TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A sixth inning grand slam from Stephen McGee proved to be the difference Tuesday evening as No. 7 Florida State (25-4) defeated No. 25 Florida Gulf Coast (18-7) 12-9 in front of 4,766 fans on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
McGee’s first collegiate slam capped a five-run sixth inning for the Seminoles, their second five-run inning of the evening, to break a 6-6 tie. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Seminole catcher took a 2-2 pitch from Harrison Cooney (1-3) over the wall in right for his fourth home run of the season to give FSU a 10-6 lead.
“I was just really trying to see the pitches and to drive a ball in the gap,” said McGee. “I felt like he was a little wild with the previous at-bat he had with DJ. I was looking away just trying to drive the ball and get in some runs. Then I got down to two strikes and at that point, if anything is close you are just hacking. He happened to hang one for me. I had a pretty good idea (it was gone for a home run), I squared it up pretty good.”
The Seminoles added an insurance run in each of the seventh and eighth innings, while Robby Coles pitched the ninth to earn his seventh save in as many opportunities in 2013.
Gage Smith earned the win in relief to move to 4-0 on the year as the junior right hander allowed an unearned run on one hit in 2.1 innings of work. Smith finished with two strikeouts.
“It was just well-fought ball game,” said head coach Mike Martin. “FGCU is a very good baseball team. You really saw an outstanding team. We had some very good at-bats tonight and I am just very pleased with that.”
Four Seminoles finished with a team-high two hits including John Sansone, who went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks. The freshman second baseman connected on his first collegiate home run in the third to highlight FSU’s five-run third inning. Sansone took a 2-2 pitch from FGCU starter Zack Tillery off the scoreboard in left for a two-run shot. The New Castle, Pa., native scored twice and drove in two runs.
“He is really making a marked improvement offensively,” added Martin on Sansone’s performance tonight. “He also played very well defensively.”
Josh Delph, Jose Brizuela and Casey Smit each registered two hits in the win. McGee tied a career-high with four RBI, while DJ Stewart went 1-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. The home run by McGee extended his streak of reaching base to 22 straight games.
Florida State registered its first five-run inning of the game in the third as the Seminoles recorded four straight hits off Tillery to take an early 5-0 lead. Smit got things going with a double down the line in left and scored on Sansone’s two-run shot off the scoreboard in left. Delph then singled to left and Marcus Davis followed with a double to right center to end the evening for Tillery. Stewart welcomed RJ Brown with a two-run double off the screen in right center and scored two batters later on Brizuela’s RBI single back up the middle.
“The first pitch was a low fastball and then he came back with a slider,” said Sansone. “With the count 2-2, he threw one right down the middle and I just put a good swing on it. It felt good to get that one off my chest.”
The Eagles chipped away at the Seminole lead with a run in the fourth off FSU starter Billy Strode and then chased the sophomore southpaw from the game with one out in the fifth.
In that inning, FGCU scored five times, three off Strode and two more off Jameis Winston, to take its first lead of the evening at 6-5. Nick Rivera put the Eagles ahead for the first time on Tuesday with an RBI double that went just inside the bag at first.
The Seminoles tied the game at six in the sixth inning when Stewart drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded. McGee then gave FSU the lead for good clearing the bases after hitting his first collegiate grand slam.
“That is what was pointed out in the dugout,” said Martin on Stewart’s key at-bat before McGee’s grand slam. “He had a great at-bat to set it up for Stephen. Don’t forget Marcus wore one before that, but there were a lot of things that had to happen in order for Stephen to get his chance.”
“It was huge; it is always huge to go out there and answer back,” said McGee. “I felt like that really changed the momentum for us and that helped out a lot. I needed to come through right there and I was really glad I could help.”
Both teams exchanged a run in the seventh taking advantage of an error.
In the eighth, Florida Gulf Coast cut the deficit to 11-9 scoring twice off Brandon Johnson. The first three batters to the plate reached on three straight singles to load the bases. Johnson registered the first out of the inning on an RBI fielder’s choice groundout to short by Alex Perez. The second run came home when Tyler Selesky grounded out to second off Bryant Holtmann, who recorded the final two outs in the inning to preserve the lead.
Florida State pushed its lead back to three at 12-9 in the bottom of the inning when Brizuela reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on an RBI single to center by Giovanny Alfonzo.
FGCU would not go away quietly in the ninth as Sean Dwyer led off the inning with a single to right off Coles and moved to second when Brooks Beisner was hit by a pitch with one out. But Coles retired the next two batters on a pop-out to second and a lineout to right to end the game.
Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast will return to the diamond for game two of the mid-week series on Wednesday, April 3 at 6:00 p.m. The game will air live over the internet on Seminoles.com All-Access.
Fans can listen to the game on the 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.