Bottom of the FSU lineup steps up big

Florida State continued its dominance of the ACC on Sunday, taking Game 2 of a three-game set with Maryland at Dick Howser Stadium. The Seminoles will go for the sweep of the series Sunday.

For the second consecutive day, the Florida State bats pummeled Maryland.

However, unlike Saturday's power surge delivered from the heart of the FSU lineup, the bottom three hitters provided most of the damage to lead the Seminoles to a 9-2 victory Sunday in the second game of the series.

Already leading 4-0, Justin Gonzalez basically ended the game in the third with a grand slam that bounced off the roof of the shed in left center. It was his second career grand slam and seventh long ball of the season.

Adding to his well-known defensive value, Gonzalez looks entirely different at the plate from a month ago, hitting with complete confidence. He has emerged as one of the team's best of late, belting homers in each of the last two games.

"Just trying to see the ball well," said a humble Gonzalez after the game. "I'm not really trying to do too much. Nice and easy swings, and I've been able to put the ball out of the park. That hasn't been my approach. I'm not trying to do that. It's just been working out that way."

Gonzalez's blast brought Terps starter Michael Boyden's streak of 47 1/3 innings pitched without allowing a homer to a screeching halt.

Inserting new faces into the bottom of the lineup in hopes of stirring competition and more run production, coach Mike Martin granted Josh Delph and Stephen Spradling starts in left and right field, respectively.

"Just trying to give guys opportunities," Martin said. "We've got some guys obviously that their numbers are not all that impressive. They're good baseball players. We're trying to get some competition going. Let's give them an opportunity and see what happens. Delph got two [hits], and Spradling got [on base twice] again."

Both Spradling and Delph, rounding out the end of the FSU batting order, delivered key hits to open the scoring in the second.

With the bases loaded and one out, Spradling flicked a tough 2-2 pitch through the right side of the infield, knocking in Jayce Boyd, who picked up his third four-hit game of the season with four singles, and Stephen McGee. Two pitches later, Delph dished a double just fair down the left field line, scoring Gonzalez and Spradling to bring the total to 4-0.

Whether in the outfield, pinch hitting, or at designated hitter, Delph's hot bat forced Martin to grant him more opportunities in the lineup. He doesn't plan on slowing down either.

"The more at-bats, the more pitches you see, the more fly balls, everything, you just get more confidence," said Delph. "I think I got a lot of confidence built in the offseason just through how much we practiced. But there's nothing like playing in uniform with the crowd and everything. And when you have good days, it just builds up your confidence so much."

Seminoles pitcher Mike Compton picked up the win despite a slight off day on the mound to improve his record to 9-0. He struck out six but drilled three batters and walked two in five innings. McGee helped Compton through the first two frames by throwing out two Maryland would-be base stealers, but the Terps picked up two runs in the fifth when Gonzalez missed an off throw at second from Boyd with the bases loaded.

Gage Smith replaced Compton to start the sixth and surrendered zero runs in two innings of work. A double play initiated by Sherman Johnson's smooth pickup of a chopper deep in the hole between shortstop and third helped Smith evade damage in the seventh. Bryant Holtmann then dominated for the final two innings to hand the ‘Noles the victory.

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In the third, John Holland replaced Travis, who left the game with an ingrown toenail, at second base. Interestingly, Holland's brother Ryan plays for the Terps and batted in the DH spot, going 0 for 3 on the day. Even in the presence of Ryan and John's grandma, "The Animals" had no mercy, yelling in unison "John's the favorite" each time FSU pitchers retired Ryan. And when Ryan grounded out to John in the eighth, the fans all chanted "John got you out" as Ryan jogged back to the dugout.

Taking the series over Maryland, FSU continues its streak of not having lost a weekend set all year and remains a comfortable first over North Carolina State in the Atlantic Division of the ACC standings.

"It's just such a huge honor to do that," Boyd said, "and it's just a pride thing. We could always get out here against guys and just kinda take the game for granted and get out here and lose one game or something like that. It just doesn't happen with this club 'cause we have a lot of maturity, a lot of good leaders on this team. We just keep our composure and play the game."


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


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