Playing in front of the 18th-largest attendance in school history, Florida State didn't disappoint, ousting Virginia Tech 2-1 on Saturday night in two hours and one minute.
Luke Weaver's tremendous outing versus Stetson, coupled with Brandon Leibrandt's strong performance in the Virginia Tech opener, set the bar high for the pitching staff. But Mike Compton outdid both of them, dominating Virginia Tech.
Compton set career highs by lasting 7 2/3 innings and fanning eight Hokies. He also became the first Seminole starting pitcher this year not to issue a walk.
"It was fastball-slider combination there," Compton said. "Got ahead of hitters a lot. I don't think I walked anyone. Let the defense play as usual. Stephen McGee was awesome behind the plate, giving me a lot of strikes. Just kinda went from there. It was a great outing I think."
Compton's maturity on the mound impresses coach Mike Martin.
"He plays in advance of a freshman," Martin said. "I'm very pleased with that. He and Leibrandt both seem to be in total control of their emotions and of the situation. They have a good baseball head on their shoulders."
The win improves Compton to 6-0, making the freshman the first ACC pitcher to reach six wins.
Tossing back-to-back seven-pitch innings in the first and second, the day started off ideally for Compton. Unfortunately for the ‘Noles, Virginia Tech starter Marc Zecchino was on top of his game as well. Zecchino threw seven strong innings, allowing only three Seminole hits and striking out six of his own.
A unique moment before the fourth seemed to spark the Florida State offense, which had remained silent through the first three innings.
The Seminoles welcomed onto the field some players and coaches from the '60s, highlighted by former coach Jack Stallings and Hall of Famer Woody Woodward.
FSU responded to the reunion by scoring two in the bottom of the fourth. Devon Travis led off with a sharp double into the right-field gap and advanced to third on a James Ramsey single. An error by the cutoff man allowed Ramsey to move up to second on the play. Jayce Boyd then plated Travis with a groundout to second base, and McGee's sacrifice fly to right scored Ramsey to push FSU to a 2-0 lead.
The two runs were all the ‘Noles needed.
Compton's lone blemish came in the fifth, when left fielder Tyler Horan smashed a no-doubt solo homer to right, cutting the FSU lead in half.
"My mindset after that home run was, Hey, they're not going to score another run off me," Compton said. "Each batter you face, you gotta have that mental approach as, Hey, this guy's not going to beat me, and just kinda bare down from there."
Mimicking that approach, Compton pitched his way out of a tough situation in the sixth inning.
The Hokies put the tying run on third with only one out after catcher Mark Zagunis singled, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Alex Perez. Needing a popup or a strikeout, Compton used his slider to bring No. 3 hitter Chad Pinder to two strikes before blowing a fastball by him for the second out. Boyd's smooth pick of shortstop Justin Gonzalez's short throw retired Johnny Morales to end the frame.
The Hokies never threatened again.
Bryant Holtmann replaced Compton with two outs in the eighth and only needed two pitches to end the inning, as McGee gunned out Zagunis at second on a stolen-base attempt.
The dominant Robert Benincasa picked up his ninth save of the year. Morales' deep fly to right with two outs in the ninth gave the 6,158 in attendance a slight scare, but Seth Miller's catch on the warning track to end the game set off raucous cheers.
Before the season, many doubted the young pitchers. However, pitching coach Mike Bell had predicted that freshmen Weaver, Leibrandt and Compton would combine with sophomore Peter Miller to form a strong rotation.
"I think what you're seeing are guys starting to settle in," Bell said. "Not only roles, but being comfortable here at the collegiate level. There's always going to be a sense of belonging when you bring new guys in to a team, and the first couple of times that they have the opportunity to do things, some guys try to do things maybe outside of the ordinary instead of just being themselves. I think that you are starting to see these guys grow right in front of our eyes."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
Compton delivers in victory over VT
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