ATLANTA - Brandon Leibrandt tried to play it off earlier in the week.
A start in Atlanta, he said, would be just like any other. Sure, family and friends would be there to see him, but that didn't matter.
That tune changed a bit after Leibrandt delivered a second straight gem Friday night with 7.1 shutout innings. Asked again about the outing, the freshman's game face this time would give way to an expression of childlike excitement.
"Just going out there in the first, the adrenaline kicked in," Leibrandt began, "and I was ready to go."
In addition to his parents, Leibrandt pitched in front of at least 20 family members and friends. The Alpaharetta-native responded to the extra attention with a career high in innings pitched, good command of all his pitches, and another scoreless line. Although he didn't net a decision in the final line, Florida State (25-5, 12-1 ACC) picked up the 2-1 win in extra innings.
As good as Leibrandt pitched, the Seminole defense played up to his level all night. A night that saw few offensive highlights from either squad featured signature defensive plays from Seth Miller in right field, Justin Gonzalez at short and a jaw-dropping diving stop and throw from Devon Travis at second to end the eighth inning.
"The defense behind me played extremely well," Leibrandt said. "You know you can miss a spot and if they hit it, you know there's a good chance they're going to make the play behind you. That's what happened tonight."
The compliments went both ways.
"Take no credit away from Leibrandt," Gonzalez said. "I mean he came out and threw."
For 14.1 consecutive innings, Leibrandt has not allowed a run. Also over that span, he's given up seven hits, struck out eight, and issued just two walks. The freshman credits improvement in his mechanics for his run of success, saying the repeatability of his motion has led to greater command and confidence.
Head coach Mike Martin also had nothing but glowing remarks for his Friday night ace, saying that his 3-1 record is not a true indicator of Leibrandt's season.
"That guy could very easily have two or three more wins to his credit," Martin said. "But he has pitched great baseball for us."
Although Leibrandt's parents make the trek down to Tallahassee for each of his starts, his no decision in Atlanta will likely be more memorable that most of his wins. As a youngster, he said he would attend Yellow Jacket games and marvel at the players' size and speed. He admits to thinking at the time "one day I could be there."
And now that he has?
"It's a pretty cool feeling."
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