TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Behind six no-hit innings from opening day starter Luke Weaver and a four-hit barrage from DJ Stewart, No. 5 Florida State (1-0) began the 2014 season with a 13-2 victory over Niagara (0-1) Friday evening in front of an outstanding crowd of 5,756 on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
“That was a good opener,” head coach Mike Martin said. “Niagara did a tremendous job in the fact that they haven’t been out (side). You could see that they weren’t quite ready but at the same time we took advantage of some mistakes and my hats off to our guys for getting it down. I am very proud of our ball club. We got some timely hitting tonight.”
Five Seminoles recorded multiple hits in the win led by Stewart who set a career-high with four hits on a pair of doubles and two singles. Josh Delph went 2-for-3 with a walk from the leadoff spot with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI, while Brett Knief and Jose Brizuela each registered two hits in the win.
“DJ is one heck of an athlete,” added Martin. “He is a guy that is turning into an outstanding leader. He got more hits tonight than I used to get in a week. He had one heck of a night.”
Weaver (1-0) picked up where he left from a season ago working 6.0 strong innings against the Purple Eagles in his first career opening day start. After walking Anthony Firenzi on four pitches to open the game, Weaver retired the next 16 batters in a row. Geoff Seto would snap the streak after reaching on a throwing error with one out in the sixth. But Weaver responded with a strikeout and then picked off Seto at first to retire the side.
“I can’t say enough about how Luke pitched,” said Martin. “No hitters are something that you just don’t think about until you get to the fifth inning. But we knew that he was only going to go close to 90 pitches. Luke was scheduled to throw no more than 90 tonight.”
The DeLand, Fla., native finished the game with seven strikeouts and left after the sixth inning throwing 89 pitches.
Florida State would give Weaver all the run support he would need after just the first inning when Delph led off the inning with a double down the line in left and scored two batters later on a double to center by Stewart to give the Noles the early 1-0 lead.
The Garnet and Gold extended their lead to 3-0 in the third thanks to back-to-back RBI singles by Knief and Brizuela.
Stewart opened FSU’s two-run fifth with his second double of the evening. The sophomore from Yulee, Fla., came around to score two batters later on a Brizuela double down the line in right. Brizuela then stole third and scored on John Nogowski’s sac-fly to center to give the Seminoles a five-run cushion.
Niagara’s first hit of the game came with one out in the seventh when Michael Fuhrman dropped a double down the line in right off Billy Strode. The hit would open the door for a pair of runs as the Purple Eagles cut the deficit to 5-2.
Niagara had the bases loaded with just one out in the seventh when Gage Smith came on and struck out Pavel Chavez-Rusova before picking off Greg Rodgers at second to end the threat. On the pickoff play, Rodgers was caught in a run down between second and third allowing Joel Klock to score the second run of the inning.
The Seminoles broke open a three-run lead thanks to eight runs over the seventh and eighth innings. FSU answered Niagara’s two runs in the top of the seventh with five runs in the bottom half to take a 10-2 lead. Delph drew a bases loaded walk, while Justin Gonzalez drove in two runs with a single to left for his first hit of the season. The senior captain finished the game with a run scored and two walks in six plate appearances.
FSU added three more runs in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Gage West and a two-run single to right center by Lee Howard for his first career hit.
Also picking up their first career hits on Friday night were freshmen Hank Truluck and Ben DeLuzio. Casey Smit registered a pinch hit single in the seventh and reached base for a second time in the eighth when he was hit by a pitch.
Niagara would be held to just the two runs in the game as Smith and Brandon Johnson kept the Purple Eagles off the scoreboard over the final 2.2 innings.
Smith worked 1.2 shutout innings with a strikeout, while Brandon Johnson gave up a hit and a walk in an inning of work in the ninth.
Niagara’s Jordan Schwartz (0-1) took the loss after giving up five run on nine hits in 5.2 innings as the junior right hander struck out three and walked three.
With the win, Florida State has now won 16 straight games on opening day improving to 59-7-1 all-time.
The Seminoles and Purple Eagles will turn right around for game two of the three-game series on Saturday, February 15 at 2:00 p.m. Junior left hander Brandon Leibrandt will be on the mound for FSU and will be opposed by senior right hander Drew Fittry.
Saturday’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.