The Seminoles have now lost two in a row for the first time all season, dropping their second game in two tries to the Gators 4-1 in Jacksonville on Tuesday night.
The ‘Noles played well, but the game turned in Florida's favor on two simple plays.
With one out, runners on second and third and leading 1-0 in the top of the sixth inning, Florida State looked to bust the game open. The Gators intentionally walked Jayce Boyd to load the bases and set up a double play. Stephen McGee handed UF reliever Johnny Magliozzi exactly what he wanted, rolling over on a full-count offering to third baseman Cody Dent, who cleanly began a 5-4-3 twin killing to end the threat.
The momentum UF gained carried over into the bottom of the sixth.
Brian Busch, who replaced starting pitcher Scott Sitz, faced second baseman Casey Turgeon with two outs and runners at first and second. Turgeon lifted a seemingly shallow flyball to center, but it drifted much further than expected. Misreading the ball off the bat, center fielder James Ramsey took one misguided step forward and then couldn't recover in time, barely dropping a potential catch on a last-ditch dive attempt. Two runs scored on the play, and Turgeon ended up on third with a triple.
Florida State coach Mike Martin deflected the blame from Ramsey.
"They hit the ball where we couldn't get to it," said Martin after the game. "That's the only way you can describe it. I thought our pitching was excellent. I thought we played an excellent ballgame."
Sitz threw even better than expected, lasting 5 1/3 innings and striking out five -- a career high -- while only giving up two hits and one run. He prevented the Gators from putting big numbers on the board by consistently executing pitches and hitting his spots on both the inside and outside corners of the plate. It wasn't until DH Brian Johnson's soft single to left in the fourth that Florida registered its first hit off of Sitz, who is a Jacksonville native.
"Scotty really pitched well," Martin said. "It's a shame. He deserved a better fate, but you have to credit Florida."
The FSU bullpen shined in the seventh, when Bryant Holtmann entered the game after UF center fielder Daniel Pigott knocked a one-out triple to right off of Hunter Scantling. Holtmann walked right fielder Preston Tucker but then retired star catcher Mike Zunino and Johnson to end the frame.
Other than Holtmann, Florida capitalized off of the FSU bullpen. UF left fielder Vickash Ramjit prevailed in the clutch twice with a pair of RBI singles to right, one coming in the sixth off Scantling and the other in the eighth off Luke Weaver to stretch the Florida lead to 4-1.
The game looked promising in the fourth, when Sherman Johnson led off with a double down the right field line to reach base for the 25th consecutive game this year. Devon Travis followed with a bunt single, and Ramsey's RBI groundout to first scored Johnson, putting the ‘Noles up 1-0. With runners on second and third, UF starter Greg Larson struck out McGee, and reliever Daniel Gibson forced Seth Miller to ground out to Nolan Fontana at shortstop to keep the Seminoles from adding to their lead in the frame.
After the fourth inning, FSU's offense struggled, recording only two base hits -- both infield singles -- and threatening to score only in the sixth.
Besides the lackluster offensive performance, the ‘Noles failed to take advantage of opportunities in key situations to extend their lead.
"It was a great night. It's just unfortunate that we got beat," said Martin. "Florida played well. They deserved to win. We played well, had our chances and could not capitalize. Tip your hat to them."
Two of the Seminoles' four losses this season have now come at the hands of the No. 1-ranked Gators.
Florida State expects to rebound against Virginia Tech in the upcoming weekend series beginning Friday in Tallahassee.
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
Despite lead, FSU fails to finish UF
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