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April 22, 2012
What would a Florida State-Miami series be without a little drama?
Sunday's roller coaster series finale at Dick Howser Stadium had plenty of it as the second-ranked Seminoles (33-7, 19-2 ACC) came away with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings to complete the first three-game sweep of the No. 11 Hurricanes (26-14, 12-9 ACC) since 2002.
Senior third baseman Sherman Johnson delivered the game-winning single with one out to score freshman Giovanny Alfonzo for the first walk-off win of the season for FSU.
Johnson said that with a 2-1 count he knew what was coming from junior Miami closer E.J. Encinosa (2-3), who had already thrown him three straight sinkers.
"After that I was just like alright I'm definitely getting a sinker this pitch," Johnson said. "It was a sinker and I put a swing on it I guess and it got through the hole. I was turning back looking to see if (Alfonzo) was going to score and when I realized he did it was all happiness from there."
After Alfonzo crossed the plate the home dugout emptied and Johnson was chased by a flurry of gold jerseys into center field.
"I didn't see anything at first and when I turned my head I saw just the whole team running," Johnson said. "I was trying to run towards center field and they were trying to tackle me the whole time. I got head butted and everything, but it was great, I don't feel it right now."
The win not only completed the sweep of the Hurricanes, but also improved FSU to 19-2 in the ACC, tying for the best start to conference play in school history (1999).
With just nine conference games remaining, FSU has a six-game lead over North Carolina State (26-12, 13-8 ACC) in the Atlantic Division, and a six game lead over North Carolina (29-12, 13-8 ACC) for the top seed in next month's ACC Tournament.
"That's the typical Florida State-Miami baseball game," Martin said, "Miami did such a good job of coming back from a four-run deficit to go up by three, and I was just very, very proud of our young men keeping their poise, getting back in the ball game with a couple of key hits."
In the top of the fourth it looked as if FSU had let the sweep slip through its fingers as Miami erased a four-run deficit with seven runs in the inning powered by a Michael Broad grand slam.
FSU starter Scott Sitz was chased from the game as he allowed four earned runs on four hits and two walks. He was replaced by senior Hunter Scantling who failed to record an out and allowed the grand slam. Kyle Bird then came in and gave up on earned run in two-thirds of an inning on a hit and two walks before Gage Smith mercifully ended the inning.
Smith kept FSU in the game as he allowed no runs, two hits, and one walk in a career-high 4.1 innings pitched, striking out a career-high four batters.
"He was the key to the ball game," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "Gage Smith came in and settled everything down for us to give us a chance to get back in it."
With Smith keeping the Miami bats quiet, FSU chipped away at the lead with two runs the sixth inning on RBI from John Holland and John Nogowki, before Jayce Boyd tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double off the wall in right center.
Smith turned the ball over to FSU closer Robert Benincasa in the ninth inning. Benincasa worked two scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out three batters as he improved to 4-0 on the season.
In the bottom of the 10th, Alfonzo came up with his first career hit on a single to right field. The freshman shortstop entered the game in the top of the second after starter Justin Gonzalez left the game with a strained right hamstring.
"Couldn't come at a better time," the Port St. Lucie, Fla. native said. "I'm from South Florida and grew up watching Miami and all that so it felt good."
After Alfonzo's hit Holland, who was 3 for 5 in the game with two doubles and three RBI, stuck out looking. With Seth Miller at the plate, Alfonzo stole second a 3-1 count. Miller was then hit by the next pitch to bring Johnson to the plate with 1 out.
Adding the drama of an extra-inning rivalry game was the fact that a 4:15 p.m. travel curfew was in place. Meaning a new inning couldn't be started after 4:15. Johnson stepped into the batter's box around 4:05 p.m.
He needed just three minutes to erase all worry of potential tie as he delivered the first walk-off hit of his career and the first sweep of Miami in Tallahassee since 2000.
"It's awesome man. Anytime you can sweep Miami, which hasn't been done in a while I hear, it's awesome," Johnson said. "Just to beat those guys, that really never gets old. Anytime you beat Miami, it doesn't matter in what sport as Florida State Seminole it just fires you up."
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