Freshman hurler Brandon Leibrandt showcased his best performance of the campaign by striking out a career high ten Bulldogs and allowing only three hits in eight innings of work against a Samford lineup featuring seven batters with at least .300 batting averages.
After the ‘Noles took a 1-0 lead in the first off a Sherman Johnson home run to right to start the game, Samford responded by loading the bases with only one out. To make matters worse, Brandon Miller, who leads the nation with 23 home runs and holds an astounding 64 RBI's, stepped to the plate.
Leibrandt remained unfazed by the situation, fanning Miller and forcing C.K. Irby to line out to Devon Travis to escape the threat unscathed. It was smooth sailing from this point on for Leibrandt, who tossed a season high eight frames, while retiring the final 15 Bulldog hitters he faced. Following the game, Leibrandt described the first inning as a stepping-stone for an eventual great outing.
"We got a little unlucky there [on the close hit by pitch call that loaded the bases in the first]. I just tried to bear down the best I could," he said. "I made a couple key pitches and luckily got the strike out and then the line out. To get out of that was huge momentum."
Somewhat dormant the past few games, the FSU bats exploded against the 12-1 Samford starter Josh Martin with two big innings.
With the bases loaded in the sixth and leading only 1-0 in a tight pitchers duel up to this point, Jayce Boyd stroked a sharp one-out single to right scoring Jose Brizuela, who doubled to open the frame, and Johnson. Advancing to second on the play, Boyd then attempted to reach home on Stephen McGee's seeing-eye single through the right side of the infield that already brought in James Ramsey, but Miller fired a strike from right field, beating the sliding Boyd to the plate.
Keeping the Seminole lead to four, Miller's throw seemed like a potential momentum turner for Samford, until Ramsey delivered the dagger in the seventh.
The Seminoles loaded the bases via a John Holland one-out double and consecutive walks to Johnson and Travis. Using a different bat than usual, Ramsey hooked reliever Joseph Burns offering over the fence in right for his first collegiate grand slam and 13th long ball of the year, providing the Garnet and Gold an 8-1 cushion. Boyd almost made it back-to-back homers by crushing a 3-2 Burns pitch in the following at bat off the top of the fence in right center.
Burns failure to mix up his pitches helped Ramsey to capitalize with the devastating grand slam.
"It was a slider," Ramsey said. "It was probably pretty close to the first pitch. He threw a slider first pitch off the plate. Slider second pitch off the plate. I just happened to get it."
The ‘Noles hoped to keep the shutout intact, but the Bulldogs managed to scrape one across in the ninth off Hunter Scantling when Irby lined a single to left that tipped off the diving Brizuela's glove, bringing in Brad Moss.
Thrilled with the unexpected blowout and Leibrandt's dominant outing, Coach Mike Martin remained humble while expressing his desire to approach the winner of the Sunday noon game with intensity to rival Saturday nights'.
"I think we touched on this last night about the unpredictability of this sport that we play, and there is no way I can sit here and tell you I thought we were going to score eight runs," Martin said. "Now what Brandon [Leibrandt] did was certainly something, we have seen him pitch very well all year but to go out there and pitch in that arena and those conditions with the poise and being in control of everything is what he is all about and certainly what our program is all about."
"Good win for us. We know that there is nothing settled," Martin added. "It's a long, still a long way to go. Either of those two clubs can come back and win this thing. There's nothing sealed in concrete. We've got to be ready to go tomorrow at 6 p.m. whoever we play."