Coming into the season, pitching was the biggest unknown for Florida State. During this weekend's NCAA Regional, it was the Seminoles' biggest strength in three games.
FSU (46-15) went 3-0 in regional play and allowed just four runs, three earned, in the three games combined. The pitching staff struck out a combined 30 batters and issued just four walks. The Seminoles punched their ticket to the Super Regionals with a 5-2 victory over the Bulldogs on Sunday evening.
FSU allowed just three runs in two games against Samford, who entering Saturday ranked second in the nation with 66 home runs and sixth nationally with 430 runs scored.
"I think it just shows how strong our staff is," said reliever Gage Smith, who gave up just three hits, two walks and no runs in 5.2 innings pitched in his two appearances in the tournament." Especially two freshman to come in and shut down a lineup like that is unbelievable. It just shows a lot about our staff and I'm real excited about the kind of postseason we've been having. It's been fun."
Against Samford on Saturday, freshman starter Brandon Leibradnt dominated giving up zero runs on just three hits and no walks in a career-high eight innings and striking out a career-high 10 batters.
Fellow freshman Mike Compton followed up with just two runs allowed, one earned, on five hits an no walks with five strikeouts in six innings pitched on Sunday.
FSU pitching coach Mike Bell said as he watched Samford take batting practice on Thursday they reminded him of an old school SEC team that was just looking to yank home runs all day. But when the Bulldogs took BP on Saturday he saw a different approach as they tried to work the ball to the opposite fields.
"I know what happened is they got the scouting report and thought (Leibrandt would use his) changeup and we're going to take the ball the opposite way," Bell said. "What (Leibrandt) really did was to handcuff them he threw a lot of fastballs tight on them, which is always going to make his changeup better. So he was able to lock up a lot of their hitters."
Bell said Compton was able to shut down the Bulldogs with a different approach, but was equally effective.
"Compton is totally different guy, sinker, slider," Bell said. "We're going to use his slider, we're not going to pull off, we're going to use his sinker down in the zone to get ground balls. So you have tow different types of guys but you're able to exploit their lineup two different ways."
While the two freshman starters were impressive, the Seminoles' bullpen was equally stellar. In the three games combined the 'pen allowed just one run in 8.2 innings.
Smith picked up a win on Friday in a 2-1 vicotry over UAB and closer Robert Benincasa earned two saves, one over UAB and another on Sunday against Samford.
"One thing we've always talked about is we want to stick to our strengths more than the hitter's weaknesses," Bell said. "Gage is going to stick to his gameplan, Benni is going to stick to his and we're going to play great defense behind him."
Super sweet 16
With three straight wins in this weekends regional, FSU has now won its last 16 regional games dating back to 2008. Since the inception of Super Regionals in 1999, FSU is 15-5 in regional championship games and has advanced to 12 Super Regionals, including five straight.
"I think a lot of it is we come back to our home place," catcher Stephen McGee said of the regional success. "We really get a crowd in regionals and that gets us going. Also it's playoffs and once we get to that playoff state of mind we're just at war, no mercy, we go at it for nine innings everyday."
McGee also said the fact that head coach Mike Martin has been through every situation in the playoffs is a big comfort for the team.
"He's done this I don't know how many times," McGee said. "He comes in there and makes sure you know what's going on for the guys who don't know and makes sure you don't overreact. We've been through the season, we know what the games like, just go out there and play like you know how to play."
CF James Ramsey (Sr.)
Senior centerfielder James Ramsey was named regional MVP for the second straight season.
The senior captain was 6 for 9 in the three games with six RBI and four walks. In Friday's win over UAB he drove in both Seminoles runs and followed that up his first career grand slam against Samford on Saturday.
"He was the most valuable unquestionably and he'll tell you he could of done it withouth his teammates. That's what makes our team a team."
Friday- Florida State 2, Alabama-Birmingham 1 - W: Gage Smith (4-); L: Michael Busby (5-5). S: Robert Benincasa (14)
Saturday - Florida State 8, Samford 1 - W: Brandon Leibrandt (7-2); L: Josh Martin (12-2).
Sunday - Florida State 8, Miami 7 (10 innings) - W: Mike Compton (11-2); L: C.K. Irby (5-2). S: Robert Benincasa (15)
Next up: Super Regionals against the winner of the Palo Alto, Calif. Regional (either Stanford or Pepperdine).
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