For the first 8 1/2 innings, Rhode Island outplayed the Seminoles and looked poised to escape Tallahassee with a solid Sunday victory.
But all of the sudden, the Seminoles capitalized on a ninth-inning Rams meltdown to sweep the series with a 6-5 win.
Jayce Boyd provided the walk-off heroics.
Down 5-3 in the ninth, Stephen Spradling pinch hit for John Holland and started things off right with a sharp single to left. After Seth Miller lined out to center, Jose Brizuela grounded to shortstop Tim Caputo for what should have been a routine double play to end the game. Caputo came up too early, bobbled the ball and threw it past second base, allowing the ‘Noles to stay afloat. To make matters worse for the Rams, second baseman Pat Fortunato made a similar mistake, fumbling another easy chopper off the bat of Sherman Johnson, which let Spradling cross the plate to make it 5-4.
After Devon Travis went down swinging with runners on first and second, the Rams opted to pitch around James Ramsey to load the bases and face Boyd. With two outs and the game on the line, Boyd crushed the first Mike Bradstreet pitch he saw off the middle of the fence in right, scoring Brizuela and Johnson for the win.
"It's just one of those situations where it's just fun," Boyd said. "You know the pressure is on you. The game's riding. It's you against the pitcher, base hit ties it or wins it. For them to pitch around Ramsey is not necessarily a slap in the face, but it's a challenge for sure and I'm glad I got the opportunity."
With runners on second and third in the seventh and already up 5-3, the Rams missed a chance to put the game away.
Playing shortstop for the first time in his collegiate career in place of the almost fully recovered Justin Gonzalez, Johnson cleanly fielded a hard Fortunato grounder and fired home to easily catch Milan Adams attempting to score. Reliever Gage Smith then bobbled Greg Annarummo's comebacker but still made the play at first to end the threat.
Before the bottom of the ninth, the Rams deserved to win, out-hitting the ‘Noles 13-7 on the day and stranding Seminole runners almost every inning. Their leadoff hitter, Jeff Roy, went 5 for 5 with five singles.
Rhode Island chased FSU starter Scott Sitz in the third inning when first baseman Jeff Cammans smacked a three-run homer to left to give the Rams a 4-0 lead.
Florida State coach Mike Martin blamed Sitz's rough outing on off-speed location.
"Struggled getting his breaking ball to the right spot," Martin explained after the game. "That's something I guess you should say is part of the game. Guys leave pitches in the wrong spot every night in the big leagues. Unfortunately for him, they weren't fouled off. A guy hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Florida State pecked away at Rhode Island's lead all day but missed countless opportunities to do damage by continuously leaving runners on base.
In both the third and fourth frames, the ‘Noles picked up a run but were unable to do any real damage when Travis K'd to end the third. Holland and Miller went down swinging back-to-back times to end the fourth. The strikeouts left runners on second and third in both innings.
Down 5-3 and with the bottom of the FSU lineup due up in the ninth, a failed eighth-inning rally appeared to finish the Seminoles.
In favor of a better matchup versus lefty Anthony Pisani, John Nogowski pinch-hit for lefty Josh Delph with the bases loaded and one out. Nogowski hit a soft liner directly to third baseman Dan Haverstick, who proceeded to tag third to double up a frozen Travis.
The 'Noles won every game this weekend differently, using their bats Friday, their arms Saturday and pure grit Sunday. However, the ability to emerge victorious when not playing its best speaks volumes about FSU's chances this upcoming postseason.
The team's skill in this department is no surprise to Boyd, who went 8 for 12 this weekend with seven RBIs. He even predicted the comeback win half way through the game Sunday despite the numbers favoring Rhode Island.
"We were actually talking about it in the dugout," Boyd said. "I was talking to Scott Sitz about it. I want to say at the time we were looking, it was 11 hits to 5 hits. And I was like, 'The funny thing is we'll have seven or eight and win this game.' I said that in the sixth [or] seventh inning. It's just confidence in the team that you have to know we're going to get it done."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
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