Stephen McGee's solo home run in the bottom of the eighth broke a 2-2 tie as No. 8 Florida State (36-9) defeated No. 30 UCF (26-20) 4-2 in game one of a three-game series Friday evening on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
The win for the Seminoles was their eight straight at home and third in a row over the Knights, while the loss for UCF snapped a six-game winning streak.
"That was a good win," said head coach Mike Martin. "It was an outing that Luke Weaver was outstanding; he pitched beautifully. It was one of those that we got key hits. Yeah, we made some mistakes but we will strive to improve on them. But it was a good win for us."
After UCF tied the game at two with two runs in the top of the eighth, the Seminoles wasted very little time to respond as McGee took the fourth pitch from Spencer Davis (4-1) in the bottom half of the inning out of the park to left for his sixth home run of the season. FSU added an insurance run in the inning as John Sansone executed a safety squeeze to bring home John Nogowski for the winning margin.
"I got a fastball," said McGee. "I went up there really trying to see the ball deep. He left the fastball on the inside corner and I turned on it."
"There is no way to think that he is going to hit a home run in tonight's conditions," said Martin on McGee's home run in the eighth. "I could not have hit a three-wood out of here tonight, that wind was really coming in and that takes exceptional power to accomplish what he did. Obviously, it could not have come at a better time for his team.
"We did a few things right in the eighth. I am just very proud of our ball club."
Robby Coles (3-1), who recorded the final two outs in the top of the eighth, returned to work the ninth to pick-up the victory. The junior right hander allowed a hit and walk while striking out three.
For the second straight outing, Luke Weaver tossed 7.0 scoreless innings as he tied a career-high with nine strikeouts, his fourth nine-strikeout game of the season. The sophomore right hander did not factor into the decision Friday night but gave the Seminoles exactly what they were looking for in the opening game of the series.
Weaver worked out of a couple early jams before settling into his own as he registered eight of his nine strikeouts in the final four innings that he pitched. He recorded two strikeouts in the sixth and then struck out the side in his final inning of work in the seventh.
"It was a little shaky at first," said Weaver. "I was having trouble with command and mechanics but when I bared down, the fastball was there most of the night. Then later in the game the slider was throwing for strikes and the change-up was there throughout the whole game. But a lot of it came late in the game."
UCF put two on in the second on a walk and an infield single but Weaver got Erik Barber to ground into an inning ending double play at third. In the fourth, the Knights put runners at the corners with one out only to have Weaver record to big strikeouts to retire the side.
Jose Brizuela paced the Seminole offense on Friday night going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and an RBI. Brizuela was one of eight Seminoles to record at least one hit in the win.
The Knights' Ben Lively was also impressive in his start despite not factoring into the decision. The junior right hander worked 6.0 innings allowing two runs on seven hits as he walked four and struck out seven.
The Seminoles broke on top early with a run in the second thanks to some nifty base running by Jameis Winston. The freshman right fielder singled up the middle and after taking a wide turn at first moved into the second when the throw from the UCF right fielder went to first. Winston then advanced to second on an infield single by Sansone and scored when the Seminole second baseman was caught trying to steal second.
Florida State added to its lead an inning later on a two-out RBI by Brizuela. Marcus Davis drew a one-out walk off Lively in the third, stole second and scored on Brizuela's single to right center to give the Seminoles a 2-0 advantage.
With Weaver out of the game, the Knights finally cracked the scoreboard plating two in the top of the eighth off reliever Billy Strode to tie the game at 2-2. JoMarcos Woods led off the inning with an infield single and moved to second on a one-out walk to Chris Taladay. Martin went to the bullpen and brought on Gage Smith, who gave up an RBI single to left to Parker Webster, as it marked the only batter he would face. Coles came on and got the final two outs of the inning on a pair of strikeouts but not before hitting the first batter he faced to load the bases and then walking Barber to bring home the tying run.
Florida State and UCF are back at it for game two of the series on Saturday, May 4 at 6:00 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3.