June 2, 2012
TALLAHASEE, Fla. - Carrying a 4-0 lead through the first six innings, the No. 1 seeded Florida State baseball team looked to senior All-American James Ramsey for a game-clinching hit on Saturday night as he hammered his first career grand slam in the seventh to help the Seminoles defeat No. 3 seed Samford, 8-1, in the winner's bracket game of the Tallahassee NCAA Regional at Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Ramsey stepped up to the plate to face incoming reliever Joseph Burns in what was a left-handed pitcher versus left-handed batter situation. After swinging at an 0-1 offspeed pitch, Ramsey connected on a missed offering that ended up over the middle of the plate and sailed well over the right field fence to send the crowd of 4,291 into a frenzy.
The grand slam was Ramsey's 13th home run of the season, as well as the Seminoles' (45-15) sixth grand slam of the year. The total is the most grand slams by FSU since the 2009 season.
Equally impressive for the Seminoles was winning pitcher Brandon Leibrandt (7-2), who settled down after getting out of a first-inning jam and got stronger as the game progressed. Leibrandt struck out a career-high 10 batters while facing a quality Samford group at the plate, and reached eight innings to establish another career high for longest start. The Alpharetta, Ga., native's 10 K's were the most by a Seminole pitcher since Sean Gilmartin also struck out 10 versus UCF on May 6, 2011. For the game, Leibrandt allowed just three hits to his 28 batters faced without surrendering a run or walk.
Samford ace Josh Martin (12-2) took the loss after allowing seven earned runs on seven hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 6.2 innings. The senior pitcher threw 108 pitches, including 65 for strikes, and suffered his first loss since April 1. The right-hander worked effectively between the second and fifth innings, not allowing a base hit to 13 batters faced in that span, before serving up three base hits in the sixth frame.
Florida State will now face the winner of Sunday's elimination game between Samford and Mississippi State at 6 p.m. on ESPN3. The battle of the Bulldogs will take place at noon ET, with Samford being the home team. Should FSU win on Sunday evening it would advance to its fifth consecutive NCAA Super Regional.
It didn't take long for the Seminoles to get on the board, as leadoff batter Sherman Johnson hit his third home run of the season on the second pitch of the game, a solo shot to right center to give FSU an immediate 1-0 lead. It was the first time FSU led off the game with a home run since former player Rafael Lopez did so at N.C. State on May 15, 2011. Johnson's home run was the fifth postseason home run of his career, tying for the most among active players on the team.
Making the first postseason start of his career, freshman Leibrandt had an eventful bottom of the first but worked himself out of a jam. He started off his first NCAA Regional appearance by striking out Zeth Stone, but Brandon Moss and Saxon Butler followed with back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second base. Facing a 2-2 count, cleanup batter Phillip Ervin reached first base on a disputed hit by pitch to load the bases for the nation's home run leader in Brandon Miller. Leibrandt kept his poise and struck out Miller on an inside pitch, then forced C.K. Irby to line out to second base to end the inning.
With FSU's offense remaining stagnant for a long stretch, Jayce Boyd's two-run single to right field injected some life into the batting order as he drove an offering the opposite way to put FSU ahead at 3-0 in the sixth. Boyd drove in base runners Johnson and Jose Brizuela, and Boyd was able to advance to second base on the play after Samford right fielder Miller went for the throw at home plate instead of relaying to second base. Ramsey, who was intentionally walked, was plated by subsequent batter Stephen McGee's RBI single to add to the Seminole lead.
Samford added its lone run in the ninth inning on a two-out RBI single by Irby. FSU improves to 93-35 while playing at home during NCAA Regional and Super Regional action. The victory on Saturday evening also marked FSU's 15th consecutive NCAA Regional victory.