What started as an old fashion pitcher's duel finished with some ninth inning fireworks as No. 8 Florida State (38-9) capped off a ninth-inning rally with a walk-off RBI single to straight away centerfield by Stephen McGee as the Seminole defeated No. 30 UCF (26-22) 5-4 Sunday afternoon on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
"Sometimes you just have to take what comes your way," said head coach Mike Martin. "That was one of those that we had a very poor top of the ninth inning but our guys showed what they were all about, going out there and having good, quality at-bats; positioning themselves for success. We got it done. There were a lot of positives in the game. It was a just a great win for us." With the win, the Seminoles completed the series sweep of the Knights while improving their home record to 30-2 on the year. In the process, FSU also extended its win streak when wearing its gold uniforms to 20 in a row.
After giving up two unearned runs in the top of the ninth and trailing 4-2, the Seminoles got the bottom of the inning off to a good start when Jose Brizuela and Jameis Winston drew back-to-back walks off reliever Zac Favre (2-2). Pinch hitter Casey Smit got the Seminoles within one of the UCF lead when he drilled a double off the fence in right to plate Brizuela.
"I needed to hit the ball to the outfield," said Smit. "With runners at first and second, no outs, you're down by two, you have a much greater chance of scoring when you have runners at second and third. I was trying to hit the ball hard somewhere and advance the runners."
After Giovanny Alfonzo was intentionally walked to load the bases, UCF went to the bullpen and called on Eric Skoglund to face Seth Miller. Miller brought home Winston to tie the game at 4-4 when he lifted a sacrifice fly to right in foul territory. Erik Hempe made the catch but his throw was up the third base line and had no chance of catching the speedy Winston. Smit and Alfonzo both tagged on the play advancing to third and second, respectively. With first base open and one-out, D.J. Stewart was intentionally walked bringing McGee to the plate. Looking for the force out at home and with the infield drawn in, McGee took a 2-0 pitch from Skoglund and drilled it to no man's land in straight away center to give FSU the come-from-behind victory.
"Our guys knew that there were three outs to get," said Martin. "That's what makes this game so great; our guys were in a fighting mood and they went up there and fought at the plate and got it done."
"It was awesome," said McGee. "Once I saw Casey's hit, I was saying to myself, ‘just get me up, just give me that chance, I want to do it.' I really wanted it to happen and when it did I was really happy. I just wanted to see a pitch that I could put to the outfield."
The walk-off hit was the first of McGee's career and the second by a Seminole this year. The first came off the bat of Stewart back on opening weekend when the freshman connected on a two-run home run to right center in the 10th inning in a Sunday victory over Rhode Island.
"It really says a lot about him because he does a heck of a job for us behind the plate," said Martin on McGee. "It also says a lot about his competitiveness and desire; every single day he wants to be in there (the line-up)."McGee finished the game 2-for-4 with a single and a double as he scored once and registered a walk.
The ninth inning dramatics overshadowed a great pitching performance by both starting pitchers on Sunday. Neither would factor into the decision but FSU's Scott Sitz and UCF's Brian Adkins battled back and forth as both did an outstanding job of keeping the opposing offenses in-check.
Sitz held the Knights to just one hit through the first six innings and that hit was an infield single by JoMarcos Woods to lead-off the top of the fourth. The senior right hander retired the first nine batters that he faced and faced just one batter over the minimum through the first six innings.
After opening the seventh with a strikeout, the Knights finally got to Sitz when Chris Taladay unloaded on a solo shot over the screen in right. The Knight third baseman took a 3-2 pitch from Sitz out of the park for his third round tripper of the season. It marked the first home run allowed by Sitz this year. Erik Barber followed two batters later with a double to the gap in left center, but the Seminole right hander got of the jam getting James Vasquez to groundout to second to retire the side.
Sitz finished the afternoon allowing one run on three hits over 7.0 innings as he struck out six and did not walk a batter.
"Beautiful, absolutely beautiful," said Martin on Sitz' performance on Sunday. "I mean Taladay hit a ball out of the ballpark that was down. You just tip your hat to him and go to the next at-bat. Scotty pitched extremely well. I was very pleased with our pitching all weekend."
Adkins on the other hand got off to a shaky start giving up two first inning runs when Marcus Davis got the Seminoles on the board early with a two-run single to right. Stewart drew a one-out walk off the UCF starter and moved to third on a ground rule double down the left field line off the bat of McGee.
The UCF starter then worked around a two-out triple and a walk to Brett Knief and Stewart, respectively, in the second before settling down and not allowing a runner past first base until he left the game with one out in the eighth. Adkins was charged with two runs on six hits as he walked two and struck out one in 7.1 innings of work.
The Knights tied at the game at two in the top of the eighth on an RBI pinch-hit double by Jeramy Matos. Pinch hitter Bret Gordon opened the inning with a single through the left side of the infield off Gage Smith and moved to second on a sac-bunt by Tommy Williams. Matos then took the first pitch from Smith and one-hopped it off the left field wall for a double to bring home Gordon for the tying run.
Robby Coles (4-1) entered in relief of Smith to register the final two outs in the eighth. The junior right hander got Woods to line out to right but not before Winston made a great full extending catch on the run to keep Matos at second. Erik Hempe then flew out to Miller in center to end the inning.
UCF grabbed its first lead of the afternoon in the ninth taking advantage of a two-out throwing error at third that resulted in two unearned runs and a 4-2 advantage. Barber would reach on the two-base throwing error and later score on an RBI single back up the middle by Gordon. With the bases loaded, Vasquez scored the second run of the inning on an infield single by Dale Irving. Gordon would try to score from second on the play, but John Sansone threw on to McGee to record the final out of the inning.
"We are a very tough team," added Smit. "Mistakes happen, they are part of baseball but its how we battle back and just keep our poise; that's how you become a better baseball team, don't let the past affect you."