Leibrandt puts FSU back on track

After losing back-to-back games for the first time this year, Florida State returned to the win column Friday in Game 1 of a series against Virginia Tech. Brandon Liebrant was strong on the mound.

After a frustrating loss to Florida on Tuesday, Florida State rebounded by taking down Virginia Tech 5-2 on Friday night.

Freshman Brandon Leibrandt impressed the home crowd, tossing a career-high seven innings and holding Virginia Tech scoreless while throwing only 85 pitches -- a phenomenal 60 of them for strikes.

"It definitely felt good to go out there and give the relievers a little bit of a break tonight," Leibrandt said. "Whenever I go out there, I try to go as long as I can. It was nice to get a career high tonight."

Leibrandt took control of the game in the fourth.

Down 3-0, the Hokies loaded the bases with no outs off a hit batter, a check-swing single and a fielding error by Leibrandt on right fielder Kyle Wernicki's sacrifice-bunt attempt. Leibrandt battled back by striking out left fielder Tyler Horan, throwing home for the force out on first baseman Gabe Ortiz's comebacker and fanning right fielder Carson Helms to escape the inning unscathed.

"Just tried to bear down, limit the damage as best I could," said Leibrandt. "I thought if I got out of it with one run that would be a win for us, but luckily I was able to get two strikeouts and throw up a zero on the board."

The ‘Noles defense didn't make things easy on the FSU pitchers, committing four errors on the night and leaving coach Mike Martin slightly frustrated.

"Every time I see one error on the scoreboard, I'm not a happy camper," he said. "To see four makes you a little irritable."

But Leibrandt didn't blink, even when he was asked to return to the mound after a 42-minute rain delay interrupted his start. With a runner on second, Leibrandt K'd replacement catcher Andrew Rash on three pitches and forced Wernicki to pop into a double play to end the frame.

The Seminole bats opened the scoring in the first, when James Ramsey's sacrifice fly to center brought in third baseman Sherman Johnson, whose single to lead off the inning extended his streak of reaching base to 26 games.

Opposite from the Florida game, the ‘Noles came through in the clutch. Second baseman Devon Travis and first baseman Jayce Boyd tallied their 12th and 10th doubles of the season, respectively, and added two more singles each on the day.

"I take a lot of pride in [knocking runs in]," Boyd said. "It's kinda frustrating when you don't do your job, especially as a four-hole hitter. That's your job, is to drive those guys in. I take a lot of pride in it, and I was happy I got the job done today."

Going forward, the 'Noles need the bottom of their lineup to produce. Jose Brizuela did just that from the nine spot, recording three singles of his own.

"Breezy is starting to swing the bat better," Martin said. "I think he is getting a lot more confidence. I'm very glad to see him coming around."

The ‘Noles picked up their second and third runs of the game in the third, when Travis and Ramsey stroked back-to-back doubles, followed by a Boyd single up the middle.

In the seventh, Ramsey surprised everyone by bunting Travis over to second. Boyd then brought Travis in with another single to center.

Brizuela, who reached on a bunt single, scored the ‘Noles final run of the night in the eighth on a Travis liner to right.

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Virginia Tech's two runs were both unearned. Stephen McGee's errant throw to first with two outs in the eighth allowed the inning to continue, and the Hokies capitalized with a Wernicki single. In the ninth, shortstop Justin Gonzalez's short throw scooted by Boyd, allowing the runner on second to score easily to make it 5-2.

Despite the four errors, Florida State bounced back well after two tough losses.

"Any time we lose to our rival, it's tough to swallow," Leibrandt said. "But we came out here and took one from a good Virginia Tech team. Hopefully we can keep it going."

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

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