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February 17, 2013

Stewart's walkoff gives FSU 8-6 win over URI



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It may be a new team and new season, but Florida State's Sunday Gold uniforms still seem to have a little magic left in them for 2013.

Despite not getting a hit until the fourth inning, committing five errors and stranding 12 runners on base the No. 9 Seminoles came away with an 8-6 win to complete the three-game sweep of Rhode Island on 10th inning walkoff homerun by freshman outfielder D.J. Stewart.

FSU (3-0) scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at six. After a scoreless ninth inning the 10th inning would be the final inning either way due to a 3:45 travel curfew put in place prior to the game. The bottom of the 10th began at 3:43.

After a one-out single by Justin Gonzalez, Stewart deposited a 2-2 outside fastball over the wall in right center for his first-career home run.

"I was just sitting there listening to 11 the whole way," Stewart said." He was just telling me to let the game come to me. I was looking for my pitch to get and drive it."

As Stewart crossed home plate to celebrate the win his teammates he was mobbed by everyone before Jameis Winston, who pitched three innings in the game, took him down on a perfectly executed form tackle.

"I had to knock him out," Winston said with a smile. "He did a great job. He killed that ball so I had to kill him. You can't punish a ball like that and not expect to get knocked out when you come to home plate."

Early in the game FSU didn't punish the ball at all. Falling behind by as many as five runs before finally getting on the board in the sixth inning.

FSU starter Peter Miller to find the strike zone lasting just 2.1 innings. The junior righty allowed four runs, just two of which were earned, on three hits and four walks, and threw 75 pitches.

FSU didn't get its first hit until a single through the left side by John Sansone in the fourth inning. URI starter Liam O'Sullivan gave up just two earned runs in 5.1 innings of work on three and hits and four walks.

O'Sullivan left the game in the sixth after giving up an RBI triple to Jose Brizuela to score Marcus Davis, who doubled in the prior at bat. Brizuela came home to score on an RBI groundout by Seth Miller.

"Once we got our first hit that was the relief right there," said Stewart, who started in left field after starting the first two games in center. "Then when we scored our first run there was more relief. 11 was telling us the whole way we were taking a strike, even when we got to 3-1 we were taking, just trying to get runners on any way we could and the momentum shifted."

Florida Sate scored four runs in the eighth inning. Brizuela got things started with a leadoff double and advanced to third on the throw in from the outfield. He came around to score on a Giovanny Alfonzo RBI single to right.

Casey Smit then walked to load the bases for Brett Knief, who plated two runs on his first hit a Seminole on an RBI double to left. FSU tied the game at six on a fielder's choice RBI by Stephen McGee.

Brizuela finished the game 2 for 3 at the plate with a double, a triple, an RBI, two runs scored and a pair of walks. His performance redeemed a poor fielding day in which he committed two errors.

"What also was fun that so many different people contributed," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "We had some guys that had played a lot thus far that we made some moves and got some guys in a game… Gio had a good day, Smitty played well, Knief had a big hit, it's nice to see everybody making solid contributions."

Once FSU got on the board it was the bullpen who kept URI in check as the Seminoles chipped away. Sophomore Billy Strode pitched two scoreless innings in his FSU debut, giving up just one hit and striking out two.

Strode turned the ball over to Winston who gave up just one unearned run on two hits and no walks in his three innings. The lone run came on called balk in the top of the third with a runner on third base.

The two-sport star struck out four batters with good command of his fastball and a good slider.

"Jameis was very impressive," Martin said. "The balk didn't bother him. He kept his poise and got us in the dugout."

Gage Smith worked a scoreless 10th inning to earn his first victory of the season.

With a travel curfew threatening the game to end in a tie for the fist time for FSU since 2003 against Miami, it was Gonzalez who got things started with a single through the left side to set up Stewart's game-winner.

The last time FSU won on a walkoff hit came on a Sunday against Rhode Island as well, when FSU defeated URI 6-5 on April 29, 2012. It was the first walkoff homer for FSU since Mike McGee's game winner defeated Vanderbilt in the first game of the 2010 Super Regional.

Martin said he was pleased that his young club was able to find a way to win on a day it didn't have its best stuff against a Rams team that he thinks will be a tough out all season long.

"It was real accomplishment for this baseball team to win the way it did, because I'm telling anybody that will listen URI is a very good baseball team," Martin said. "They're not average, they're very good and they're going to be very difficult in the very near future."

Notable

  • FSU has now won 13 straight games in its gold uniforms, including a 12-2 win over Stony Brook on June 17, 2012 in the College World Series.

  • Casey Smit made his first career start at FSU on Sunday at first base in place of John Nogowski. Smit went 0 for 3 with a run scored and two walks at the plate.

  • FSU will return to action on Tuesday when it hosts Jacksonville University. Sophomore Luke Weaver is expected to get the start.



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