Tallahassee, FL - No. 9 Florida State (34-9, 15-8 ACC) hung on to an 8-6 victory over Wake Forest (24-22, 7-16 ACC) Saturday night to clinch the season-series from the Demon Deacons. With the victory, the Seminoles have now won 20 of their last 24 games against Wake Forest, while securing their 11th straight series victory at home over the Deacs.
The win came on a special night at the ballpark as an announced crowd of 5,217 on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium helped celebrate Military Appreciate Night. The Seminoles wore army green jerseys and camouflage hats on Saturday in honor of our nation's service men and women.
“I just can’t tell you the pride that we all have for our service men and women,” said head coach Mike Martin. “And this means an awful lot to us and certainly the signing of God Bless America (during the seventh inning stretch) was very meaningful; a very proud moment for everybody in the stadium. I think our guys were very, very pleased to be a part of such a great night.”
After both teams exchanged a pair of runs in the first, Florida State ran out to an 8-2 lead only to see Wake Forest climb its way back into the game late with two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings.
The Demon Deacons had the tying run at the plate in the ninth with one out but Robby Coles was able to preserve the victory as he got pinch hitter Conor Keniry to ground into a game ending 4-6-3 double play.
“You never think you got Wake Forest closed out,” said Martin. “They are a good baseball team. This just happened to be a night that things went our way early. We build the lead and didn’t panic when things didn’t go right late.”
John Sansone, who started that double play in the ninth, led the Seminole offense on Saturday night as he tied a career-high with three hits. The freshman second baseman recorded hits in his first three plate appearances picking up a pair of singles and a double. His two-run single in the fifth highlighted a four-run inning.
Seth Miller and Casey Smit both recorded two hits and drove in a run in the win, while Jameis Winston scored a game-high three runs as he singled and walked twice.
After giving up two first inning runs, Brandon Leibrandt settled into his own to improve to 6-4 on the year. The sophomore southpaw gave the Seminoles 5.0 innings on Saturday night allowing two runs on five hits as he walked three and struck out seven.
“It was a game in which I didn’t have my best stuff but was able to battle through,” said Leibrandt. “They were battling me all night long; I was just trying to make key pitches in key situations.
“I was able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes tonight. They made it tough on me never giving me a 1-2-3 inning. But I was able to throw the change-up and slider when I needed to.”
Gage Smith worked a season-high 2.2 innings as he gave up two runs on two hits. Smith finished with a career-high five strikeouts.
“If you look at the entire ball game, you say that Brandon Leibrandt had a little shaky first but he kept his poise and got us to the sixth inning,” added Martin. “Gage came in and did extremely well; ran into a little difficulty with a couple of runs but he still ate up innings and did a very good job.”
Game two got off to a shaky beginning for both starting pitchers as the two teams exchanged a pair of runs in the first inning. Wake’s Evan Stephens drew a leadoff walk to open the game off Leibrandt and scored one batter later on a double to left by Mark Rhine. Matt Conway brought home Rhine for the second Wake Forest run of the inning on a double to left.
The lead for the Deacs was short lived as the Noles scored twice off Justin Van Grouw (4-6) to tie the game at 2-2. Back-to-back singles by DJ Stewart and Marcus Davis put runners at the corners with one out. Stephen McGee drove in Stewart on a sac-fly to left and after Davis moved into scoring position on a stolen base, he scored on a fielding error at shortstop on a groundball off the bat of Jose Brizuela.
The Noles took its first lead of the evening in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Miller. FSU loaded the bases with one-out off Van Grouw on a single to right by Winston, a hit-by-pitch to Giovanny Alfonzo and a single to right by Sansone. Miller came through with a bloop single to left to plate Winston and give the Seminoles a 3-2 lead.
FSU pushed its lead to 4-2 in the fourth when Winston scored his second run of the evening. The Seminole right fielder led off the inning with a walk, moved to third on a double by Sansone and scored when Wake Forest relief pitcher Jack Fischer unleashed a wild pitch.
Van Grouw’s night came to a close after giving up Sansone’s double. The senior right hander was charged with four runs, three earned, in 3.1 innings of work.
The Seminoles broke the game open in the fifth with four runs to increase their lead to 8-2. Sansone registered the big hit in the inning clearing the bases with a two-run single to left plating Smit and Winston. Alfonzo also scored on the play courtesy of a throwing error by the Wake Forest left fielder. McGee got things going in the inning with a double to left and scored two batters later on Smit’s RBI double to right.
The Demon Deacons cut the deficit to 8-4 with two runs in the eighth off Smith. Jack Carey reached on an infield single to short but then advanced to second on a throwing error by Alfonzo. Brett Armour brought Carey home one batter later on an RBI double down the line in left. Smith struck out Conway for the last batter he would face as Martin went to the bullpen and brought on Billy Strode. The Seminole southpaw gave up an RBI double to Andrew Williams and then a single to Grant Shambley before retiring the side in the top of the eighth getting Stephens to groundout to second.
Wake would not go quietly in the ninth scoring two runs, one earned, off Coles. The Deacs manufactured three hits in the inning including a double by Pat Blair and back-to-back singles by Carey and pinch hitter Charlie Morgan.
Florida State and Wake Forest will wrap-up the series on Sunday, April 28 at 1:00 p.m. The game will broadcast live on ESPN3. Fans can listen to the game on the Seminoles.com All-Access player and locally on 100.7 FM. 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 will be available via gametracker.