TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No. 9 Florida State (2-0) erased a late one-run deficit scoring five runs over the seventh and eighth innings as the Seminoles defeated Rhode Island (0-2) 6-2 Saturday afternoon in front of 5,229 on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
“If you are looking at this baseball game, you have to be pleased with the way we kept our poise and just battled,” said head coach Mike Martin. “Sure it was chilly, but we fought and did what we had to do to win the baseball game and I am very proud of our young men.”
Brandon Johnson worked a career-high 3.0 innings in relief to earn the win, while Josh Delph paced the Seminole offense with two hits on a double and a single in his first two at-bats. The sophomore right fielder also walked twice as he reached base on four of his five plate appearances.
“A good outing for him,” said Martin on the relief performance by Johnson. “We’ve always had a lot of faith in him and to go out there and pitch like he did, it was just very impressive.”
Justin Gonzalez hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot over the fence in right center to start the bottom of the eighth, while John Sansone and Jameis Winston both registered their first career hits in the win on a single and a stand-up triple, respectively.
DJ Stewart and Stephen McGee contributed with a hit a piece as the Seminoles finished the game with seven. McGee reached base on all five of his plate appearances on Saturday afternoon as he tied a career-high with four walks. FSU finished the game drawing 12 walks as a team.
Both teams had their chances to push some runs across early but Florida State manufactured the only run through the first six innings when Sansone recorded a two-out single to center in the fourth and scored three batters later as Stewart drew a bases loaded walk to give FSU a 1-0 lead.
The two teams combined to leave 26 men on base on Saturday including 14 by the Seminoles.
“That is a good team over there,” said Gonzalez on the play of Rhode Island. “For us to fight back and get that win today shows a lot about the character of our team early in the season.”
In the seventh, Rhode Island grabbed its first lead of the series pushing two runs across to take a 2-1 advantage. Jeff Roy drew a walk to start the seventh off Gage Smith and moved to second on a bunt base hit by Joe Landi. Roy would tie the game at 1-1 one batter later on an errant throw by Jose Brizuela on a groundball off the bat of Mike LeBel. Pat Quinn gave the Rams a one-run lead on sac-fly to left.
The lead was short lived as the Seminoles took advantage of a fielding error, three walks and a hit-by-pitch by URI in the bottom of the seventh to plate three runs and retake the lead at 4-2. Brizuela brought home McGee with the tying run as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Sansone followed with a bases loaded walk to give FSU the lead for good, while Winston scored the third run of the inning on a wild pitch.
“A lot of things were so encouraging in that Brizuela wears one to tie the game – a big, big play right there,” said Martin. “It was one of those that got away from the pitcher. It was well into the batter’s box and so instead of running from it, he wears it. That is a mark of a winner.”
FSU added to its lead in the eighth when Gonzalez took a 1-0 pitch from Rob Curran over the fence in right center for his first home run of the season and 20th of his career. Stewart followed with a single, moved to second on McGee’s fourth walk of the afternoon and advanced to third when Seth Miller reached on a sacrifice bunt courtesy of a fielding error by Curran. Nogowski would bring home Stewart on a sac-fly to left to give the Seminoles a 6-2 advantage.
Seminole starter Scott Sitz did not factor into the decision as he worked 4.0 shutout innings allowing four hits and one walk while striking out four.
“Scott Sitz had a good outing,” added Martin. “They did a good job of being patient and getting his pitch count up. I thought he pitched very well the innings that he had.”
Kyle Bird worked an inning in relief as he allowed a hit and two walks as he struck out two. Smith was charged with two runs on two hits and a walk over an inning of work.
Johnson then came in and shut down Rhode Island allowing just one hit and one walk over the final 3.0 innings. It marked the longest outing of the junior southpaw’s career eclipsing the previous mark of 2.0 innings set against NC State back on March 17, 2012.
“I had good feel for my change-up today,” said Johnson. “My fastball was really spotting up and had a lot of movement on it so it was very useful for me tonight.”
“Brandon has been doing well all fall and spring and for him to come out there and do what he did shows a lot,” added Gonzalez. “He’s a bulldog; he is going to throw strikes and let his defense work which is exactly what he did today.”
The Seminoles and Rams will return to the diamond for the final game of the series on Sunday, February 17 at 12:00 p.m. Junior right hander Peter Miller will be on the mound for FSU, while right hander Liam O’Sullivan will take the hill for Rhode Island.
Sunday’s game will air live over the internet on Seminoles.com All-Access, while fans can also listen to the game live on the All-Access player. Locally, fans can listen to the game 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 Saturday’s game will be available via gametracker.