Bullpen, late rally earn FSU the sweep

Losing late Monday against Virginia, Florida State was not satisfied that the series had already been won. The Seminoles mounted a rally in the eighth and finished a three-game sweep of the Cavs.

The ‘Noles remained undefeated in ACC play after completing a series sweep with a 7-5 victory over Virginia on Monday night.

With FSU trailing to begin the frame, Seth Miller capped off an eighth-inning rally with a two-out single that barely snuck through the right side of the infield to score the two go-ahead runs.

Entering the game in the seventh as a defensive replacement, Miller's clutch hit came during his first at-bat of the day and was struck off of tough reliever Justin Thompson. This feat made coach Mike Martin even more appreciative of Miller's at-bat.

"It was huge," Martin said. "You're facing one of the best closers in the country in Justin Thompson. This guy's really good. He pitched in the College World Series last year for heaven sakes."

The Cavaliers brought Thompson in to pitch the eighth after Austin Young drilled Justin Gonzalez in the neck to load the bases, leaving the shortstop lying motionless on the ground.

"One of the scariest moments of my coaching career when I went out there and Gonzo was on the ground," said Martin. "That scared me. It scared the life out of me. If he wasn't [knocked] out, I don't know where he was."

Gonzalez recovered and even scored the team's seventh run on Miller's clutch single.

Going into the at-bat, Miller felt prepared.

"I've seen this guy before, so I had a pretty good idea of what he had," Miller said. "I figured they would probably pump me a fastball first pitch. Luckily, I was able to do something with it. I had a pretty big hole there on the right side."

The Seminoles opened the scoring in the first. Devon Travis walked, James Ramsey doubled down the right field line and Jayce Boyd singled to right to put two on the board.

Florida State seemed destined for an easy win, but Peter Miller's start didn't go as planned. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings and gave up five hits and five runs, three of which were earned.

The sophomore ran into trouble in the third, when a catcher's-interference call loaded the bases with one out. Miller was pulled after he walked first baseman Jared King to plate the Cavaliers' second run. His replacement, Kyle Bird, walked in another, and second baseman Keith Werman singled to push Virginia's lead to 5-2.

But after the third inning, FSU's bullpen pitched outstanding. Bird, Mack Waugh, Brian Busch, Gage Smith and Robert Benincasa surrendered no runs over six innings and allowed the team to chip away at Virginia's lead until Miller delivered the winning blow in the eighth.

"Our bullpen has been amazing," said Miller. "It's been incredible all year long. I mean, it's bailed us out of so many games. Every time we're down two or three runs, we know we have a fighting chance. Obviously we can swing it, but what our bullpen's done this year, it's been a big plus for us, especially from last season to this season."

The Seminole arms combined to throw 170 pitches, but Smith picked up his first career win by throwing his only pitch of the night to end the Virginia threat in the eighth.

"Is this a crazy game or not?" Martin asked. "We threw [170] pitches, and the guy that threw one got the win."

The ‘Noles picked up one run in both the fourth and fifth innings. Boyd led off the fourth with a double and eventually scored on an unassisted fielder's choice to first off the bat of Jose Brizuela. Back-to-back doubles by Sherman Johnson and Travis in the fifth pulled the Seminoles to a 5-4 deficit.

Benincasa picked up his seventh save of the season, aided by a slick Travis diving play in the first-base hole to record the initial out of the ninth.

When Benincasa enters the game to pitch, the ‘Noles now feel that the game is won.

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"Everybody knows it's game over," Miller said. "He's made huge strides from last year. His stuff, for a lack of better words, is nasty."

Coming off of the tough loss to Florida last week, the ‘Noles rebounded exceptionally well. Even at home, sweeping Virginia is no easy task.

Johnson took notice.

"It's awesome for us to keep believing," said Johnson. "To get a come-from-behind victory early in the season against a great ACC team in Virginia is great."

The Seminoles will send Scott Sitz to the mound Tuesday and then Luke Weaver on Wednesday, as they look to continue their winning ways vs. Stetson in the upcoming two-game series.

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

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