Tallahassee, FL - No. 8 Florida State (44-11, 20-10 ACC) clinched its seventh straight ACC Atlantic Division title and the No. 2 seed in the upcoming ACC Baseball Championship with a 6-1 victory over No. 19 Clemson (39-17, 18-12 ACC) Saturday afternoon on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
The ACC Baseball Championship will get underway Wednesday, May 23 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. The full tournament schedule will be announced by the league office on Sunday.
With the win, Florida State won its 10th straight ACC series at home. It also marked the first series victory over Clemson since 2009 when the Seminoles took 2 of 3 from the Tigers in Tallahassee.
“Those guys in the clubhouse deserve all the credit,” said head coach Mike Martin. “That was a very interesting baseball game that was just played. I am very proud of this group. We haven’t accomplished our goal yet, but to accomplish what they did in a week’s time is pretty impressive. It shows the amount of character this ball club possesses.”
The Seminoles recorded 13 hits on Saturday including two hits each by DJ Stewart, Stephen McGee, Jose Brizuela and Giovanny Alfonzo. Seth Miller broke open a 3-1 Florida State lead in the sixth with a two-run single on Senior Day as he and Scott Sitz were the two seniors recognized in the final home game of the regular season.
“That was a big hit by Seth Miller,” said Martin. “It broke what was a real close ball game.”
Brandon Leibrandt (9-4) earned his fourth straight victory and fifth in the last six games as the sophomore southpaw allowed a run on nine hits as he walked two and struck out three.
Billy Strode worked the final 4.0 innings to register his first career save. The Parkland, Fla., native entered the game in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and no outs and worked out of the jam after recording a strikeout and a pair of fly outs to maintain Florida State’s lead at 3-1. Strode scattered four hits and did not walk a batter while finishing the game with two strikeouts.
“We got a couple of key hits but no question the key to the game was the sixth inning when they got the bases loaded and nobody out and Billy Strode pitched us out of it,” added Martin. “That was the biggest part of the ball game.”
Clemson starter Zack Erwin (5-1) suffered his first loss of the season as the freshman southpaw gave up three runs on six hits in 2.0 innings of work.
The Tigers had their chances to score on Saturday but could not find the key hit leaving 13 runners stranded on the afternoon. Clemson left the bases loaded in the fourth off Leibrandt, loaded them again in the sixth and left two more on in the second and ninth innings.
Clemson struck first in the series finale scoring a run in the top of the first on a run scoring single off the bat of Steven Duggar. Maleeke Gibson led off the game with a double down the line in right, moved to third on a groundout to short by Steve Wilkerson and scored on Duggar’s RBI single to right. Leibrandt and Garrett Boulware squared off for an 11-pitch at-bat before the Seminole pitcher got Boulware to ground into an inning ending double play.
Florida State tied the game at 1-1 in the second on an RBI double by Alfonzo. Brizuela reached on a bunt single in front of the mound and scored all the way from first as Alfonzo ripped a double down the line in left.
The Seminole grabbed the lead for good in the third scoring two more runs off Erwin to take a 3-1 advantage. The first three batters reached on three straight singles off the Clemson starter including an RBI single by Marcus Davis to right to plate Stewart. Davis’ hit would end the afternoon for Erwin after just 2.0 plus innings of work. Jonathan Meyer came on in relief and gave up an RBI double to John Nogowski before retiring the side on a lineout double play and a groundout.
FSU extended its lead to 5-1 in the sixth on a two-run single by Miller. Brizuela led off the inning with a single to left center off reliever Patrick Andrews and moved to second when Alfonzo was hit by a pitch. John Sansone advanced both runners 90 feet on a sac-bunt and both would come around to score as Miller took a 1-2 offering from Andrews back up the middle for a two-run single.
Florida State pushed across its sixth and final run of the afternoon in the seventh as Davis drew a walk to open the seven and eventually scored on a wild pitch from Matt Campbell.
Florida State will wrap-up its regular season schedule Monday evening in Chapel Hill as the Seminoles will travel to face No. 2 North Carolina. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and will air live on ESPNU. 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 will be available via gametracker.