Pitching and defense was the name of the game Wednesday night, as top-ranked Florida State (37-7) posted its seventh shutout of the season with a 3-0 victory over Jacksonville (14-32) in front of a crowd of 2,876 inside John Sessions Stadium.
"When you can go on the road and win a ballgame you have to be excited, and I am very excited after tonight's performance," said coach Mike Martin. "We used six pitchers tonight and beat a club whose record is not what is usual for a Jacksonville team. But it was a very good display of baseball on our part, and I am very proud of the way our guys played tonight."
Six Seminole pitchers combined for a four-hit shutout, as Florida State won for the eighth time in a row. Brian Busch, Hunter Scantling and Bryant Holtmann all worked two innings on Wednesday, while Kyle Bird, Gage Smith and Robert Benincasa turned in an inning apiece.
Holtmann (2-0) picked up the win, as he retired all six batters he faced and registered a pair of strikeouts. Benincasa worked the ninth to earn his ACC-leading 12th save of the season.
"We got quality innings out of our pitchers tonight," said Martin.
The FSU pitching staff was also the beneficiary of a stellar defensive performance, as the Seminoles robbed the Dolphins of base hits on multiple occasions. From a leaping catch at the wall in right field by Seth Miller to several outstanding plays by Devon Travis and Justin Gonzalez on balls up the middle, the 'Noles posted a zero in the error column to complete the regular-season sweep of JU.
"I have been around here a long time, and I saw that play Devon made up close and personal. Luis Alicea didn't make that play when he was in school," added Martin. "Gonzo made a great play in the ninth, and luckily he is OK and will be ready to go Saturday against Maryland."
Travis provided all the run support FSU would need Wednesday night, driving in Sherman Johnson on an RBI single up the middle in the top of the sixth inning. The Seminoles would add two more runs in the ninth for the winning margin.
Johnson and James Ramsey both registered two hits in the win, while Ramsey collected his ninth double of the season in the sixth. Johnson would reach base on four of his five plate appearances on a pair of singles, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Gonzalez, Josh Delph and Jose Brizuela all picked up singles, as FSU outhit JU 8-4.
Johnson drew his ACC-leading 50th walk of the season to open Wednesday's contest against JU starter Steven Eagerton but was left stranded on the base paths, as the Dolphins right hander retired the next three batters that he faced.
Miller robbed Dan Gulbransen of an extra-base hit to start the bottom of the second, making a great leaping catch up against the wall for the first out of the inning. Busch then recorded back-to-back groundouts at short to end the second and keep the game tied at zero.
Busch faced the minimum in his two innings of work, retiring the side on four groundouts and a pair of flyouts.
The Seminoles put together consecutive base hits in the third but came away empty handed, thanks in large part to a great throw from right fielder Adam Brett Walker to gun down Brizuela at third after a base hit from Johnson. Both Brizuela and Johnson singled off Eagerton, as the base hit from Brizuela was the first hit for either team.
Bird came on in relief of Busch to start the bottom of the third inning. The freshman southpaw registered two quick outs on back-to-back grounders to second, including a spectacular play by Travis on a groundball headed up the middle off the bat of Garrett Ruckel to rob the Dolphins designated hitter of a base hit.
The next three JU batters reached off Bird on a double by Ethan Loosen, a single by Jonathan Murphy and a walk to Alex McRae to load the bases for Walker, the biggest hitting threat in the Dolphins lineup. But Bird would get Walker on a check-swing third strike to keep the game scoreless after three innings of play.
Delph registered a single off Wes Torrez to start the fifth and moved to second on a stolen base. After a two-out walk to Brizuela, Torrez would get out of the inning thanks to a base-running miscue by Delph at second. On a ball in the dirt to Johnson, Delph jumped out to a big lead and could not get back to the bag, as JU catcher Matt Frank picked him off at second for the third out.
For the fifth time in the first six innings, the Seminoles got the leadoff hitter aboard on a single to left by Johnson. After a wild pitch by Corben Madden (1-3) moved Johnson to second, Travis came through with a single back up the middle to plate Johnson for the first run of the game. Ramsey doubled to the gap in right center to put runners at second and third and end the evening for Madden.
Sean Green entered for the Dolphins and, after issuing an intentional walk to Jayce Boyd to load the bases, retired the next three batters he faced to keep the Seminoles lead at 1-0. Green struck out Stephen McGee and Delph before getting Gonzalez to fly out to first in foul territory to end the threat.
The Seminoles pitching staff retired 11 straight hitters after getting Walker swinging on strikes to end third, until Chris Anderson doubled down the line in right off Hunter Scantling with one out in the seventh inning. The Jacksonville native would keep the Florida State lead intact, retiring the next two batters on a popout and a strikeout.
Scantling faced seven batters over two innings, allowing a hit and striking out one.
JU pinch hitter Zachary Houck led off the bottom of the eighth drawing a walk off Smith and moved to second on a stolen base. Houck would advance no further, as Smith recorded consecutive strikeouts and a flyout to keep FSU's lead at 1-0.
Florida State broke the game open in the ninth, as a wild pitch on ball four to Brizuela scored two to give FSU a 3-0 lead. Delph reached to open the inning after getting hit on an 0-2 pitch from Green. Gonzalez followed with a single to left, and both runners advanced 90 feet on a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt off the bat of Giovanny Alfonzo. Green then delivered the ball-four wild pitch with Brizuela at the plate that scored Delph and Gonzalez to give the Seminoles a three-run lead. The second run scored on the play when Frank's throw to the plate went into the JU dugout.
Benincasa pitched a scoreless ninth, giving up a hit and striking out Jake Huxtable for the final out of the game. After Gulbransen registered a one-out hit in the ninth, Gonzalez made a great defensive play on a ball back up the middle by Anderson to save a base hit, throwing out the Dolphins first baseman at first for the second out. Benincasa then got Huxtable swinging on strikes to complete the shutout.
Florida State returns to ACC play this weekend, as the Seminoles host Maryland for a three-game series beginning Saturday.
FSU posts shutout of Dolphins in Jax
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