Tallahassee - Fourth-ranked Florida State (41-14, 21-9) made a valiant effort for a come-from-behind victory on Saturday afternoon but fell just short falling to Duke (32-23, 16-14) 7-5 in the regular season finale on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
“It was like I told the guys, it was a very, very good first season,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “Now we go into the second season. To accomplish what this team has done in 55 games is a credit to them.
“I can’t say enough about the leadership on our club. We just got guys that understand the game and will fight you tooth and nail for 27 outs and I was just very proud of the way we fought back. We had the tying run at the plate; you just never know in this game.”
Trailing 7-1 after six innings of play, Florida State scored two runs in the seventh and twice more in the ninth to cut the deficit to two. Ladson Montgomery represented the tying run at the plate with two outs in the ninth and looked as though he would keep the inning alive but Duke second baseman Andy Perez made an outstanding play to field the groundball up the middle flipping to second for the force out to end the game.
Justin Gonzalez started the rally with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh. The senior captain took a 0-1 pitch from Duke starter Trent Swart out of the park to left for his second home run of the season and 23rd of his career.
In the ninth, Hank Truluck singled to right center to drive in Jose Brizuela and put runners at the corners with one out for Gonzalez. The Miami, Fla., came within inches of recording his second career multi-home run game as he sent a long fly ball to left. The ball would stay in the park resulting in a sac-fly as Ben DeLuzio scored from third.
“That one and the higher it got, the more it got knocked down,” said Martin on Gonzalez’ fly ball in the ninth. “Had it been a normal day with the wind not blowing in, then well we got a new ball game.”
Perez followed with the outstanding defensive play on the groundball by Montgomery to preserve the win for the Blue Devils.
Swart was the story on Saturday as the junior southpaw threw 8.0 strong innings allowing three runs on six hits as he walked three and struck out three to run his season record to 5-2. He faced the minimum for four consecutive innings from the third through the sixth, while getting the Seminoles to ground into three double plays on the afternoon.
The Seminoles used four pitchers on Saturday as FSU starter Peter Miller (3-4) suffered the loss allowing two runs on two hits as he walked three in an inning plus.
Jim Voyles threw a career-high 2.0 innings, while Taylor Blatch worked two innings in relief. Alec Byrd finished the afternoon with a career-high 4.0 innings on the mound as the freshman southpaw allowed a run on two hits as he walked two and struck out three.
Brett Knief, Casey Smit and Gonzalez all recorded a hit on Senior Day as Gonzalez led all players with three RBI. Jose Brizuela had a two-hit afternoon as he scored three of FSU’s five runs.
Florida State will now head to Greensboro for the 2014 ACC Baseball Championship. Competition gets underway Tuesday, May 20 with a two-game play-in between the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds and No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. Pool play competition will begin Wednesday, May 21. The Seminoles claimed the No. 2 seed in the tournament by virtue of winning their eighth consecutive Atlantic Division title.
A complete run down of the tournament schedule will be released on Sunday. Stay tuned to Seminoles.com for complete coverage of the 2014 ACC Baseball Championship.