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June 2, 2012
After watching Samford launch four home runs in its NCAA Tournament opener on Friday night against Mississippi State, Florida State used the long ball to stay in the winner's bracket on Saturday night.
Sherman Johnson blasted a solo home run to start the game, and James Ramsey hit his first career grand slam to break open the game in the seventh as FSU (45-15) cruised past Samford 8-1.
Seminoles' starter Brandon Leibrandt dominated the Bulldogs (40-22) as he allowed no runs, just three hits, zero walks and struck out a career-high 10 batters in a career-long eight innings. The freshman retired the final 15 batters he faced.
"I think we touched on this last night about the unpredictability of this sport that we play and there is no way I can sit here and tell you I thought we were going to score eight runs," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "Now what Brandon (Leibrandt) did was certainly something."
Leibrandt worked himself into a jam in the first inning after giving up back-to-back one-out singles, and then hitting Phillip Ervin with a pitch to load the bases. The pitch was originally ruled a foul tip but the umpire overruled his call and awarded Ervin the base.
With one out and the bases loaded in the first inning of his first NCAA postseason start, Leibrandt was staring down Samford right fielder Brandon Miller, who leads the nation with 23 home runs. The ever-poised freshman wasn't rattled though as he stuck Miller out swinging on a 2-2 pitch and got C.K. Irby (who was one of the four Bulldogs to homer on Friday) to line out to second base.
"We got a little unlucky there (on the call to load the bases) and I just tried to bear down the best I could," said Leibrandt who improved to 7-2 on the year with the win. "I made a couple key pitches and luckily got the strike out and then the line out. To get out that was huge momentum and then we put it on them after that."
FSU started off the game with a 1-0 lead as Johnson drilled his third home run of the year over the fence in right center for a leadoff home run. Johnson was 2 for 3 with a home run, a walk and three runs scored in the game.
"I knew (Samford starter Josh Martin) was good and he was going to be around the zone," Johnson said. " He threw a first pitch fastball for a strike and I took. Then he came back with another fastball and I was just lucky enough to put a good swing on it and it went over the fence."
The Seminoles added three more runs in the top of the sixth to extend their lead to 4-0. Jose Brizuela got things going with a leadoff double. Johnson followed with an infield single. After Devon Travis grounded out Ramsey was intentionally walked to load the bases for Jayce Boyd.
Boyd laced a two-run single to right and advanced to second on the throw home. FSU added another run on an RBI single to right by Stephen McGee, Boyd was thrown out at the plate trying to make it a two-run single.
"You just get in those situations and that's what you come here to do," said Boyd who was 2 for 5 with two RBI in the game. "You get put in those crunch-time situations and you've got to perform and you've got to show out, and I'm glad I got the opportunity and I'm glad I came through."
The next inning the Seminoles were able to create some breathing room thanks to a big swing from Ramsey. John Holland hit a one-out double down the line in right and Travis and Johnson each walked to load the bases for the senior center fielder.
Ramsey jumped on an 0-1 slider and smashed the ball over the fence in right for his first-career grand slam and 13th long ball of the season.
"It's just one of those things where I'm trying to stay within myself to help this team win," said Ramsey who was 2 for 4 with home run, two runs scored, and four RBI. "I know my days in the Garnet and Gold are numbered so I'm putting it out there on the line for this team."
FSU will face the winner of Samford and Mississippi State, who eliminated Alabama-Birmingham 8-1 in Saturday's first game, on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. Samford and Mississippi State will face off a noon ET.
FSU will throw freshman Mike Compton (10-2, 2.88 ERA) regardless of who they face on Sunday. Both games will be broadcast online at ESPN3.com.
"We know that there is nothing settled," Martin said. "It's a long, still a long way to go. Either of those tow clubs can come back and win this thing. There's nothing sealed in concrete. We've got to be ready to go tomorrow at 6 p.m. no matter whoever we play."
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