CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Weather delays, less-than-sharp pitching and shoddy defense figured prominently in Friday night’s fractured Florida State-Miami series opener.
Ultimately, the Seminoles made the break that mattered most in the top of the ninth in a 6-5 victory.
Sherman Johnson raced home from third base on a two-out wild pitch by Travis Miller, providing the eighth-ranked Seminoles (32-10, 15-7 ACC) with the decisive run. Johnson’s alter break for the plate was set up when the junior second baseman hustled from first to third when Miami left fielder Zeke DeVoss’ failed diving attempt to snag James Ramsey’s single.
“When I saw him [DeVoss] dive and saw the ball dislodge and get away from him, I knew there was no way he could miss the ball, get up and throw me out,” said Johnson. “I just ran.”
FSU closer Daniel Bennett (3-1), who yielded a game-tying single in the eighth which cost him his seventh save, made amends in the ninth. The side-arm slinging right-hander struck out Nathan Melendres, Rony Rodriguez and Harold Martinez in order to preserve the victory.
By closing out the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (28-14, 15-6) in the ninth, the Seminoles extended their season-best winning streak to eight games.
“We were kind of down a little bit,” Bennett said of the mood, after Miami tied the game on a Stephen Perez RBI single in the eighth. “We had been ahead the whole game and we let them back in the game; we let them tie it up. When we got back in the dugout we got the guys together and Ramsey spoke. … ‘Let’s get after it right here. Let’s fight hard for one inning, get out of here and come back tomorrow, but we’ve got to get one across.’”
The ‘Noles did just that when Johnson was hit by a Miller pitch, then raced his way into scoring position on Ramsey’s single.
The Seminoles and Hurricanes waited out a 65-minute weather delay before the game began and were waved off the field by home plate umpire Frank Sylvester at 10:17 p.m. with lightning visible in the sky. Play resumed in the sixth inning after 18 minutes.
Beyond the weather, the game had a little bit of everything. Miami committed a season-high seven errors, hit three Seminole batters and uncorked a pair of wild pitches which led to runs. Oddly enough, Mike Martin’s club could never put enough distance on its lead to feel safe.
“Baseball’s crazy,” Martin said. “You just never know what to expect. I can go back and tell you the 182 times I’ve played against the University of Miami in my career stories that you wouldn’t believe. Whatever happens in this series doesn’t surprise me.”
It’s almost also a battle when the two teams meet and Friday night’s game at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field – in front of a season-high crowd of 4,291 – was no exception. For the eighth time in the last 11 meetings, the game was decided by two runs or less.
This time, Florida State used the victory to even the all-time series on Miami’s home field at 61-61-2.
Gilmartin, who was bidding for his 29th career win, tossed a season-high 112 pitches through seven innings and left with a 5-4 lead. That victory, which would have tied the junior left-hander for 10th on FSU’s career wins last, will have to wait.
“[Gilmartin] showed what he’s all about,” Martin said, praising the staff ace, who came back out after the sixth-inning delay despite having offered up 100 pitches. “He’s a warrior. He wasn’t exactly smiles when I said, ‘Nice game.’ He doesn’t like anybody to take the ball away from him.”
Dale Carey opened the home eighth with a single off reliever Scott Sitz, then scored from second on Perez’s looping liner to center off Bennett, knotting the score.
Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second off Martin, who uncharacteristically issued four walks, matching a career-high, though he did strike out six and allowed only seven hits.
The Seminoles battled back to tie the game in the third on Ramsey’s RBI single - which extended his ACC-leading hitting streak to 20 games – and a run-scoring groundout by Jayce Boyd. A three-run fourth, highlighted by Mike McGee’s two-run double to left, put the ‘Noles in front, 5-2. FSU managed just two more hits, but made them count.
Ramsey and Rafael Lopez, back in the lineup after missing six games with a sore back, paced the Seminoles’ seven-hit attack with two each.
Junior right-hander Hunter Scantling (3-0, 2.25) will take the mound Saturday for the Seminoles, who need one victory to seal the series. He will face Miami right-hander Eric Whaley (6-2, 3.00).