Wanting to prove that they deserve to be back on top of the national rankings, the Gators completed the season sweep of the Seminoles by winning 6-3 in Tallahassee on Tuesday night.
The win marked the first time that the Gators have swept the series with Florida State since 1958, making the loss that much tougher to swallow for 'Noles second baseman Devon Travis.
"Pretty frustrating, man," said Travis. "This is the biggest game of the year for me and a lot of other guys, and we don't like those guys. It's not that we don't like them as people, but it's the Gators. When you sign with Florida State, it's something that you always look forward to. Any time you get swept by any team, it hurts."
The game came down to a battle of the bullpens.
After the Seminoles jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Florida bullpen allowed the Gators to mount a comeback and eventually take command of the game.
To Florida State coach Mike Martin's dismay, UF reliever Ryan Harris entered in the third and never allowed a Seminole to once reach base, recording eight consecutive groundouts and a strikeout before Steven Rodriguez replaced him in the seventh.
"He had a very heavy baseball," Martin said. "He sunk the ball well, was all around the strike zone, made some very good pitches, got some groundballs. Florida's a very good defensive club, and if you hit the ball on the ground they're going to make the play."
The ‘Noles looked destined to win when Travis lined a solo homer to center in the first to open the scoring. FSU added to the lead in the third when Florida catcher Mike Zunino airmailed a throw to second attempting to pick off trail runner James Ramsey on a double steal. Travis scored from third on the play, and Stephen McGee then brought Ramsey home with a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 3-0.
But FSU didn't reach base again until the eighth, when Travis doubled to right to lead off the inning for his third hit of the game. Travis has now notched three hits in each of his last three games.
The Gators took full advantage of the Garnet and Gold hitting drought.
Barely dodging consecutive bases-loaded, one-out threats in both the second and third, FSU starter Scott Sitz finally surrendered a run on a Daniel Pigott RBI single to right in the fourth. In the fifth, Zunino blasted a Sitz 1-2 offering off the upper part of the scoreboard in left to silence the fourth largest crowd in school history and even the score at three.
The Gators then captured the lead in the sixth.
Reliever Kyle Bird walked leadoff hitter Nolan Fontana on four pitches, and a fielding error by Jayce Boyd put runners on first and second with no outs. A sacrifice bunt and a Casey Turgeon single off of Brian Busch suddenly put UF up 4-3.
Later in the sixth, with the bases loaded and one out, Luke Weaver entered in relief to face two of the country's top hitters. The freshman kept the 'Noles alive by fanning Zunino and forcing Preston Tucker to pop up to escape the threat.
Despite Weaver's strong effort, Fontana ripped a solo bomb to right off of him in the seventh to extend Florida's lead to 5-3.
UF starting pitcher and DH Brian Johnson scored the Gators' sixth run with a solo shot off of Robert Benincasa in the ninth. Johnson was the first opponent to go yard off of Benincasa this season.
Although a sweep at the hands of the Gators is the last thing the Seminoles planned, they can take solace by remembering their uncanny ability to bounce back and put together winning steaks after previous defeats this season.
"It's obviously very disappointing," Martin said, "but it's like I told the guys. We have some things that we need to improve on, and that's our goal for the rest of the year, is to work on our weaknesses and strive to get better."
"The honest part about it is it's just a ballgame," Travis added. "It's one baseball game. It's like the Yankees getting swept by the Rays. That's one of the lowest-paid teams in baseball and the Yankees are probably the highest, and I'm sure no one here is counting the Yankees out in the postseason. It's something that we've gotta keep our heads up, man. It's baseball. It'll hurt tonight and maybe tomorrow, but Thursday we gotta get ready for a tough Boston College team."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
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