TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No. 9 Florida State (1-0) got the 2013 campaign started on the right foot Friday afternoon defeating Rhode Island 11-5 in front of a great opening day crowd of 5,354 on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
Sophomore Jose Brizuela paced the Seminole offense with two hits and four RBI, while senior captain Justin Gonzalez and junior Marcus Davis each drove in two runs as Florida State was victorious on opening day for the 15th year in a row.
John Nogowski, Stephen McGee, John Sansone, Davis and Brizuela all scored two runs a piece in leading Florida State to its fourth straight victory over Rhode Island. Nine of the 11 runs scored by the Seminoles on Friday came on two outs.
Making his second consecutive start on opening day, Brandon Leibrandt went 5.0 plus innings allowing four runs on five hits as he walked one and struck out six in earning the victory.
“When you start an opening day with a lot of new guys, you are a little bit cautious of what to expect,” said head coach Mike Martin. “After the nine innings I just saw, I was very pleased with the way we played. We had some very good at-bats; we showed good poise on the mound.”
“Definitely good to get out of there with a ‘W’,” said Leibrandt on earning his second straight victory on opening day. “Anytime you do that you are doing something right.”
The Seminoles gave Leibrandt an early lead scoring four runs in the first two innings including a three-run first highlighted by a pair of hits by two newcomers. Gonzalez drew a one-out walk in the first inning and scored all the way from first when freshman DJ Stewart ripped a double to the gap in right center for his first collegiate hit and RBI. After Nogowski reached on a fielder’s choice, Davis cleared the bases with a two-run shot for his first collegiate hit. The junior college transfer took a 2-1 offering from URI’s Mike Bradstreet (0-1) over the fence in right to give FSU a 3-0 lead.
“Marcus is certainly a strong young man,” added Martin. “He is a very hard worker. He got him very late (in the signing process). He will continue to get better. DJ really hung out a month’s wash with that one. That is a guy who has really worked hard defensively in becoming a total baseball player. I was very pleased with his first game.”
The long ball by Davis marked the second straight year that a Seminole newcomer hit a home run in his first collegiate at-bat on opening day. Brizuela matched the feat last year when he hit a two-run home run to right in the second inning against Hofstra.
“He started me off with a change-up and then he missed with two fastballs and I got into a hitter’s count,” said Davis. “I was trying to make the best of the next pitch. I was looking fastball and he actually gave me one. It was a great feeling; you don’t realize how loud these fans get. It was pretty awesome.”
FSU added to its lead in the second when Sansone drew a one-out walk and scored on a two-out triple down the line in right off the bat of Gonzalez.
Leibrandt would make the early lead hold as he retired the first four batters that he faced before giving up a one-out triple to Pat Fortunato in the top of the second. But the sophomore southpaw would work around the extra base hit striking out catcher Shane O’Connell and then forcing designated hitter Derek Gardella to groundout to second to end the inning.
The Rams would cut the deficit in half in the third thanks to a little two-out magic of their own. Mike LeBel brought home Rhode Island’s first run of the game on a two-out bloop single to right. Jeff Roy would score the second run of the inning when URI successfully converted a double steal. LeBel swiped second and when the throw went through to Gonzalez covering the bag, Roy broke from third and slid ahead of the tag from McGee.
The Seminoles added two runs in the fourth to extend their lead to 6-2. Brizuela opened the inning with a single to center and moved to second when Sansone was hit by a pitch. After a sac bunt by Josh Delph moved both base runners 90 feet, Gonzalez drove in his second run of the afternoon when Brizuela scored from third on a groundball to short. URI shortstop Tim Caputo decided to throw the ball to third but Sansone beat the throw to the bag and ahead of the tag. The freshman second baseman would score two batters later on Nogowski’s two-out, two-run double to right.
FSU pushed a run across in the fifth without recording a hit taking advantage of four walks all issued by URI reliever Steve Moyers. McGee led off the inning with a walk and scored on a two-out wild pitch.
“The offense behind me was everything you could ask for tonight,” added Leibrandt. “It was great to see that, a lot of guys putting good swings in; it was encouraging to see.”
Rhode Island made things interesting in the sixth scoring twice off Leibrandt to cut the lead to 7-4. Chris Famiglietti drew a leadoff walk and came around to score four pitches later when LeBel took a 2-1 offering from Leibrandt out of the park to left. Jameis Winston almost made a tremendous leaping catch at the wall but the ball went just beyond the reach of the freshman outfielder. That would be the final pitch for Leibrandt as he left the game after throwing 73 pitches.
“Brandon pitched well,” added Martin. “I probably should have gotten him (out) after that long inning that we had (in the bottom of the fifth). When a guy sits over here in this weather for probably 20 minutes, it’s something you don’t prepare for. I should have probably gotten him out at that point.”
Brizuela put the game out in the sixth unloading on his second career grand slam to give the Seminoles a commanding 11-4 advantage. FSU loaded the bases after Brad Applin hit three consecutive batters (Nogowski, Davis and McGee). After a strikeout to Winston, Brizuela took a 2-2 offering over the fence in right center for his third career home run and second straight on opening day.
“He is a guy we are hoping continues to improve and becomes a tough out,” said Martin on Brizuela. “He’s got a year under his belt and we expect him to get better. But what he gave us tonight was a little more than we expected.”
“I’m just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” said Brizuela. “It was a great at-bat; the guy had good stuff. The pitch before he threw a high fastball and I checked my swing, so I settled back and was thinking he was going to throw me a change-up. He made a good pitch; it was really low but luckily I put a good swing on it and hit a home run.”
Bryant Holtmann came on in relief of Leibrandt and threw 2.0 shutout innings. The sophomore southpaw was nearly perfect allowing just one walk to the seven batters that he faced.
Robby Coles saw his first action as a Seminole and worked the eighth as he gave up two walks and struck out a batter. The junior college transfer’s career got off to a great start as he struck out the first batter that he faced.
Luke Weaver pitched the ninth and allowed a run on one hit as he walked one and struck out two.
“The buzz around college baseball is that we are going to be relying on our pitchers and we have a great staff but we have some great hitters too,” said Davis. “I think everybody came out today trying to proof that and we were able to get a good, solid win.”
“Rhode Island was very prepared tonight,” said Martin. “Their pitchers were excellent, their defense was good. Heck, we made the only error of the night. I was very impressed with URI.”
The Seminoles and Rams will turn right around for game two of the three-game series on Saturday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. Senior right hander Scott Sitz will be on the mound for FSU and will be opposed by senior right hander Sean Furney.