Ugly FSU victory reveals some heart

Florida State fell behind early to an outmatched Hofstra team when Peter Miller struggled on the mound, but Hunter Scantling came to the rescue right about the time FSU's bats finally got hot.

Every baseball team has sloppy performances.

A group's ability to respond to adversity and find ways to win is what matters, though. On Saturday, the Seminoles dug themselves a hole early but escaped with a 10-8 victory over the Hofstra Lions.

The teams' resolve impressed FSU coach Mike Martin.

"To be honest with you, when we fell down by four, I was anxious to see how we would respond," Martin said. "And I thought we responded very well."

The four runs Martin is referring to came off sophomore Peter Miller, who struggled mightily, lasting only 1 2/3 innings in his first appearance of the season.

Martin isn't worried.

"I don't know who that was," he said. "I ain't seen that. All year long, I have not seen that. I don't know who that guy was. That's the only way I can answer your question. I don't know who that was. Peter Miller, I know what he can do. If that was Peter Miller out there, I haven't seen him pitch like that. I understand emotions. I have seen it a few times, but I've never seen it to that extreme because that wasn't Peter Miller. Peter Miller is much much better than what I saw."

Already down 1-0, Miller's start took a turn for the worse in the second inning after designated hitter Taylor Stuart struck out swinging on a bouncing pitch. Stuart reached first when Stephen McGee sailed the throw to Jayce Boyd, putting runners at first and third with one out. Center and right fielders Austin Nyman and Danny Poma then singled and doubled, respectively, to put the Lions up 4-0.

Without hesitation, Martin replaced Miller with Hunter Scantling, who proceeded to catch Poma leaning off of second to end the inning. He went on to deliver 5 1/3 strong innings of relief -- he surrendered only one run in the fifth -- and kept his innings short.

"I went out there with that mindset of working fast and trying to get the team in the dugout," Scantling said. "Put some zeroes up and just get the team to the seventh inning so we can hand it over to the next guy. Any pitcher can tell you if you get a quick inning and keep the momentum going, sooner or later the runs are gonna come in."

On cue, the bats responded to Scantling's speedy approach. Sherman Johnson and James Ramsey opened the bottom of the third by grinding out 10- and 9-pitch at bats, respectively, which both resulted in walks. Boyd put the ‘Noles on the board by doubling to deep left center, scoring two and extending his hitting streak to eight games. Shortstop Justin Gonzalez brought Boyd in with a sac fly to right to cut the Hofstra lead to one.

Up to this point, the effective John Tiedemann kept the Seminoles at bay. But as soon as the runs started scoring for the ‘Noles, Hofstra went to the bullpen for the first of six times.

The Seminoles then took the lead in the fifth on sidearmer Gregg Lettini's first pitch to Jose Brizuela.

After previous pitcher Cody Normand loaded the bases, Lettini was brought in to warm up. This gave Ramsey time to jog in from third and give Brizuela a few pointers prior to his at bat.

"I just told [Brizuela] he's gotta relax and try to hit the ball the other way," Ramsey said. "He has a good stroke and he has some juice pull side, but when he slows the game down is when he is successful. A couple times he was pulling off a hair early in the at bat in hitters' counts, and he's gotta realize that he's got plenty quick enough hands. So that's all I told him, just to stay short and good things are going to happen."

Brizuela paid attention to Ramsey and drilled a double off the fence in right to put the Seminoles up 5-4. Gonzalez then scored on Seth Miller's fielder's choice to first, and Brizuela came around on Devon Travis' single down the left field line to give the Seminoles their seventh run.

Both clubs remained quiet until the eighth, when designated hitter John Nogowski singled through the left side to score Ramsey. Nogowski's first career hit came earlier in the third.

Gonzalez then doubled down the left field line to score one, and Brizuela skied a sac fly to right knocking in pinch runner Josh Delph to make the score 10-4.

The Noles believed the game was wrapped up, but Hofstra didn't give in.

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Scott Sitz replaced Brian Busch to record the last out in the eighth, but the ninth ended up being a nailbiter for the 4,433 in attendance. Hofstra put up four runs on a walk, three singles and an unlucky error by Travis.

All of a sudden, Hofstra found itself down two with the tying runs on first and second. Sitz bore down and struck out pinch hitter Bryan Verbitsky to silence Hofstra and end a game that became way closer than it felt.

This win was sloppy, but Martin's ‘Noles persisted.

"There's a lot of things you look for in a club," Martin said. "When you fall behind by four and you've got a freshman DH and a freshman left fielder and a first-year catcher, you like to see how they react. We turn around and have a big inning, and you have a tendency maybe to relax. Unfortunate for us in that ninth inning, but yet we persevered. We stayed tough and got it done."


Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.


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