Florida State completed the sweep of Miami on Sunday in thrilling fashion with an 8-7 victory in extra innings.
Senior third baseman Sherman Johnson delivered the winning blow in the 10th to cap off one of the Seminoles' wildest wins of the year.
With one out, Johnson sent an E.J. Encinosa 2-1 offering between the outstretching first and second basemen to score Giovanny Alfonzo from second and send Dick Howser stadium into pandemonium.
"Encinosa, we know him," Johnson said following the game. "He's been here for three years, so we know he's going to go sinker, sinker. So the first pitch was a sinker for a strike and then he threw another sinker off the plate for a ball and then another sinker down for a ball. So after that, I was just like, Alright, I'm definitely going to [look] sinker this pitch, and it was a sinker and I put a good swing on it I guess and it got through the hole, and I was turning back looking to see if [Alfonzo] was going to score. And when I realized he did, it was all happiness from there."
The ‘Noles sprinted onto the field and mobbed Johnson behind the pitching mound.
"I was actually trying to run away," Johnson said. "I didn't see anything at first, and when I turned my head I saw just the whole team running. I was trying to run towards center field, and they were trying to tackle me the whole time. I got headbutted and I got everything, but it was great. I don't feel it right now."
Alfonzo, filling in for Justin Gonzalez after a hamstring injury in the first, led off the 10th by stroking his first collegiate hit to right field.
"My parents both told me, 'Your time is going to come, and when it comes you're going to shine,'" Alfonzo said. "So when I was on deck getting ready to hit, I was like, It's my time right now. I know I was going to at least make solid contact. Luckily, it fell."
The win wouldn't have been possible without the stellar work of reliever Gage Smith.
Down 4-0 in the fourth and releasing some anger, the Hurricanes touched starter Scott Sitz and relievers Hunter Scantling and Kyle Bird for seven runs. Most of the damage came from second baseman Michael Broad's grand slam off Scantling that rung off the scoreboard screen in left. The wheels were coming off, but coach Mike Martin finally chose the correct relief pitcher.
Smith settled everything down, fanning the first three ‘Canes he faced and throwing career highs with 4 1/3 innings pitched and four strikeouts while never giving up another Miami run.
"The key to the ballgame," Martin said when asked about Smith. "No question. When I was in [the locker room], I didn't want to point him out. But he was the key to the ballgame. Gage Smith came in and settled everything down for us to give us a chance to get back in it, and I'm just very very pleased that we did."
"My slider was working probably the best it has all year," Smith added. "That was definitely my go-to pitch today. Usually I don't go that long, and so I'm very happy with the way I felt and pitched."
Building off the momentum built by Smith, the Seminoles chipped away at the Miami lead in the sixth. Stephen McGee, who reached base in all five at-bats, led off with a scorching single up the middle. Two consecutive groundouts moved him to third, and then freshman John Holland came through in the clutch yet again with a double to the wall in right to score McGee. John Nogowski, who has seen less playing time lately due to Holland's hot hitting, pinch hit for Josh Delph and roped a single past the shortstop to score Holland and cut the Miami lead to 7-6.
Just one inning later, the ‘Noles evened the score. Devon Travis drew a walk to lead off the seventh, and with one out Jayce Boyd, who has missed games and struggled this week due to sickness, stepped to the plate. The first baseman crushed an A.J. Salcines offering off the wall in right center, just out of the reach of center fielder Dale Carey, who flew over and just came up short of making the play. Travis scored easily to knot up the score at seven.
Neither team crossed the plate again until Alfonzo's winning run in the 10th.
Dating back to the first, the 'Noles opened the game with four early runs. Already leading 1-0, Gonzalez beat out a perfect bunt with the bases loaded and two outs to score Travis. Gonzalez stepped awkwardly onto first and was shaken up but stayed in the game. Holland then doubled down the left field line, scoring two more ‘Noles, but also forced Gonzalez, who came up limping after reaching third, to leave the game.
The Seminoles hope that the five off days until they square off against Rhode Island will give Gonzalez's hamstring a chance to recover.
Other than Gonzalez's injury, the 'Noles will celebrate the sweep of the 'Canes and their best start in the ACC since all the way back in 1999, when they went 19-2 versus conference opponents.
"It's awesome, man," Johnson said. "Any time you can sweep Miami, which hasn't been done in awhile, I hear (2002), it's awesome. Just to beat those guys, and that really never gets old. Any time you beat Miami, it doesn't matter in what sport. You hear about that as a Florida State Seminole. It just fires you up. It really does. It was awesome."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
'Noles rally to tie, get walkoff victory
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