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May 25, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C.-- On a day when it had nothing to play for other than pride, Florida State came out and played hard against Clemson in its second game of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., only to see a late lead evaporate in the game's final innings.
Clemson first baseman Jon McGibbon gave the Tigers (33-25) a dramatic 9-7 win on a three-run walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth off of first team All-ACC closer Robert Benincasa (4-1).
No. 1 FSU (43-14) had been eliminated from title contention in the tournament's round robin format earlier in the day when Georgia Tech, who defeated FSU 5-4 on Wednesday, improved to 2-0 with a 17-5 win over Virginia in seven innings.
"Yeah it hurts. Clemson did a great job of keeping their poise and coming back and getting the job done," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "We proved again in this great sport that we play that if you make mistakes and give good teams extra outs they will take advantage of it. That's exactly what Clemson did."
Clemson made it a one-run ball game in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run single from Spencer Kieboom to make it 7-6. Benincasa, who entered the game after Bryant Holtmann issued a walk to load the bases and gave up the hit to Kieboom, then settled down and got a pop up out and a strike out to end the inning.
FSU went down in order in the top of the ninth to keep it a one-run game. Benincasa started the inning off well, striking out Clemson's best hitter Richie Shaffer with an 0-2 slider.
Phil Pohl then battled Benincasa for a single up the middle on a 0-2 pitch to give the Tigers life. Pinch-hitter Mike Dunston hit a chopper to Jayce Boyd at first, Boyd fielded the ball and looked to have had a play at second, but inexplicably tried to flip the ball to Benincasa behind his back. The ball never made it to Benincasa and both runners were safe.
Two pitches later McGibbon deposited an 0-1 slider over the wall in right for a walk-off win. FSU was 38-0 in games when they led after seven innings before the home run.
"It was a slider right down the middle," McGibbon said. "The scouting report was that he likes his slider. The first pitch was little in but he came back in with it the second pitch and it was right there down the middle."
FSU had a chance to put the Tigers away earlier in the game in the fourth inning, leading 4-1 with the bases loaded and just one out. But Boyd, who was 3 for 5 in the game with an RBI, popped up to third base and Stephen McGee followed with a ground out to leave the bases loaded.
"They got the bases loaded with one out and we were able to pitch out of that thing," Clesmon head coach Jack Leggett said. "I think that was a big point in the game."
Seminoles starter Bradon Leibrandt turned in an impressive performance, allowing four runs, just two earned, on five hits and two walks in 6.2 innings pitched, striking out three in his first career ACC Tournament start.
"I just tried to battle and go out there and just give the team a chance to win the best I could," the freshman said. "I made some pitches in key situations, they got some clutch hits and that's just how the game ended up."
FSU jumped out to an early lead in the top of the third on a four-run inning as Travis, Ramsey, Boyd, and Justin Gonzalez (who added a solo home run in the fifth) each drove in a run.
Clemson continued to chip away at the lead though, with a run in the fourth, then two more in the fifth, before making it a one-run game in eighth and eventually winning the game in the ninth.
"I guess Benincasa proved he's human," Martin said of his closer "Because that young man has pitched almost flawlessly for us all year. You credit Clemson they did a good job getting it done."
FSU, now 0-2 in the ACC tournament, will face Virginia (37-17-1) on Saturday at 3 p.m. in their final game at NewBridge Bank Park. Mike Compton (10-1, 2.96 ERA) will start on the mound for the Seminoles.
Virginia can advance to the ACC title game with a win and a Clemson win over Georgia Tech (Would create a three-way tie in which case the highest seed advances). Clemson advances to the title game with a win over Georgia Tech (the two teams play at 11 a.m.) and a Cavaliers loss. The Yellow Jackets just need a win to advance to Sunday.
"You'll see the same Florida State team. We'll come out, get after it and play hard," Martin said. "These guys grew up and play hard at everything they do and that's what makes me proud. So its no meaningless game for us tomorrow."
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