By the conclusion of the showdown versus conference rival Clemson, Florida State was reminded how it feels to lose on a Saturday.
The Tigers overcame a 2-0 Seminole lead by launching three homers to hand FSU a 7-2 defeat and its first Saturday loss since Feb. 24 against Florida International.
With the score knotted at two in the sixth inning, Clemson catcher Spencer Kieboom delivered the winning blow by taking Gage Smith's full-count offering just over the wall in left for a three-run blast. For a second, it appeared Jose Brizuela robbed Kieboom of a home run, but the ball ended up bouncing off the tip of his glove as he reached into the stands.
Florida State coach Mike Martin felt that Smith executed his pitch, even though it resulted in the game-deciding home run.
"He made a great pitch," said Martin. "The ball was down. It wasn't elevated. The guy went down and got it and did a good job of hitting it."
Brandon Leibrandt started the game for the ‘Noles and looked sharp through the first four innings. With FSU on top 2-0 in the fifth, Brad Felder turned the tide by pulling a one-out solo bomb to right off Leibrandt. Then in the sixth, third baseman Richie Shaffer went deep off the left field foul pole to even the score at two. Clemson's two home runs off Leibrandt matched his season total allowed.
"Leibrandt pitched very well, he really did," Martin said. "It's just one of those games you have to tip your hat to them. I mean, three home runs, that is pretty darn impressive."
Tigers DH Phil Pohl capped off the scoring in the seventh with a two-run double off Bryant Holtmann to stretch the lead to 7-2.
The loss marked the first time this year that the Tigers notched more than one long ball in a home conference game. It was also only the second time in 2012 that Clemson hit three homers in a single game.
Originally, FSU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the second, when Josh Delph lined a single to the opposite field to score Justin Gonzalez, who remained in the game after jamming his wrist diving head first into second on a successful steal attempt. Stephen McGee added another in the fifth by lofting a sacrifice fly to right to score Devon Travis.
Typical of a Seminoles loss, they failed to cash in on a few key opportunities.
Sherman Johnson and Travis both reached to open the first, but the promising inning died with McGee's inning-ending flyout to right.
Then in the sixth inning, after initially mishandling Johnson's high chopper, Tigers first baseman Jon McGibbon punished Delph's aggressive base running from second base by nailing him at home to end the inning.
Needing to rebound from Clemson's four-run sixth, FSU loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh. But reliever Daniel Gossett forced Gonzalez to fly out to center to kill the Seminoles' final serious threat.
"We had some chances tonight, no doubt about it," said Martin. "Disappointing? Yes, but we just have to play better [Sunday]."
The ‘Noles must now win their next two games over Clemson in order to claim the three-game set and continue their season-long undefeated streak in weekend series. With five games remaining on the schedule, Florida State sits two wins shy of clinching the top spot in the ACC.
It won't be easy.
Besides losing three of their last four since being anointed No. 1 in the country by all of the major polls, the Seminoles must deal with the fact that Clemson has now triumphed over them in seven of their last 10 meetings.
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
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