delph drew a walk off Mayberry to start the inning, advanced to third on a single up the middle by Stewart and scored on an RBI groundout to short off the bat of Marcus Davis. After a walk to Stephen McGee, Smit then delivered the big hit in the inning taking a 3-2 pitch from Nathan Kirby to the gap in left center with two outs to score both Stewart and McGee to give the Seminoles a three-run advantage.
The Cavaliers came right back with two runs in the bottom of the inning to cut FSU’s lead to 4-3. Derek Fisher opened the inning with a walk of Bryant Holtmann and after falling behind 3-1 to Reed Gragnani, Martin went to the bullpen and brought on Gage Smith. Two pitches later Gragnani laced a base hit back up the middle scoring Fisher as Brett Knief could not field the ball cleanly in center. Gragnani would race into third on the play and score two batters later on a groundout to third by Towns.
Billy Strode entered to get the final out in the sixth and finished his outing working 1.2 innings in relief. The sophomore southpaw was charged with a run on one hit as he walked one and struck out two.
The Cavaliers tied the game at four on a bizarre play in the eighth. With Towns at first after drawing a walk off Strode, the UVa third baseman would score all the way from first on a base hit to right by Mike Papi off Robby Coles. Towns, running on the play, never stopped as he rounded third sliding just ahead of the tag by McGee at the plate.
UVa threatened in the bottom of the ninth but left two stranded as the Seminoles forced extra innings. The first two batters to the plate in the inning reached off Coles as King singled to left and McCarthy followed with a walk. Brandon Downes tried to advance both runners 90 feet, but popped up his bunt attempt to John Nogowski at first. Coles then responded with a strikeout and a fly out to end the inning.
The Seminoles put two on in the top of the 11th with one out but Kyle Crockett escaped the jam recording a strikeout and fielder’s choice groundout at third. Stewart led off the inning with a single up the middle, his second hit of the afternoon, and moved to second on a walk to McGee. Crockett shutout the Seminoles for 4.0 innings giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out six.
“We’ve been playing great baseball all year,” said Smit. “Every game was close. We’re confident. We always have been and we always will be. We keep working hard every day. We’re definitely going to the regionals with this team. We’re going to do something special.”
FSU will now await its fate as the NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be held on Monday, May 27 at 12 noon on ESPNU where the field of 64 will be set. The NCAA will announce the 16 regional sites on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. As always, Seminole fans can follow the Noles on twitter @FSU_Baseball and remember to like the Seminoles on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball).