FSU sends message vs. Terps in Game 1

Looking like the No. 1 team in the country, Florida State hit four home runs and got a strong pitching performance from Brandon Liebrandt to easily nab Game 1 of a three-game set with Maryland.

After a narrow win in Jacksonville and facing tough Maryland pitcher Jimmy Reed, who had yet to allow a single home run this season, Florida State understood the importance of a quick start.

To the shock of everyone, including FSU coach Mike Martin, Devon Travis and James Ramsey belted back-to-back solo bombs in the first inning and Sherman Johnson notched his first home run of the year in the third off Reed to lead the ‘Noles to a 10-3 pounding of the Terps in the opener of the three-game set.

"Certainly the hitting was a bit on the surprising side," said Martin after the game, "in that guys were hitting home runs that hadn't hit home runs all year. I'm not talking about Ramsey. I'm talking about Sherman. Sherman came to the ballpark sick, stayed in the clubhouse, did not take pre-game infield or groundballs. Says, ‘I'm okay to play,' goes out there, gives us a big lift. That just goes to show you what kind of competitor and Seminole he is."

Facing Jamie Pashuk in the fifth, shortstop Justin Gonzalez added a two-run blast to the opposite field, his sixth of the season.

Back for only the second game after a week-long injury hiatus, Gonzalez hit the ball hard in each of his three at-bats and appears back to his hot-hitting form seen prior to his nagging hamstring issue. His careful practice during the time off helped him stay game-ready.

"Just hit in the cage every day," he said, "all in moderation. All pretty much under surveillance, man. I was like under a microscope. It went pretty well. Just tried not to miss a beat."

Overshadowed by the offense, Brandon Leibrandt delivered another tremendous outing. The lefty calmly maneuvered through six scoreless innings, surrendering four hits and facing only two over the minimum number of Terp hitters.

"What's there to talk about? He can flat-out pitch," Gonzalez said of Liebrandt. "That's no doubt about it. Whenever he's on the mound, it's amazing to watch a freshman with so much poise just go out there and pitch. He's done an outstanding job so far and it's getting to an exciting part of the season, so it's fun to watch."

"Any time guys put up even four or five runs, it's nice," Leibrandt added. "But when they put up 10, it's a big confidence booster."

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The 10 runs allowed by Maryland equaled its season worst vs. Boston College on Mar. 30. Half of the runs came by way of the four Seminole blasts, matching the most they hit in one outing since opening day, when Jayce Boyd, Seth Miller, Jose Brizuela and Ramsey went deep to down Hofstra.

Other than the fancy homers, more ‘Noles found other ways to contribute.

Stephen McGee brought in two with a single to left in the third, and Stephen Spradling drove in one in the fifth with his second of two singles on the day. Johnson and Ramsey both picked up doubles in addition to their long flies, and DH John Nogowski almost gave the ‘Noles their fifth homer of the game in the eighth when he rang a two bagger off the wall in left.

Ramsey believes that the quick start from his and Travis' back-to-back dingers in the first sent a strong message to Maryland.

"It [helped] open up the series more than anything," he said, "knowing that we're going to be playing hard. We're not taking these guys lightly. We're trying to play our game, get better every day and know that you can really set the tone for everybody in this dugout, as well as that dugout, that we're going to be here all weekend and playing a good brand of baseball."

Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.

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