Faced with the daunting task of scoring runs off Miami veteran pitcher Eric Erickson, previously 6-0 all time versus Florida State, the ‘Noles knew they had their work cut out for themselves.
The Seminole offense shocked everyone with an 11-2 victory, erasing any doubt that it can score versus strong pitching.
Coach Mike Martin couldn't believe the ease wth which the ‘Noles poured on the runs against Erickson.
"Another surprise," Martin said after the game. "Eric Erickson is undoubtedly one of the top pitchers in our game of college baseball. He's poised. He's got three pitches. He can throw any of them for strikes. He works both sides of the plate. He's the real deal. It just happened to be our night."
Eight different Seminoles hit safely, but shortstop Justin Gonzalez and third baseman Sherman Johnson dominated, each setting team firsts for the season.
Johnson knocked three doubles, and Gonzalez stayed hot by launching a pair of homers to left field.
"My first at-bat, I swung at the first pitch of the game, which I've only done one other game this year, and I fouled it off," Johnson said. "And then I swung at the second pitch. And you know him being a crafty lefty, he's older, he knows how to pitch and he's always around the zone. So I went up there, and if I saw a pitch I thought I could hit, I was like ready to go. And I think the rest of the lineup did that, too."
Johnson energized the ‘Noles early with a sharp double to left center to lead off the first. He crossed the plate when James Rasmey broke up a potential ending-inning double-play ball by sliding into Miami second baseman Jared Mederos.
Miami evened the score in the top of the third, but in the bottom of the frame Johnson answered right back with another leadoff double to the warning track in left center. Devon Travis lined a single to left fielder Chantz Mack, who mishandled the ball and allowed Johnson to score easily to make it 2-1.
In the fourth, Gonzalez smacked a low shot to left for his first long ball of the day to stretch the lead to 3-1.
Erickson wouldn't survive past the fifth. FSU opened things up with a three-run inning, highlighted by a Jayce Boyd double off the center field wall and a Jose Brizuela bullet right past the face of Erickson.
The Seminoles weren't done, putting up five more in the seventh. With Boyd on first, Gonzalez bombed reliever Alex San Juan's 1-0 offering over the left field bullpen and deep into the parking lot for his second homer of the game.
"That's huge for him, man," Johnson said. "He's a great guy. Like you saw tonight, he has that ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark any time. Not a lot of people know that, but Justin, he's got some serious power. I've seen him hit some balls out [the opposite] way, too. He's got some serious power."
The last Seminole to record two home runs in a single game was Stuart Tapley, who went the distance twice in 2011 versus Texas A&M in Game 2 of the Super Regional. The Seminoles won that game 23-9.
Not on top of his game and running into repeated 3-2 counts in the early going, FSU starter Brandon Leibrandt battled the Hurricanes and faired quite well. He only allowed one run on two hits over five innings, a surprise considering his rapidly-increasing pitch count.
"He did battle," Martin said. "He showed a lot of composure. He didn't have his best stuff. He struggled with the changeup. He just got by on being able to spot his fastball and not getting down and feeling sorry for himself 'cause a couple of his other pitches weren't exactly working. But he showed what he's all about, showed great composure and got the job done."
After surrendering one run in the third off a Tyler Palmer double, a Dale Carey sac bunt and a Mack sac fly to right, Leibrandt handed the ball to Hunter Scantling and the bullpen.
Walking the leadoff batters in the sixth and seventh, Scantling utilized the double-play ball to escape both innings clean. Bryant Holtmann then threw two innings of relief and only allowed one Hurricane run in the ninth.
Pleased with the blowout win, the Seminoles cautiously look forward to the rest of the series.
"A lot of things happen in this business that surprise you," Martin said, "and this was certainly a surprise. But along the same lines, I was very very proud of the way we played the game. It was, as I said, a surprise that the game ended this way, but I assure you tomorrow will be, like we all know, different. That's the nature of this game. You can't get up. You can't get down. You can't think you've accomplished anything because [Miami] tomorrow will be entirely different."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
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