Baseball sweeps No. 1 'Noles

Florida players celebrate after bringing in two runs while Florida State's Stephen McGee is disappointed at Dick Howser Stadium on Tuesday. (The Tallahassee Democrat).

Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 11:27 p.m.

The Florida State baseball team is ranked No. 1 in the nation, but it can’t lay claim to being the best in its own state.

Not after the No. 4 Florida Gators defeated the Seminoles 6-3 on Tuesday night to earn a regular-season sweep of the series in front of 6,730 at Dick Howser Stadium.

It’s the first time since 1958 Florida has swept FSU in the regular season.

“There’s certainly a lot of frustration here,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said, pointing to his chest. “But I know we’ve got a good baseball team. (Florida) just got it done three times against us. We didn’t give them anything. They went out and got it done.”

It was the third straight game in which the Seminoles jumped out to an early lead only to have the Gators storm back.

All-American catcher Mike Zunino launched a game-tying two-run homer in the fifth, and Nolan Fontana and Brian Johnson added solo blasts in the later innings to help give Florida its first series sweep since the Dwight Eisenhower administration.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” FSU second baseman Devon Travis said. “It’s the biggest game of the year for me and a lot of other guys. We don’t like those guys. It’s not that we don’t like them as people, but it’s the Gators.

“Anytime you get swept by a team it hurts. It being the Gators doesn’t help any.”

The Gators can relate. They weren’t swept the last two seasons by FSU, but they had lost seven of nine heading into this year, including an elimination game at the 2010 College World Series.

“I can honestly tell you, the first couple of years, it was tough,” said Zunino. “They really had our number. To come out and play well against them is a good feeling.”

Florida State jumped out to a one-run lead in the bottom of the first when Travis blistered a 3-1 pitch over the center-field fence for his third homer of the year. The Seminoles then added two more in the third when Travis scored on a wild throw by Zunino, and James Ramsey then touched home on a sacrifice fly from Stephen McGee.

The Seminoles had three runs and six hits off Florida starter Brian Johnson.

Then had exactly one hit the rest of the way off the Gators’ bullpen.

Florida freshman Ryan Harris, who had pitched just six innings all season, threw three perfect frames on Tuesday night. He induced groundouts from the first eight FSU hitters he saw and then struck out the ninth.

“He threw a very heavy baseball,” Martin said. “Sunk the ball well … and Florida is very good defensively. And if you put the ball on the ground, they’re going to make the play.”

With a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning and a runner on first, FSU starter Scott Sitz got two quick strikes on Zunino. He also induced a pop up foul that landed in the Seminoles’ dugout — just a few feet from being the second out of the inning.

Two pitches later the Florida All-American crushed a hanging breaking ball into the scoreboard in left to tie the game.

“Just one of those things,” Martin said. “It happens every night in the Major Leagues. Happened to be a bad pitch. Scotty threw very well. Was very proud of that bulldog.”

Sitz wound up allowing eight hits and three earned runs in five innings, but was able to work out of two bases-loaded jams as well in his second straight start against the Gators.

Freshman Luke Weaver allowed a home run but was otherwise dominant for the Seminoles — striking out five in 2 2/3 innings of relief.

“He pitched very well,” said Martin, who picked up his 1,700th career win on Sunday. “That’s a very positive part of the game for us.”

Closer Robert Benincasa pitched the ninth for the Seminoles and allowed just his second earned run of the season — a long home run by Johnson.

Florida finished with 12 hits, while FSU finished with seven.

But maybe most importantly, Gator pitchers issued just one walk the entire night. Coming into the game, Florida State was second in the country in base-on-balls.

“I really like competing against them,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “In order to beat them, you have to play your best. You can’t come in here and play poorly and expect to come out on the good side of things.

“Mike Martin’s record speaks for itself. His assistants do a great job … 1,700 wins. I know I won’t be around for 1,700 wins. That’s an unbelievable accomplishment.

Martin will go for 1,701 on Friday when the Seminoles (27-6) travel to Boston College to open up a three-game series against the Eagles.

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