April 17, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
BLACKSBURG, Va. - On the heels of Saturday's wild night of offense, the madness continued in the Sunday afternoon series finale between No. 8 Florida State and Virginia Tech.
Rallying from seven-run deficit after four innings, the Seminoles went on a scoring binge and escaped wind-blown English Field with an 18-12 victory and a pivotal ACC road series triumph.
The Seminoles (26-10, 11-7 ACC) hacked into a 10-3 deficit with three runs in the fifth inning, then finished off the Hokies with back-to-back six-spots in the seventh and eighth.
"When we were down seven, the young men had some really great at-bats and got themselves in position to win," said FSU coach Mike Martin, whose team rallied from an 11-7 deficit Saturday with a big finish as well.
Jayce Boyd, who was a perfect 5-for-5 with three RBI, followed Mike McGee's RBI single with a two-run homer in the fifth that lit the Seminoles' fuse. FSU didn't so much overwhelm the Hokies in the late stages as it wore them down, drawing 10 walks and getting deep into their under-staffed and over-worked bullpen.
That was the patient approach Boyd said he maintained throughout his first five-hit game for the Seminoles.
"Just, `Get it to the next guy,' is really all you're thinking about, to get in a situation to put yourself back in the game," said Boyd, who scored four runs and came within a double of hitting for the cycle. "Tyler Everett puts us back in that game. Our pitching in the end came through for us."
Everett (1-1), the fifth of six Seminole pitchers, earned the victory with a season-high 3.1 innings of three-hit, one-run relief. He came in and shut down Virginia Tech during its five-run, fourth-inning outburst it built the 10-3 lead. By the time he flipped the ball to Brian Busch with two outs in the seventh, the Seminoles were in front 12-11.
Andrew Rash's wind-blown, pop fly to left - which carried over the wall - was the lone blemish on Everett's most productive outing of the season.
"You're trying to keep the ball low in the zone so they can't get much elevation up into the wind," said Everett, well aware that the `Noles had to find a way to quiet the Hokies. "It happened on one pitch. ...
"I finally got settled in on the mound, figured out the umpire's zone and I felt like I was getting a little better at the end as the game progressed."
Martin could not have agreed more.
"We got the shutdown effort from Tyler Everett and Boomer [Brian Busch] and it was certainly a big lift to shut them down while we were able to come back, tie it up and go ahead," Martin said. "He [Everett] is a big part of this club, no matter if it's just his leadership in the clubhouse and the dugout. Going out there today and effectively using that sinker to his advantage - and our advantage - was big."
So was Busch, who collected his first save with 2.1 innings of one-hit work in his second appearance of the series.
Of course, the solid finishing efforts would have gone for naught had the Seminoles not been productive at the plate. FSU actually got off to a 2-0 lead on Sherman Johnson's first home run of the season - a blast over the 400-foot sign in center field - which was also the first of five balls to leave the wind-swept park.
It was short-lived as the Hokies (19-19, 4-14) answered with five in the home third, chasing FSU starter Hunter Scantling and beginning a merry-go-round of relievers. Seth Miller had an RBI single for the `Noles in the fourth to cut it to 5-3 before Virginia Tech pushed five more runs across in the home half for a 10-3 lead.
McGee and Boyd set the comeback in motion in the fifth before the Seminoles began their all-out assault on the Hokies' bullpen in the seventh. FSU sent 10 batters to the plate, and with the help of four walks, scored six runs to take a 12-11 lead. Justin Gonzalez and Parker Brunelle drew bases loaded walks before Easterling picked up the first of his career-high five RBI with a fielder's choice. Devon Travis' two-run double to center tied the game at 11 and McGee's RBI sacrifice fly to left put FSU in front to stay.
Boyd tripled and scored on Stuart Tapley's RBI single to start the eighth and Easterling's towering grand slam to left - his first career homer - extended the lead to 17-11.
"It felt pretty good," Easterling said of the slam and the comeback win. "We were down the whole game, but everybody pitched in and we all worked together and got the win."
With both Clemson and NC State sweeping their series over the weekend, FSU needed the series win to maintain their lead in the ACC's Atlantic Division.
"It's huge for us, especially being down as much as we were in the middle of the game," said Boyd, who was 8-for-10 at the plate over the final two games. "To end up winning 18-12, that's the kind of game you're supposed to win when you've got the guys that will fight like we have. Those games are fun."
The Seminoles return to action Tuesday at home for the first of two games with Florida Gulf Coast. Wednesday will be ALS Awareness Night at Dick Howser Stadium.