Hodges closes out Yellow Jackets

Left-handed reliever Daniel Hodges picked up his fifth save Friday as No. 8 FSU edged No. 5 Georgia Tech 4-3. "We weren't pulling our weight at the start of the season," Hodges said of the Seminoles' bullpen. "I think now everybody is working hard down there, doing a lot of running and everyone is throwing good bullpens and we are getting this thing turned around."

When Georgia Tech's Jason Perry banged a double off the right-center field wall in the ninth inning Friday, Florida State reliever Daniel Hodges barely blinked. Hodges knew he had left a fastball over the middle of the plate, giving the fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets life with two outs.

After a quick visit from FSU coach Mike Martin, Hodges relied on his changeup and instincts to strike out Brandon Boggs and close the Seminoles' 4-3 victory before an appreciative 4,177 at Dick Howser Stadium.

The game opened FSU's first Atlantic Coast Conference series at home after dropping two of three at North Carolina and Wake Forest. The Seminoles (36-12, 4-6 ACC) and Yellow Jackets (32-6, 7-4 ACC), who had won 18 of their last 20, are looking to keep league-leading Wake Forest (29-6, 12-3) within sight. Even more importantly for FSU, however, it marked the first step needed to climb from sixth place in the league standings.

The popular theory is that four conference members will be selected to host NCAA regionals.

"It's a huge series -- we understand that," said the left-handed Hodges, who surrendered one earned run in three innings to pick up his fifth save. FSU leads the conference with 14 saves. Starter Kevin Lynch pushed his record to 8-1, allowing nine hits and one earned run in six innings.

Georgia Tech, which ranks third in the ACC in team batting (.321), banged out 15 hits but stranded 12 runners. Kyle Bakker registered a complete game but suffered his first defeat (9-1).

"I was getting ahead of the count early but I was giving up hits when I was behind in the count, which I shouldn't do," Lynch said. "They are a great hitting ball club. I made some mistakes and they made me pay for it early. This (win) was huge. Hopefully, we can keep it going. Everybody is up, excited in the clubhouse right now. We just know we have to defend our home turf and win out."

FSU had plenty of heroes.

Freshman shortstop Stephen Drew walloped a two-run homer and run-scoring single. Right-fielder Mike Futrell, mired in a hitting slump, added an RBI single and catcher Tony Richie chipped in two hits, including one of three FSU doubles. But it was the effort of Lynch and Hodges who helped keep the Yellow Jackets off the board when it counted most.

Even after Perry's towering double, Hodges felt comfortable. He had fanned Boggs on a changeup in his previous at-bat.

"When he (Perry) hit it (double), I didn't let it shake me up because I would rather pitch to a right-handed hitter and I got the guy (Boggs) on a screwball before," Hodges said. "I started him off with two changeups, which is my screwball, on the outside corner. Them I came inside with a fastball up, just to get him off the plate. Then I went for a changeup away, just to see if he would chase. Then I got him on another changeup."

After a shaky start this season, Hodges believes the Seminoles' bullpen has found its stride.

"We weren't pulling our weight at the start of the season," Hodges said. "I think now everybody is working hard down there, doing a lot of running and everyone is throwing good bullpens and we are getting this thing turned around. When we come out there, we have to step up and do our job and I think we have been."


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