TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A two-run first inning held up Friday night behind a career-high 7.1 innings of work by Luke Weaver as No. 8 Florida State (43-11, 19-10 ACC) defeated No. 19 Clemson (39-16, 18-11 ACC) 2-1 to even the series at a game apiece on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
With the win, the Seminoles moved back to the top of the ACC Atlantic Division standings maintaining a half-game lead on NC State (41-13, 18-10 ACC) and a full game lead on the Tigers. The winner of the Atlantic Division will secure the No. 2 seed in the upcoming ACC Baseball Championship at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.
“You saw the same game that I did,” said head coach Mike Martin. “It was just a heck of a baseball game. We really have to credit Luke Weaver. It was a well-pitched game. We had a chance twice to get him a couple more runs but we couldn’t push them across. I thought Clemson’s starter did an excellent job in the first inning after we scored two.
“We had some very solid defensive plays and I am very pleased with that side of it. I thought we were more aggressive tonight. Now we have an opportunity (to clinch the division) and we are looking forward to competing. Clemson is obviously a very good baseball team.”
Marcus Davis provided all the offense Friday night bringing home both runs on an RBI single in the top of the first inning off Clemson starter Matthew Crownover (7-2).
“Usually you use your first at-bat to gauge what the pitcher is throwing,” said Davis. “But in that kind of situation you want to do your best to drive in a run regardless of it’s a sac-fly, groundout, whatever it is, you just don’t want to leave the batter’s box not having done anything.”
The Tigers out hit the Seminoles in game two 7-5 as three of FSU’s five hits came in the first inning. FSU’s other two hits were leadoff doubles in the fourth and fifth innings by John Nogowski and John Sansone, respectively.
Weaver would make the two-run first inning hold up as the sophomore right hander held Clemson to just one run over his 7.1 innings of work. The Deland, Fla., product gave up seven hits and two walks while striking out eight on 112 pitches.
“The fastball was there,” said Weaver. “The off-speed stuff came later in the game. I was kind of struggling at first with hitting those for strikes but I was able to throw pitches when I needed to; it was more of a grind out game.”
“He is certainly not afraid,” said Martin on Weaver. “He is certainly not worried about what might happen. He goes out there and pitches the best he can pitch and he doesn’t dwell on the last pitch. He goes out there and pitches like Luke Weaver.”
Billy Strode registered the final two outs in the eighth, while Robby Coles worked the ninth to pick up his ninth save of the season. Coles issued a one-out walk to Shane Kennedy, but got out of the inning on the very next pitch as Tyler Krieger lined into a game-ending double play at second.
Clemson looked to cut into the Seminole lead in the fourth but left two stranded. Steve Wilkerson and Steven Duggar opened the inning with back-to-back singles off Weaver but the Seminole starter came right back to record consecutive strikeouts and then got Krieger to fly out to left to end the threat.
The Tigers drew within one of the lead in the sixth when Wilkerson led off the inning with a single to center. The junior second baseman moved to third on a one-out double down the line in left and scored a batter later on a groundout to short by Kennedy to cut the Seminole lead to 2-1. Weaver escaped further damage as he got Krieger swinging on strikes to end the inning.
Clemson put the tying run on in the seventh and eighth innings but both were retired from the base paths as Stephen McGee threw out two trying to steal second. In the seventh, Jon McGibbon drew a walk off Weaver and then was thrown out at second thanks to a great scoop by Giovanny Alfonzo. In the eighth, Wilkerson laced a one-out single to center. After a pitching change brought Strode on, Wilkerson tried to move into scoring position but McGee made an outstanding throw to Alfonzo to throw out his second base stealer of the night.
“I was just trying to get it down there as fast as I could in the right place for Gio to make a play,” said McGee. “It happened to work out for us tonight on two separate occasions. Gio made two great plays to get those outs for us tonight.”
Florida State scored its only runs of the night in bottom of the first to take an early 2-0 lead. The first four Seminoles to the plate reached off Crownover as FSU registered three hits and a hit-by-pitch. Davis drove in both runs delivering a base hit through the right side with the bases loaded as Brett Knief and DJ Stewart scored on the play. Knief opened the inning with a single to right center and advanced to third on Stewart’s double down the line in left. McGee was hit by a pitch, one of two on the evening, to load the bases for Davis.
The Seminoles opened the fourth and fifth innings with a leadoff double but could not add to their lead. Nogowski ripped a double down the line in left to start the bottom of the fourth and moved to third on a groundout to short by Jameis Winston. Crownover then recorded consecutive fly outs to end the inning. Sansone began the fifth with a double to the gap in left center but was stuck at second as the Tigers retired the next three Seminole batters.
Crownover suffered the loss on Friday night as the freshman southpaw gave up two runs on five hits in 4.1 innings. Clate Schmidt threw 3.2 innings of shutout baseball in relief.
The two teams will return to the diamond for the final game of series on Saturday, May 18 at 3:00 p.m. First pitch is set for 3:00 p.m. and will air live on ESPNU. Fans can listen to the game on the Seminoles.com 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 will be available via gametracker.