CORAL GABLES, Fla. – No. 5 Florida State (26-4, 9-4 ACC) saved its best for last Friday night in Coral Gables as the Seminoles scored two runs in each of the eighth and ninth innings to defeat Miami (20-13, 5-8 ACC) 4-2 in game one of a three-game series on Mark Light Field inside Alex Rodriguez Park.
Giovanny Alfonzo came through with the game-winning hit in the top of the ninth lacing an RBI double inside the bag at first to score Casey Smit from second to give FSU its first lead of the night. John Sansone provided an insurance run as he followed with an RBI single through the left side to score Alfonzo.
“This was a great win,” said head coach Mike Martin. “You’re behind by two in the eighth inning and you see guys battle. I think Smity’s at-bat was certainly big. It was just a very good win for our ball club. It was a well-played game. We got a break, no question about it, but I am very happy for our young men.”
Smit led off the ninth with a pinch hit single to left and moved into scoring position after swiping second, for his first stolen base of the season. Alfonzo stepped in and went opposite field on a 1-2 pitch off Eric Nedeljkovic to plate Smit from second. Sansone’s RBI single marked the first two runs given up by Nedeljkovic (2-1) this year – a span covering 17.2 innings.
“It was a tied game, I’m the leadoff hitter and the goal of the inning is to get on base so basically I was trying to extend that at-bat, get a pitch I can drive and make things happen,” said Smit. “On the steal, I almost got picked off the pitch before so I shortened up a little bit. He had a high leg kick so I knew I had a little bit of time. I just had to time it right and luckily it worked out for us, I got a good jump and made it safely into second.”
Alfonzo has now registered game-winning RBIs against two of FSU’s biggest in-state rivals three times this year including both victories against Florida and tonight against Miami.
“It was a fastball away,” said Alfonzo on the pitch he hit for the RBI double. “Actually I saw the outfield shift over when the pitcher was stepping on the rubber, so I got up on the plate and figured he was going to pitch me away. I just tried to see it deep and hit it.”
In his first start in the Friday night role, Luke Weaver did not disappoint despite not factoring into the decision. The DeLand, Fla., native held the Hurricanes scoreless through the first four innings before Miami scored twice in the fifth for its only runs of the game. All eight hits allowed by Weaver came with two outs as he finished with one walk and six strikeouts.
Gage Smith tied a season-high with 2.1 innings in relief as he retired the first seven batters that he faced before issuing a one-out walk to Alex San Juan in the eighth. The Tallahassee, Fla., native did not allow a hit while striking out three.
Robby Coles (2-0) worked the final 1.2 innings to pick-up the win. The junior right hander allowed a hit and struck out one in the six Hurricane batters that he faced.
“Gage and Robby pitched extremely well in relief,” added Martin. “Luke Weaver had a very good start. He gave us five good innings.”
Sansone finished the game with a career-high three hits as the freshman second baseman went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in his first action against Miami. Brett Knief went 2-for-4 from the lead-off spot.
With the win, Florida State has now won four straight over the Hurricanes for the first time since 2002. The Seminoles also improved to 5-1 in two-run games on the year.
“This win was big for us,” said Alfonzo. “It’s a big confidence booster. It’s a big overall experience for the team to grow against a team like UM. You want to show that you can come back in tough situations.”
Miami starter Chris Diaz pitched well for the Hurricanes but did not factor into the decision as the sophomore southpaw went 7.1 innings allowing two runs, both unearned, on eight hits as he did not walk a batter and struck out a career-high seven.
The Hurricanes put two on in each of the first two innings off Weaver but could not get a run across as the sophomore right hander got Michael Broad and Chris Barr swinging on strikes to end the first and second innings, respectively.
The Seminoles left a pair stranded in the top of the first as Knief led things off with a single back up the middle followed by a two-out single to the opposite field by Marcus Davis. Diaz kept the Noles off the scoreboard as he got John Nogowski swinging on strikes.
After both teams exchanged zeros through the first four innings, Miami broke the scoreless tie in the fifth on four consecutive two-out singles off Weaver. Alex Hernandez and Chantz Mack began the rally with singles to right, while Hernandez scored the first run of the game on an RBI single to right by Alex San Juan. Broad followed with a run scoring single to left to plate Mack, but the inning came to a close when DJ Stewart threw out San Juan at third.
Diaz retired eight straight Seminole batters from the fifth until the top of the eighth when Florida State opened the inning with three straight singles by Sansone, Seth Miller and Knief to tie the game at 2-2. Sansone legged out an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error by Brad Fieger at third. On the very next pitch, Miller drilled a base hit back up the middle to plate Sansone for the first Seminole run of the game. Knief followed with a single through the right side but a fielding error by Mack in right brought home Miller to tie the game at two. Knief advanced to third on the play but was left stranded as Diaz struck out Stewart and then Nedeljkovic came on and got Stephen McGee looking on strikes and Davis to fly out to center to end the inning.
The Hurricanes put a runner on in the eighth when San Juan drew a one-out walk off Smith. But the Seminoles went to the bullpen and brought on Coles to get the final two outs of the inning. The junior right hander got Broad to fly out to right and then struck out pinch hitter Grant Heyman to retire the side.
Coles came back out to pitch the ninth and recorded three groundball outs to close the door on the Hurricanes.
Florida State and Miami will hit the field for game two of the series on Saturday, April 6 at 7:00 p.m. The game will broadcast live on CSS/ESPN3.
Fans can listen to the game on the 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 for the game will be available via gametracker.