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May 3, 2013

Baseball: McGee's HR in wild eighth lifts FSU to 4-2 win over UCF

Entering Friday, Florida State had not been defeated this year - 30-0 - when taking the lead into the eighth.

But 31-0 didn't come easy.

Aggressive baserunning was hot and cold for FSU, and so was a roller-coaster eighth inning. But the Seminoles (36-9) found a way, topping Central Florida 4-2 in front of 3,933 at Dick Howser Stadium.

After seeing its 2-0 lead dissipate in the top half of the eighth, an edge that seemed insurmountable thanks to a stellar outing from starter Luke Weaver, FSU turned the tide quickly. Catcher Stephen McGee led off the inning with a solo home run to grab the lead again at 3-2. FSU added an insurance run later in the inning on a John Sansone safety squeeze that plated John Nogowski.

"It was one of those when we got key hits," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "Yea, we made some mistakes but we will strive to improve on them. But it was a good win and we did a few things right in the eighth. I'm very proud of our ballclub."

For McGee, who took the 2-1 offering over the fence in left, it was his first home run since April 13 and it snapped the Seminoles' longest team home run drought of the year (nine games).

"Just left a fastball on the inside corner and I turned on it," said McGee, who was expecting a lot of offspeed stuff from UCF reliever Spencer Davis in the at bat. "Just reacted to it."

Closer Robby Coles (3-1), who earned the win, met little resistance in the ninth with the 4-2 lead. But the eighth was no cake walk.

Coles came in with one out in the eighth behind two other FSU relievers - Billy Strode and Gage Smith - who also saw action in the inning. Strode allowed two runners to reach base before giving way to Smith, who gave up an RBI single to the only batter he faced. Then came Coles, who walked a batter with the bases loaded to tie the game at 2-2. Coles then struck out Bret Gordon with the bases full to end the threat, setting up McGee's heroics.

It was a tough no decision for Weaver (5-1), who was brilliant through seven innings. He tied a career high with nine strikeouts, a mark he hit for the fourth time this season. Weaver allowed six hits over seven innings and only walked one batter.

"It was an outing that Luke Weaver was outstanding in," Martin said. "He pitched beautifully."

Weaver's run support came on a Jameis Winston score amid a double steal in the second and a Jose Brizuela RBI single in the third, but the lead could have been bolstered without a host of baserunning mistakes. FSU had two runners thrown out at third and one at second on a poor decision to tag in the first seven frames.

Nogowski's insurance run in the eighth was almost foiled as he was clearly going to be picked off of first base, but a poor throw allowed him to make his way to third base, setting up the safety squeeze.

"You've got to be aggressive. We understand when we have so-called made a mistake," Martin said, who also cited a pair of aggressive baserunning plays from Winston and Gio Alfonzo that worked out for FSU.

UCF starter Ben Lively allowed seven hits and two runs over six innings, walking four and striking out seven.

FSU and UCF square off in Game 2 on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.



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