Florida State's faithful fans boast a handful of spirited in-game chants that help make Dick Howser Stadium one of the most daunting venues in the nation for visiting baseball clubs. And during Saturday's Tallahassee Regional winner's-bracket game between FSU and Troy, none was more boisterous and persistent than the crowd's chant of choice; "LUUKE."
In an 11-0 Seminoles (46-15) victory, sophomore pitcher Luke Weaver gave 'Noles fans plenty to cheer about as he baffled Trojans (41-19) hitters for eight compete innings. Weaver finished the night with a career-high 14 strikeouts -- the most by an FSU pitcher since Tyler Chambliss tossed 15 against Maryland in 2006 -- on a career-high 115 pitches with just four hits and no walks allowed.
Weaver's performance against Troy was the latest in a string of strong showings by the Deland, Fla. native. In his last six outings, Weaver hasn't registered less than eight strikeouts and boasts a combined 1.23 ERA. He is just the second FSU pitcher this season to record double-digit strikeouts in a single game with Brandon Leibrandt's 10 against Duke April 13 being the other instance.
While Weaver was dealing on the mound, FSU's batters were doing their job updating the scoreboard for the second night in a row. Twenty-four hours after beating Savannah State, 10-0, in their first game of NCAA Tournament play, the 'Noles exploded for six runs in the final inning and accrued 11 hits for the game. John Nogowski led the scoring onslaught with a team-high three RBIs with two hits while D.J. Stewart continued his offensive excellence with two RBIs of his own. John Sansone, Giovanny Alfonzo, Josh Delph, JJ Gould, Seth Miller and Jose Brizuela were all responsible for one RBI each.
Saturday-night's outcome means the Seminoles will play at 5 p.m. Sunday night against the winner of the Troy-Alabama matchup that will start earlier in the day. A Sunday-night 'Noles victory would send them to Super Regionals and result in more postseason baseball in Tallahassee next weekend.
Florida State registered its first hit of the game in the top of the third on Miller's double. But despite loading the bases following a Alfonzo hit-by-pitch and Stewart walk, Marcus Davis struck out looking and the score remained knotted at 0-0. The 'Noles then reached base again in the fourth thanks to a Troy fielding error -- its first in 51 innings -- but still couldn't get on the board.
The scoring drought very nearly came to an abrupt halt in the bottom half of the fourth, if not for a timely FSU defensive play. As 6-foot-1, 235-pound Troy first baseman Trae Santos came lumbering home on a Josh McDorman, FSU catcher Stephen McGee capped off a perfect relay play from Miller to Sansone by standing his ground and holding on to the baseball during a collision at the plate. The crowd-pleasing play was a sign of more fireworks soon to come.
Miller drew a walk to start the fifth inning and Alfonzo singled up the middle before both 'Noles advanced to third and second, respectively, because of an errant throw. Sansone's grounder to the second baseman then scored Miller and Delph's sacrifice fly plated Alfonzo for another score. Stewart then launched a solo shot to center field for a 3-0 Florida State lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
The Seminoles then pushed that lead to 4-0 behind Alfonzo's sacrifice fly that scored Brizuela in the sixth. Another solo home run -- this one by Nogowski in the eighth inning -- made it a 5-0 game. The towering shot over the left-field wall and into the Tully Gym parking lot was Nogowski's first of the season and first since April 7, 2012.
FSU didn't need them but they added a bunch of additional runs in the top of the ninth. Back-to-back doubles by Brett Knief and Stewart resulted in an RBI for the latter and a 6-0 score. Brizuela's RBI single then scored Stewart and Nogowski followed that up with a two-RBI sliding triple. Miller then mimicked his teammate with his own three-base hit that scored Nogowski to extend FSU's advantage to 10-0.
The Noles' are now one win away from advancing to the Super Regionals. FSU will face the winner of Alabama-Troy tomorrow at 5 p.m.