CORAL GABLES, Fla. – From the outset Sunday, it was apparent that Mike Martin’s Florida State baseball team would be battling uphill in its bid to post the first three-game road sweep of Miami since 2002.
The eighth-ranked Seminoles (33-11, 16-8 ACC) managed just three hits through six innings against Miami starter E.J. Encinosa. In the end, Florida State simply could not overcome an early, three-run deficit, falling 5-1 in the series finale at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Stadium.
Miami struck for a pair of runs in the first off senior right-hander Mike McGee (1-2), who was making his first start since March of last season, and added a single run in the second for a 3-0 cushion.
Seminole second baseman Devon Travis’ 1-for-5 performance at the plate may have been the best measure for the kind of day Martin’s club endured. The junior leadoff batter squared up ball in his first four at-bats, but came away empty-handed; the victim of nifty glove-work by the ‘Canes and a third consecutive day playing into a stiff head-wind which kept balls hanging in the air.
“Unbelievable,” Martin said, shaking his head in amazement. “I’ve seen guys hit two or three, but not four, right on the button and be 0-for-4.”
“It was just one of those days for me and for us as a team,” said Travis. “I really thought we played good baseball and we just didn’t get the ‘W’.”
Harold Martinez’s two-run double in the first and Zeke DeVoss’ RBI double in the second provided the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (29-15, 16-7) with all the runs they would need.
The Seminoles did keep it interesting. FSU reliever Mack Waugh continued his team’s solid work out of the bullpen, delivering 3.1 innings of two-hit, one-run relief after following McGee. Six Seminole relievers combined to limit the Hurricanes to six hits and a pair of runs over the final six innings, continuing a weekend-long trend.
Miami mustered just three earned runs against the FSU bullpen all weekend.
“We kept ourselves in the game,” Martin said. “Like I told the guys, what made me so proud was the way that we fought and came back to put ourselves in position to tie it up in the ninth inning.”
James Ramsey’s solo home run in the eighth – off UM reliever Travis Miller – not only extended his league-leading hitting streak to 22 games, but prevented the Hurricanes from matching the Seminoles’ Saturday shutout. Ramsey’s opposite field shot was the only ball that left the park in three games.
It might have loomed larger in the outcome had the ‘Canes not tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh to open up a 5-0 lead.
Without Ramsey’s blast, the ‘Noles would have not got the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth after singles by Justin Gonzalez, Robby Stahl and Travis loaded the bases.
“It’s hard to set the table when you’re playing in front of this crowd,” said Ramsey. “They’ve got a great pitching staff – they showed that all weekend – so it showed a lot of us to get that tying run to the plate at the end.”
The rally fizzled – and the game ended – when Miami center fielder Nathan Melendres raced in to snare Sherman Johnson’s liner for the final out.
In the process of holding FSU’s bats in check, Encinosa and Miller combined for 14 strikeouts, further limiting any run-scoring threats by Martin’s club.
Despite the setback, the Seminoles strengthened their postseason hopes by winning the road series against a Miami team that had won 14 of 16 coming into the weekend.
“It’s pretty big, especially against a team like Miami,” Ramsey said. “We knew coming down that they were going to play their best series of the year against us and we needed to do the same.”
The Seminoles hold a three-game lead over Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division standings with six league games to play. Still, there are plenty of challenges ahead, beginning with Tuesday’s road game at Jacksonville, which is second in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and a three-game, weekend homestand coming up against UCF.
“I don’t think that there’s any question that this helps us,” Martin said of the series win against the ‘Canes. “We’ve just got to continue to play well in the three next series that we have.”