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March 5, 2013
The flush feeling of a home run off the bat was so faint in his memory bank, FSU catcher Stephen McGee wasn't going to take a chance. He hustled down the line while his deep shot comfortably cleared the left field fence and careened violently off the scoreboard net.
That's what 366 plate appearances without a college home run can do.
McGee turned No. 367 into home run No. 1 while leading FSU to a 9-2 win over Presbyterian at Dick Howser Stadium on Tuesday.
"It's been so long, I didn't even know what it really felt like," McGee said of the two-run shot that gave FSU a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning. "When I hit it, I thought (it could be a home run). But I was too precautious to (celebrate) or do anything like that so I started taking off just in case."
Making his 77th start behind the plate in 78 games dating back to the start of the 2012 season, much of McGee's work at FSU has centered on selflessness. A reliable, sturdy defender at a physically taxing position, McGee isn't known for his slugging with bat in hand. Most of his offensive value had been limited to his ability to get on base (.524 OBP entering Tuesday) since taking the starting job last year.
Then came Tuesday with the home run and a two-run double in the sixth inning that gave him a career-high four RBI and gave FSU a 9-0 lead.
"I didn't even know it was his first home run," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "I just know that Stephen McGee has been invaluable to our baseball team both as a leader and as a guy that plays the game right way day in and day out."
That explains the animated cavern of teammates waiting as McGee touched home plate.
"They were more excited I think," McGee said with a smile. "This has been a long time coming. It was real awesome to see them as excited as I was."
While McGee produced at the dish, starter Luke Weaver (2-0) continued his early-season dominance on the mound, getting the win with six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight. In Weaver's four appearances this season - two starts - he has thrown 14 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 21.
"Luke pitched extremely well," said Martin, who called Weaver's performance one of his best at FSU. "You saw a guy that was extremely poised, a guy that was getting it done."
Reliever Kyle Bird threw two more scoreless innings before Presbyterian (8-5) tallied two runs off of Kenny Burkhead in the top of the ninth.
FSU left fielder Marcus Davis kept up his offensive production, breaking the game open in the sixth jut before McGee's double with two-run single to make it 7-0. Davis has totaled 16 RBI in FSU's 11 games this season.
Continuing to start at shortstop in place of the injured Justin Gonzalez, Giovanny Alfonzo notched two RBI the unconventional way. He opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the second inning to give FSU a 1-0 lead, then was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning to bring another run home.
In the end, the long-awaited highlight belonged to McGee.
"It's a huge pressure off my shoulders," he said. "I've been waiting for that for a long time. I knew it was going to come eventually, I know I have the power, it was just about putting everything together and really making it happen."
Notables: Florida State coach Mike Martin said that Billy Strode will get the start against Presbyterian on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET). However, Martin plans to use 3-4 pitchers during the game ahead of the Seminoles' ACC opener against Boston College on Friday.
"We've got to get guys innings (Wednesday)," Martin said. "Billy gets the start, but we are not looking at Billy going as many innings as our starter went (Tuesday)."
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