TAMPA, Fla. – Second-ranked Florida State (9-1) received a dominating performance from starter Peter Miller on Tuesday night as the Seminoles defeated USF (9-3), 5-1, in front of a record crowd of 3,615 inside the USF Baseball Stadium.
“We played a solid game tonight,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “Our pitching tonight was outstanding. Peter Miller gave us exactly what we wanted – five innings. I must admit I was a little surprised that the freshman came out there and got it down for almost 3.0 innings. I was very, very proud of him.”
Miller (1-0) was outstanding in his second start of the season as the senior right hander struck out a career-high 11 batters in 5.0 innings of work. The Lutz, Fla., native struck out at least two batters in every inning he pitched while striking out the side in the third. Miller gave up one run on four hits as he walked two.
“He threw more curveballs tonight,” added Martin on what made Miller so effective Tuesday night. “He has a very good change-up but they were showing a lot of discipline in leaving it alone so he went to the curveball.”
“It was great,” said Miller on pitching in front of a lot of friends and family Tuesday night. “My curveball was working tonight and I changed some things in my delivery. I had good stuff in Jacksonville; they tattooed my change-up a little bit and took advantage of me being in the zone. I’ve had good stuff; I just finally put it together today.”
It marked the second straight outing in which Miller has pitched well against the Bulls as the Seminole starter worked 6.0 shutout innings last year in Tallahassee en route to a 5-2 Florida State victory.
“It isn’t anything about pitching against USF, I just had good stuff tonight,” added Miller. “(Against) Any team, it would have been the same.”
The 11 strikeouts by Miller were the most by a Seminole pitcher since Luke Weaver struck out 14 against Troy in last year’s NCAA Regional.
Alec Byrd was equally impressive blanking the Bulls over a season-high 2.2 innings in relief. The freshman southpaw gave up just two hits and no walks while striking out four.
Gage Smith pitched the final 1.1 innings allowing just one hit in his ninth relief appearance of the season. He retired the side in order in the ninth as the Seminoles defeated the Bulls for the 11th straight time in the series.
“Our offense came alive in the second, but the story of the night was definitely the pitching staff,” said Brett Knief. “Peter and Byrd both were amazing and then Gage coming in to close the door. It was a real productive night for everyone.”
Florida State did all its scoring damage in the second and third innings plating four runs in the second and one more in the third.
Knief opened the four-run second with a solo shot to left. The senior right fielder took a 0-1 pitch from USF starter Janick Serrallonga (1-1) out of the park to left for his first home run of the season and his second career round tripper as a Seminole.
John Nogowski and Jose Brizuela followed with back-to-back singles in the second and both advanced 90 feet on a sac-bunt by John Sansone. Nogowski scored the second run of the inning on a wild pitch and Brizuela came home on a single back up the middle by Ben DeLuzio. Justin Gonzalez would drive in the fourth and final run of the inning as he scorched a single off the third baseman’s glove to plate DeLuzio from second.
USF cut the deficit to 4-1 in the bottom of the second as Buddy Putnam hooked a long fly ball just beyond the foul pole in right for his first home run of the season and the first home run allowed by Miller this year.
The Seminoles pushed their lead back to four scoring a run in the third as Danny De La Calle drew a bases load walk to give FSU a 5-1 advantage.
De La Calle was robbed of a home run in the eighth as USF left fielder Luke Maglich leaped up against the wall to snare the fly ball before it could disappear over the fence.
The Bulls threatened in the eighth as Byrd gave up a one-out bloop single to Daniel Portales. After the Seminole freshman responded with a strikeout, Martin called on Smith to close out the inning. Pinch hitter Hayden Kelley kept the inning alive with a single to center, but Smith got out of the jam getting Levi Borders to fly out to right to retire the side.
Gonzalez paced the Seminole offense with two hits on Tuesday night, while DJ Stewart extended his streak of reaching base safely to a career-best 37 games with a one out walk in the top of the ninth.
Florida State and USF return to the diamond for game two of the mid-week series on Wednesday, March 5 with first pitch set for 3:00 p.m. The game will be streamed live through USF’s website on BullsCast ($). Fans can listen to the game on Seminoles.com All-Access and locally on 1270 AM. Live stats will be available on USF’s website.