One home run and a dominant pitching performance was all eighth-ranked Florida State (11-1) needed in sweeping the midweek series over No. 18 UCF (10-4), as the Seminoles defeated the Knights 1-0 Wednesday night at Jay Bergman Field.
Jayce Boyd provided all the offense the Seminoles would need on Wednesday night, blasting a solo home run in the fourth inning for the only run of the game. The junior first baseman registered half of Florida State's hits in Game 2, finishing 3 for 4 for his fifth multi-hit game of the season.
Four Seminole pitchers combined to post the third shutout of the season and their third shutout in the last five games.
"You have to credit both clubs. It was a well-played game decided by a home run," said coach Mike Martin. "But yet exceptional pitching, I thought we had again a great outing by our starter and our entire staff. It was a good win for us."
Making his first start of the season, Scott Sitz worked five-plus innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out one to earn his first victory of the season. The junior right hander allowed only one UCF hitter to reach third base, with that coming in the third inning, as Darnell Sweeney reached on a bunt single up the line at first.
Two of the three hits allowed by Sitz were of the infield variety.
"First inning, I felt like I was throwing hard," said Sitz. "That is the longest I have gone all season, and I didn't know how long I was going to last. I was just going out there and trying to give it my all tonight."
Kyle Bird entered in the sixth with a runner on to face D.J. Hicks and got the Knights' preseason All-American to ground into a double play at first. He followed by striking out Chris Taladay to retire the side.
Bird worked around a leadoff single by Ryan Breen in the bottom of the seventh to keep the Knights off the scoreboard. The freshman southpaw faced the minimum over his two innings of work, as he allowed just one hit and struck out two.
Gage Smith came on to work the eighth inning for the second straight night and faced the minimum for the second night in a row. After recording a groundout for the first out of the inning on his first pitch of the game, Smith gave up an infield single to Sweeney. But the sidearm right hander got out of the inning, getting Ronnie Richardson to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Robert Benincasa worked the ninth and picked up his fourth save in as many tries. For the second night in a row, the junior right hander faced the meat of the UCF batting order and duplicated his performance from Tuesday night, retiring the Knights in order. Benincasa induced a pair of flyouts and a strikeout to give the Seminoles their seventh win in a row.
"Phenomenal," said Benincasa on the pitching staff's performance on Wednesday night. "All we needed tonight was one run. I am happy that Scotty came in and got the win. I am glad we were all able to contribute tonight, especially in a one-run game. It was a big game. We didn't want to leave Orlando with a split."
"The main thing I am seeing is poise," said Martin on the performance of his bullpen. "They are going out there and thinking. They are going out there and pitching under control. There isn't any rushing. They are just going out there and taking control of the situation. Scotty also gave us five good ones tonight"
The last 1-0 victory for FSU dates back to May 16, 2008, against NC State, when Elih Villanueva, Jimmy Marshall and Buster Posey combined for a three-hit shutout.
The Seminole defense was stellar once again, recording three double plays.
FSU was the first to strike in Game 2, as Boyd hammered a solo home run to left field off UCF starter Ray Hanson (0-1). The junior first baseman took a 2-1 pitch over the fence in left for his second round tripper of the season to stake FSU to a 1-0 lead.
"First at-bat, I hit a hard line drive right to the third baseman, and I knew he wanted to work me in," said Boyd. "But the pitch I hit was actually a fastball on the outer third. I was sitting fastball, got a good pitch, got a good swing and it got out of here."
The Knights put the leadoff batter on in the fourth and sixth innings but could not get anything going, as Sitz got James Vazquez to ground back to the pitcher's mound to begin a double play. Richardson reached on a fielding error to start the sixth but was quickly eliminated, as Bird got UCF's D.J. Hicks to ground into a double play at first.
Florida State got Boyd to third in the top of the seventh, as the Cantonment native led off the inning with a single. He moved to second on a sac bunt by John Nogowski and advanced to third on a deep flyout to center off the bat of Justin Gonzalez. But the Knights left Boyd at third, as Joe Rogers came on and got Jose Brizuela to ground out to short for the final out of the inning.
Sherman Johnson, Devon Travis and Stephen McGee registered a hit in Wednesday night's victory.
Florida State will stay on the road, as they travel to Durham to open ACC play against Duke at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The first game of the three-game series will be on Friday, March 9, at 6:00 p.m.
Sitz, Boyd lead FSU to win over UCF
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