May 5, 2012
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Back-to-back first inning home runs by Devon Travis and James Ramsey staked freshman starter Brandon Leibrandt and top-ranked Florida State to an early-lead, en route to Saturday's 10-3, series-opening victory over Maryland at Dick Howser Stadium.
Travis and Ramsey belted the first of four homers on the day for the Seminoles (38-7, 20-2 ACC), who extended their winning streak nine game; their longest of the season. It was FSU's first four-homer game since the Feb. 17 season-opener against Hofstra.
"It was a fun day for us," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "I'm just elated that we played like we did."
Meanwhile, it was a costly loss for Maryland (29-21, 8-17), which is in a six-team battle for the final two spots in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Florida State knocked out 12 hits, including three doubles, as they built a 10-0 lead through five innings. The big cushion enabled Martin to turn to his reserves early on a sweltering afternoon before a crowd of 4,283.
The early power surge provided more than enough cushion for Leibrandt (6-1), who turned in six shutout innings of four-hit work. The freshman left-hander struck out four and issued just one walk as the Seminoles extended their season-best winning streak to nine games.
"I just tried to go out there, keep pitching and do what I can," Leibrandt said, after the `Noles gave him a three-run lead in the first. "Fortunately, luck was on my side this time around. Balls they hit hard stayed in the park and found gloves of our guys and made the plays."
The Seminoles didn't waste any time jumping on Maryland starter Jimmy Reed, who had not surrendered a homer in 50 innings this season when Travis jumped on his 1-2 fastball with one out in the first. Travis' blast, his fifth of the season, landed in the Terrapins' bullpen in left field.
"That kid [Reed] has a good arm," Travis said. "That was real big. We knew we had to come out here early and get it done. We know they were going to be bringing a lot of intensity and we had to match it."
Two pitches later, Ramsey slammed an 0-1 Reed offering over the right field screen for a 2-0 cushion. It was the senior captain's 10th homer of the season - the 31st of his career - but his first since March 25 at Wake Forest.
Consecutive walks to Jayce Boyd and Stephen McGee kept inning going. Boyd scored from third when John Nogowski, who had reached on a fielder's choice, put the brakes on while attempting to steal second after drawing a throw from catcher Jack Cleary. The 3-0 cushion was more than enough for Leibrandt, who yielded only a second inning single to Kyle Convissar through the first five innings.
"Going out there pitching with the lead, it's a lot more stress-free," Leibrandt said. "You just pound the zone the best you can, get the team back in the dugout and let them swing the bats and put more runs on the board."
Leibrandt's approach certainly sat well with Martin.
"He kept command of all of his pitches," said Martin, whose team has now won 21 consecutive home games against the Terrapins. "He didn't lose command of one and it really helped him to go through six innings, because he was able to spot his fastball and throw his changeup in the strike zone."
The Seminoles never let off the gas, tacking on four runs in the third. Senior Sherman Johnson led off the inning by launching a down-an-in Reed fastball over the right field fence. Johnson's first homer of the season - also his first since April 17 last season at Virginia Tech - came on a day when he was coping with flu-like symptoms. The four-bagger, his first at Dick Howser Stadium since 2010, made him feel a lot better.
"I was just really happy," said Johnson, who took a substantial amount of ribbing from his teammates. "I hit it and I was like, `Finally I got one high enough that it's not going to go off the screen, that's not going to foul. ... Everybody was laughing about it in here.
"I finally got to do the hat tip and it was fun."
FSU's offensive barrage didn't stop there. Justin Gonzalez closed out the power surge with a two-run homer in the fifth off Maryland relieve Jamie Pashuk as the `Noles tacked on three more runs, capped by Johnson's RBI double into the right field corner.
The Terrapins foiled FSU's bid for an eighth shutout win with a run in the eighth inning and two in the ninth, which merely reduced the final deficit.
Stephen Spradling was one of five Seminoles with two hits, joining Johnson, Travis, Ramsey and Nogowski. It was Spradling first, two-hit ACC game of the season.
FSU freshman right-hander Mike Compton (8-0, 2.65) will get the starting nod Sunday at 2 p.m. when the series continues. Maryland will counter with right-hander Brett Harman (6-3, 2.79).
A victory by the Seminoles will secure their 21st consecutive series victory over the Terrapins.