February 14, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A horrific ninth inning on the mound for No. 14 Florida State, where they allowed three runs scored on a pair of walks and an infield single, led to a 3-1 loss to Niagara at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. in the first game for new head coach Mike Martin Jr.
The top of the ninth saw four Seminoles (0-1) on the bump combine to allow two hits, while walking four, as nine batters stepped up to the plate for the Purple Eagles (1-0).
Martin Jr., a long-time assistant for the Seminoles, was in the role of head coach for the first time in his career after replacing his father, legendary head coach Mike Martin Sr. FSU was 36-4 in openers over the 40 year career of the elder Martin. They are 0-1 under the guidance of their new head coach.
FSU starting pitcher CJ Van Eyk had a very strong outing. He threw five innings and allowing two hits, striking out eight and walking one. He also picked two runners off at first. He threw 71 pitches, 46 of which were strikes.
Van Eyk was replaced by Antonio Velez. He threw two innings of work, facing the minimum, and striking out five. He threw 23 pitches, 17 of which were strikes.
Velez gave way to team captain Chase Haney. He threw the eighth inning, facing three and striking out one. He threw six pitches, all strikes.
Here is where things went wrong on the mound...
Freshman Bryce Hubbart, who was tabbed the closer entering the season, came in for the ninth inning with a 1-0 lead to protect. The left-hander walked the first man he faced and then allowed a single to left. That resulted in a mound visit and a quick hook.
Veteran Jonah Scolaro replaced Hubbart with two on, no outs in the top of the ninth. He handled a sac bunt, recording an out, and then issued a walk. His evening was then over.
Tyler Ahearn took to the mound with bases loaded and one out. He walked the first man he faced, which tied the game, 1-1. He would then get an infield fly before issuing another walk, giving the Purple Eagles a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth.
Davis Hare would take the mound to replace Ahearn with bases loaded and two down. A slow roller to shortstop Nander De Sedas led to a throw that was beaten by the Purple Eagles’ hitter, resulting in a 3-1 lead for Niagara. He would then register a strikeout to end the top half of the ninth.
Hubbart was credited with the loss, falling to 0-1. Both runners he allowed on base came around to score.
Four pitchers in the ninth combined to allow two hits, walking four, and surrendering all three runs.
Niagara used a trio of pitchers on the evening. Alex MacKinnon earned the victory, improving to 1-0, after throwing the last two innings and striking out five of the six batters he faced.
The first hit of the Martin Jr. Era came via a bunt single by his son, freshman designated hitter Tyler Martin, in the third inning.
FSU scratched one across in the bottom of the fifth when catcher Matheu Nelson laid down a squeeze bunt, scoring Tyler Martin from third base. Martin reached on a fielder’s choice, where the right fielder dropped a ball he could have caught. He then moved to third on a pick-off error by Niagara’s pitcher.
Newcomers that played on the evening for FSU included freshmen Tyler Martin and Tyrell Brewer, as well as junior Jackson Greene in the field. Martin (designated hitter) and Green (second) started for the Seminoles. On the mound, FSU also used a pair of newcomers - freshman Bryce Hubbart and junior Davis Hare.
As a team, the Seminoles recorded just three hits (all singles), while walking seven times and striking out 14 times. Elijah Cabell struck out four times. After the game, Martin Jr. admitted to being disgusted with his team’s approach at the plate.
FSU committed an error on the evening. Reese Albert dropped a fly ball to center.
FSU is now 10-1 all-time against Niagara.
Attendance was 4,670 for the opener.