Despite earning the top seed in the ACC Tournament, Florida State was slighted an immediate disadvantage when pitted against eighth-seeded Georgia Tech in the form of Yellow Jackets ace and draft prospect Buck Farmer.
Trailing by five in the fifth inning, the Seminoles showed a lot of heart by battling back but failed in the end, dropping the opener of the tournament 5-4.
Farmer held FSU hitless into the fourth, while first baseman Jake Davies backed him with a pair of two-run blasts and a key defensive play in the fifth.
"It was just a really well played college baseball game by both teams," said coach Mike Martin. "It was two good clubs getting after it. We just happened to come out on the short end. But you have to, of course, credit Buck Farmer and Jake Davies for pitching and getting key hits for their team. It was just one of those things that you tip your hat to the other club. They deserved to win and got it done."
Davis, the cleanup hitter, struck with two outs in the first, poking Scott Sitz's offering just over the left field fence to give Georgia Tech a 2-0 lead.
Tech added to the cushion in the fourth when Matt Hyde scored Daniel Palka with a double down the left field line to make it 3-0.
Davies seemingly put the game away in the fifth by turning on a Brian Busch heater for his second long ball of the day to stretch the lead to five.
But instead of quitting, FSU responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame.
Still facing Farmer, the ‘Noles loaded the bases with no outs thanks to walks by Justin Gonzalez and John Nogowski and an off-speed pitch that bounced off Jose Brizuela's shoe. Sherman Johnson then ripped what looked like a sure single into the hole between first and second. However, out of nowhere, Davies dove to backhand the Johnson rocket before tossing to Farmer covering first to record the initial out of the inning.
Gonzalez scored on the play, and then Devon Travis followed by singling home Nogowski with a chopper up the middle. James Ramsey's sacrifice fly to right brought home Brizuela to cut the Yellow Jacket lead to 5-3 before Jayce Boyd swung through a fastball to end the frame.
"I was very pleased with the way we were able to get back into the ballgame," Martin said, "but Buck did a good job of getting his team in the dugout. It could have been a lot worse, but you have to credit him."
Davies deserves just as much credit.
Without his clutch defensive play on Johnson's would-be single, the ‘Noles most likely tie Georgia Tech or even take the lead that inning.
Gage Smith replaced Busch on the mound to start the sixth and cruised through two shutout innings, allowing the ‘Noles to stay in the game.
When FSU loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs off Alex Cruz, who replaced Farmer due to a rapidly rising pitch count, the ‘Noles seemed destined to mount yet another come-from-behind win. But Stephen McGee rolled over to shortstop on the second pitch of his at-bat to end the threat.
With two gone in the ninth, Ramsey, the ACC's Player of the Year, kept the Seminoles' hopes alive by launching a two-out home run to right to cut the Yellow Jacket lead to one. Nevertheless, dreams of a comeback fell short when Boyd flew out to center to end the game.
For the third straight season, the Garnet and Gold dropped the opening game of the ACC Tournament. Each of the last two years, the ‘Noles recovered to win the next two to advance to the final -- and even won it in 2010.
Florida State will try to bounce back as it has done all year long by sending Brandon Leibrandt to the mound Friday to take on Clemson.
The last two campaigns reminded Ramsey that the Seminoles are far from finished.
"We feel fine about the position we are in," said Ramsey. "We are staying in attack mode. That's ready to go and ready to win ballgames. We can only control so much. We are going to continue to play our Seminole brand of baseball and not worry about everything else around us."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
FSU opens league tourney with defeat
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