Florida State (29-2, 8-1) hit three home runs for the third straight game to take the series from the Duke Blue Devils (20-11, 2-10) with an 8-5 victory on Sunday afternoon. Tony Thomas, Jr. registered four hits including two, two-run home runs and Mark Hallberg hit his first round tripper as a Seminole to pace the Garnet and Gold. Ryan Strauss ran his record to 7-0 with six solid innings of work, while Brian Chambers worked the ninth for his first collegiate save.
"When you are on the road, it's difficult in the ACC," said head coach Mike Martin. "It's a dog fight every weekend. I was very impressed with Duke; they have done a great job with this ball club and I'm glad that we are through playing them."
Thomas went 4-for-5 in the game with two home runs and two singles. The junior second baseman scored four times, registered four RBI's and stole two bases on Sunday. For the weekend, Thomas hit .638 (9-for-14) with eight RBI's and eight runs scored. He posted a slugging percentage of 1.786 on five home runs, three singles and a double.
"Right now the ball looks really big," said Thomas. "I'm just going out there, having fun and feeling really relaxed."
The Seminoles brought out the long ball this weekend as they hit nine home runs against Blue Devil pitching. Entering the series, Florida State had hit just 12 home runs through the first 28 games.
"Tony was such a big lift," stated Martin. "It was very usual for us to hit as many home runs as we did this weekend, which was a little mind boggling. The ball does carry well here. This was a big win for us, especially after getting beat yesterday."
Florida State scored in the first inning for the third time in the series thanks to Hallberg's two run homer. Leadoff batter Tony Thomas, Jr. started the game with a single to second base. Thomas reached base in all three games as the leadoff batter registering a home run on Friday and a double in game two. Hallberg then stepped to the plate and laced his first home run as a Seminole over the wall in left center for an early 2-0 FSU lead.
"I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it," said Hallberg. "The ball jumps a little bit here which really helped me out. It felt really good to get that home run."
FSU added two more in the second on Thomas' fourth home run of the series. After Brandon Reichert drew a one-out walk, the junior second baseman deposited the Andrew Wolcott (3-2) offering over the wall in left to give the Seminoles a four run cushion.
Duke countered with three runs in the bottom of the second off Florida State starter Strauss to make the score 4-3. With one out, the Blue Devils loaded the bases on two walks and a single. Gabriel Saade got Duke on the board with a soft double to center plating Brett Bartles and Matt Williams. Ryan McCurdy then hit an RBI single to center scoring designated hitter Jonathan Nicolla. Strauss closed out the inning as he got Alex Hassan to groundout into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
Florida State would increase its lead to 6-3 on a pair of RBI singles by Buster Posey and Dennis Guinn. Thomas led off the inning with his eighth hit of the series, a single to right field. Thomas then swiped second for his second stolen base of the game and would take third on a fly out to right field by Hallberg. Posey recorded RBI number 38 on the season with a hot shot up the middle to score Thomas from third. After a Jack Rye single put runners on first and second for Florida State, Guinn got his first hit of the ball game with a single to left field scoring Posey to give the Seminoles a three-run advantage.
Duke cut into the Seminole lead in the sixth on Williams' third hit of the ball game. The sophomore catcher hit a 3-1 offering from Strauss right back up the middle scoring Bartles from second. Strauss once again got a groundball double play to end the inning keeping Florida State's two-run lead.
Strauss' day would come to a close after six innings and 113 pitches. The junior right hander threw six solid innings for the fourth straight outing. He allowed four runs on seven hits walked two and struck out one.
Thomas gave the Seminoles some breathing room in the eighth as he hit his second home run of the game and fifth of the series. Reichert got things started in the eighth with a single to left field. Thomas followed with his second two-run shot of the game to make the score 8-4. Thomas clobbered the pitch to deep center for his fourth hit of the ball game.
Duke would add one in the eighth off Seminole reliever Travis Burge. Jimmy Gallagher led things off with a double down the first baseline for his first hit of the ball game. He advanced to third on a fly out by Nate Freiman and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bartles to make the score 8-5.
Brian Chambers closed the door on the Blue Devils in the ninth as the senior right hander earned his first collegiate save. Chambers worked a scoreless inning allowing just one hit while striking out the final batter of the game to give the Seminoles the series win and an 8-5 game three victory.
"It's pretty cool to get my first save," said Chambers. "I've done pretty much everything here at Florida State from starting my first year to pitching out of the bullpen, so to get a save is pretty special. We definitely needed this game; we needed to win our first road series and to keep that momentum going heading into next weekend's series at NC State."
Florida State will stay on the road as they head to Jacksonville to face Florida on Tuesday, April 3 at 7:00 pm. The Seminoles will be the visiting team for Tuesday night's game and will throw rhp Caleb Graham, who will be making his third start of the season. Fans can follow all the action over the Internet. Gametracker will be available for the contest along with live radio broadcast courtesy of 1270 the TEAM.
Florida State downs Duke 8-5
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