ORLANDO, Fla. – Second-ranked Florida State (13-2) erased two three-run deficits and then held on for the one-run victory as the Seminoles remained undefeated on the road this year after downing UCF (7-10) 11-10 Tuesday evening in front of a Knights’ school record crowd of 3,953 on Jay Bergman Field.
The Seminoles plated three runs in an inning three times on Tuesday night followed by a two-run eighth which gave Florida State the lead for good.
“If you look at the overall ballgame you have to be pleased with the way we never folded the tent; we continued to scrap all night long,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “It’s a credit to the experience of our ball club.”
Justin Gonzalez started the eighth inning with a double down the line in left and scored two batters later on a double by Brett Knief that went off the glove of a drawn in UCF third baseman and down the line in left. After a single to right by Jose Brizuela put runners at the corners, John Nogowski drove in his third run of the evening on a groundout to short to give the Noles a two-run advantage at 11-9.
“The Knights did a very good job, they kept coming after us, they never folded,” added Martin.”
UCF threatened in the bottom of the eighth putting runners at the corners with one out off Dylan Silva. Martin went to the bullpen and called on Jameis Winston, who delivered with two big strikeouts to keep FSU’s two-run lead intact.
The Knights would make things interesting in the ninth after JoMarcos Woods drew a one-out walk off Winston. UCF followed with a single through the right side by Erik Barber and then a bloop RBI single off the bat of James Vasquez to draw with one of the Florida State lead at 11-10. Winston responded by getting Tommy Williams swinging on strikes and then Kam Gellinger to ground into a fielder’s choice putout at second to end the game. The save for Winston was his third in as many tries this year.
“It’s fun, those are moments in baseball that you are always going to remember,” said Winston. “They have a great team, a very good hitting squad. It was just great to see all the motivation that everybody had behind me; they had my back the whole time so I was very comfortable on the mound tonight.”
Silva (1-0) earned the win, his first as a Seminole, as the sophomore southpaw went 1.1 scoreless innings in relief as he allowed a hit and a walk, while striking out a career-high three batters.
Florida State’s 3-4-5-6 hitters combined for nine of the 12 hits on the evening with Knief leading the way with three hits on a pair of doubles and a bunt single. The senior from Ramsey, N.J. also scored four of FSU’s 11 runs on the night.
Gonzalez, DJ Stewart and Brizuela all finished with two hits apiece. Nogowski plated a team-high three RBI as he walked three times, while recording a sac-fly in the first inning and the key RBI groundout in the eighth.
“It was a great team win for us tonight,” said Stewart.
Gage West, who made his first career start behind the plate on Tuesday, registered an RBI on a sac-fly in the seventh.
“It shows a lot,” added Stewart on the fight of the Seminoles all night long. “We have a lot of veteran and a lot of new, young guys, but as a team we just battled back. I am very happy with our team now.”
Florida State broke through early scoring three runs in the top of the first. The Seminoles loaded the bases as three of the first four batters to the plate reached thanks to a leadoff single by Josh Delph, an infield single by Stewart and a walk to Knief. After falling behind in the count early, Brizuela worked the count to 3-2 before finding the hole between first and second to bring home a pair. Nogowski followed with a sac-fly to center to plate Knief and give the Garnet & Gold a 3-0 advantage.
UCF stormed right back to tie the game at 3-3 with three runs in the bottom of the third. The Knights sent nine batters to the plate in the inning recording three hits including back-to-back singles off starter Peter Miller which led to a run. Woods dropped a bunt single in front of the mound that Miller fielded but slipped and fell before he could make a throw to the plate. Barber then dropped a bloop single just over the head of John Sansone to bring home a run and cut the deficit to 3-2. After a walk loaded the bases, the third run of the inning came home on a fielder’s choice groundball that was gloved by Gonzalez just behind the bag at second. The senior captain flipped on to second for the out but Sansone missed the bag as the bases remained full. The play ended the night for Miller after just 2.1 innings of work.
Billy Strode came on and left the bases loaded posting back-to-back strikeouts to keep the game tied at three.
Miller would not factor into the decision on Tuesday night as he was charged with three runs on three hits as he walked three and struck out four.
The Knights would take their first lead of the game in the fourth courtesy of their second straight three-run inning. UCF loaded the bases off Strode with one out and with one swing of the bat Barber cleared the bases with a three-run double down the line in left.
Alec Byrd was called in from the bullpen and after walking Williams to load the bases, the freshman southpaw registered consecutive pop-ups in full territory to keep the UCF lead at 6-3.
FSU responded in the top of the fifth with its second three-run inning of the game to even the contest at 6-6. With two outs, the Seminoles loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice groundout, a bunt single and a hit-by-pitch. Nogowski drew a walk to bring home Stewart for the first run of the inning. Sansone followed with a high chopping single that drove in Knief but a wild throw by the UCF shortstop went to the back stop allowing Brizuela to score the tying run.
The tie was short lived as Matt Diorio gave the Knights the lead again on a solo shot to right. The UCF designated hitter took the third pitch from Byrd over the fence in right for his first home run of the season and a 7-6 lead for the Knights. The home run was the first run given up by Byrd in 5.0 innings.
UCF extended its lead to 9-6 with two runs in the sixth off Gage Smith. Vasquez led off the inning with a double down the line in left and scored on an infield single by Sam Tolleson. Gellinger, who reached on an infield single to second, would come around to score on a two-out RBI single to left by Jordan Savinon.
Florida State would even the game once again courtesy of another three-run inning in the seventh. Stewart got the inning off to a great start going opposite field for his second home run of the season. The sophomore left fielder took a 1-0 pitch from Parker Thomas out of the park to left for the first run of the inning. Knief then followed with a double to the gap in left center. The next three batters reached on back-to-back walks and then a hit-by-pitch taken by Sansone to score Knief. West tied the game on a sac-fly to center bringing home Brizuela for the third run of the inning.
The win for FSU was its seventh straight over UCF and fourth in a row over the Knights in Orlando. It also marked the third consecutive one-run victory for the Seminoles over UCF inside Jay Bergman Field.
Florida State and UCF return to the diamond for game two of the mid-week series on Wednesday, March 12 at 4:00 p.m. The game will be streamed live on UCF Knights All-Access. Fans can listen to the game on the Seminoles.com All-Access player and locally on 1270 AM. Live stats will be available via gametracker.