Charlottesville, VA - No. 6 Florida State (31-9, 13-8 ACC) could not overcome a four-run third inning Sunday afternoon falling to No. 8 Virginia (35-6, 16-5 ACC) 5-2 in front of another capacity crowd of 4,980 on Davenport Field inside UVa Baseball Stadium.
The loss marked the first time Florida State has been swept in an ACC series on the road since 2010 when the Seminoles dropped all three games at Clemson.
“It was obviously a very good baseball game,” said head coach Mike Martin. “I thought the University of Virginia just took it to us for three ball games and they deserve all the credit.”
Scott Sitz suffered his first loss of the season on Sunday as the senior right hander fell to 7-1 on the year. Sitz cruised through the first two innings retiring the first six Cavalier batters on 19 pitches before Virginia tagged the Jacksonville Beach, Fla., native with four runs all coming in the bottom of the third. Sitz would leave the game after 4.1 innings of work allowing five hits and two walks while striking out three.
Billy Strode and Gage Smith kept the Seminoles in striking distance as the two arms combined to work 2.2 scoreless innings in relief.
Strode entered the game with two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth and got out of the jam recording back-to-back strikeouts. He finished his outing working a perfect sixth inning recording a fly out and a pair of groundouts. Strode has not given up a run in 13.0 innings of relief this year – a span covering eight appearances.
Smith worked a perfect seventh inning retiring the Cavaliers in order on 11 pitches.
Virginia got another outstanding performance from a starting pitcher as this time Nick Howard (5-3) gave the Cavaliers 6.2 innings of work on Sunday. The sophomore right hander held the Seminoles to just one run on five hits as he walked three and struck out four.
Kyle Crockett worked the final two innings to earn his ninth save of the season. The junior southpaw allowed just one hit while striking out four.
“They just did a very good job of pitching,” added Martin. “They are a solid baseball team; there are no weaknesses on their ball club.”
Florida State had its chances to put runs on the board early but could not come up with the key hit leaving five stranded through the first two innings. The Seminoles left the bases loaded in the first after Seth Miller led off the game with a single to right center followed by walks to DJ Stewart and Jose Brizuela. Howard got out of the jam by getting Jameis Winston to fly out to center.
In the second inning, the Seminoles put together back-to-back one-out singles by John Sansone and Giovanny Alfonzo, but Howard once again answered the call and kept FSU off the scoreboard by getting Miller to fly out and Stewart swinging on strikes to retire the side. For the game, Florida State stranded nine base runners.
Virginia surged to the lead scoring four times in the bottom of the third to take a commanding 4-0 lead. The Cavaliers loaded the bases with one out as Sitz gave up a single and two walks which led to Jared King’s bases clearing double to right field. Branden Cogswell, who was intentionally walked, scored from first on the play courtesy of a fielding error in right as King scampered into third. Joe McCarthy brought home King one batter later on a sac-fly to right to give the Cavaliers a four-run cushion.
The Seminoles cut the Virginia lead to 4-1 as Winston led off the inning with a triple off the wall in right center and scored one pitch later on Casey Smit’s sac-fly to right.
Florida State chipped away at the UVa lead with a run in the seventh taking advantage of a Cavalier error to make the score 4-2. After Virginia made a pitching change with two outs in the seventh, Nathan Kirby issued a four-pitch walk to Stewart. Marcus Davis followed with a single to left that went right under the glove of Derek Fisher allowing Stewart to score from first.
Virginia’s final run of the afternoon came in the bottom of the eighth as the Cavaliers strung together three hits off Robby Coles including an RBI single by Mike Papi to give the Cavaliers their winning margin at 5-2.
“Three ball games doesn’t make a season,” said Martin. “We got beat; we lost three ball games. We are going to go back; we are going to try and get better, correct some mistakes and work to improve.”
Florida State returns to the diamond on Tuesday, April 23 to face the Jacksonville Dolphins in Jacksonville. First pitch for the mid-week match-up is set for 6:00 p.m. Fans can listen to the game on the Seminoles.com All-Access player and locally on 1270 AM. As always, Seminole fans can follow the Noles on twitter @FSU_Baseball and remember to like the Seminoles on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball). Live stats for the game will be available via gametracker.