Gators hold on for heated win over Seminoles
Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 9:02 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE — Florida made good use of its “small-ball” offense and survived the ejection of three players in the eighth inning in an emotionally packed 4-1 win over No. 1 Florida State on Tuesday night in front of a packed crowd of 10,125 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
It marked the second win in the last eight days over the nation’s top-ranked team. The Gators won 3-1 in Gainesville on March 18.
The game was marred by a bench-clearing melee resulting in the ejections of three players in the top of the eighth inning. Florida State’s D.J. Stewart hit a slow roller down the first-base line that Florida pitcher Danny Young fielded in the base path of a charging Stewart. The FSU outfielder ran through Young, knocking both him and first baseman Zack Powers to the ground.
Powers jumped up and immediately confronted Stewart chest-to-chest. Stewart responded by shoving Powers away, prompting both benches to sprint toward the first-base area. There was more shoving and pushing, but the four umpires and two policemen on the field separated the teams without further damage. Powers, Young and Stewart were all ejected.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan expressed regret over the bench-clearing incident.
“That’s not good for our sport,” he said. “We’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Florida State, they’ve got a great program. There’s really no need for that to be honest. I think tempers and emotions ride high in a game like this.
“But that’s not what we’re about and that’s not what Florida State is about. I’m disappointed that it happened. I don’t want this to be a mark of what this rivalry is about.”
Before the eighth inning, the Gators pushed across a run in the first inning and added two more in the sixth inning. The first run came with the benefit of three walks among the first four Gator batters followed by a Texas-League single that fell among three Seminole players.
In the sixth, Florida scored twice without getting the ball out of the infield. Braden Mattson led off with a bunt single and came around to score when FSU pitcher Peter Miller threw wildly on Justin Shafer’s sacrifice bunt. Following another successful sacrifice, Shafer scored when FSU relief pitcher Gage Smith couldn’t cleanly field a bunt by John Sternagel. It marked the fourth consecutive bunt by a Florida batter, three of whom reached base.
Florida added its final run in the eighth inning with Shafer scoring on a single to center field by Sternagel. After sliding across home plate, Shafer appeared to kick FSU catcher Danny De La Calle and subsequently became the third Gator to be ejected from the game.
Sternagel, appearing in just his 12th game this season, had a hit, a walk and had two RBIs to lead the Gators (16-9).
“Obviously I haven’t been playing as much as I want to,” the freshman third baseman said. “I was just praying, when it’s my time, let me be ready.
“It’s such a good rivalry with them, two good clubs. It was fun. This place was rockin’, it was sweet to be a part of it.”
Florida State (19-5) finally broke through in the ninth inning for its only run when Jose Brizuela stroked his second home run of the season leading off the ninth inning off Gator reliever Ryan Harris.
Harris allowed a single to the next batter, but then retired the Seminoles without further damage.
Shafer went four innings and allowed just two hits as did Young in his 3 2/3 innings of relief. Young improved to 3-0 in getting credit for the win.
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