Backs against the wall, FSU gets UCLA

After surviving Sunday's elimination game against Stony Brook, Florida State will face another win-or-go-home ultimatum Tuesday vs. UCLA. FSU has to stay hot at the plate and help starter Scott Sitz.

Florida State bounced back from its defeat to Arizona on Friday by thrashing Stony Brook 12-2 on Sunday to stave off elimination. Shortstop Justin Gonzalez led the charge by blasting FSU's first of two long balls on the day, scoring three during a six-run third that put the Seawolves away.

The Seminoles now square off with UCLA on Tuesday in a second straight elimination game to earn the right for another chance at the Wildcats.

FSU will send Scott Sitz to the mound looking to emerge victorious in a do-or-die game against the Bruins.

Throughout the course of the year, Sitz revealed his ability to shut down opponents, evidenced by his dominance over then-No.1 Florida in Jacksonville. However, he also surrendered some big innings, allowed opposing teams to string together hits and occasionally gave up a multi-run homer.

Sitz went 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA, often tossing just enough frames to hand the reigns over to the bullpen, so Florida State's big win over Stony Brook -- and the fashion in which it happened -- couldn't have come at a better time.

The 'Noles managed to throw only Brandon Johnson, Bryant Holtmann and Mack Waugh out of the 'pen to close out the Stony Brook game. Since the strong possibility exists that Sitz will last only four or five innings, it helped tremendously that the Seminoles' flurry of run support resulted in an extra day off for their best relievers, setup man Gage Smith and closer Robert Benincasa. Both will be at full strength if called upon Tuesday.

"That was huge," said coach Mike Martin. "Give [pitching coach] Mike Bell all the credit for bringing all the guys in the ballgame that he wanted in the ballgame. I was a little hesitant inside, but Michael knows our pitchers very well and we went with what he wanted to do. And, I mean, Johnson hasn't pitched a lot of innings this year, but he's pitched well in the last four outings. Holtmann hasn't pitched in three weeks, but yet he had a very good outing. And, of course, Mack Waugh's pitched a lot for us this year and he had a good inning. So it was a very unusual day for us in an environment like this to be able to get guys in the ballgame and be able to rest guys that you're counting on."

This season, FSU has a proven track record of winning in games on Sunday, a day often characterized by a matchup of No. 3 hurlers.

Having faced and beaten the top college pitcher in the country during the Tallahassee Super Regional in first-round draft pick Mark Appel of Stanford, a starter deep in UCLA's rotation poses minimal problems. Particularly for the top of a potent Seminole lineup, which just may have found its swagger again. Sherman Johnson, Devon Travis and James Ramsey combined for seven hits against the Seawolves.

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"It just reinforces what [assistant coach] Mike Martin Jr. does with the hitters," said the elder Martin, "spending so much time and stressing getting good pitches to hit and staying in certain positions with the bat. And it's really encouraging to see our young men have this type of success against a very good baseball team."

Arizona allowed only five hits in a decisive 4-0 shutout of the Bruins, but UCLA showcased its offensive firepower in a 9-1 thrashing of Stony Brook to open the College World Series on Friday, leading one to believe that Florida State will need a strong offensive day to advance in Omaha.

But with the top arms set in the bullpen, plus Ramsey and Co. clicking at the dish, this one shapes up nicely for the Garnet and Gold.


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


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