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May 5, 2013

FSU scores three in ninth to top UCF 5-4

Bad defense put FSU in a ninth-inning hole.

Clutch hitting and some patience got them out.

Florida State's sloppy effort in the field in the top of the ninth was erased with a three-run bottom half as the Seminoles topped Central Florida in a 5-4 thriller at Dick Howser Stadium on Sunday.

Trailing 4-2 with three outs left, Jose Brizuela and Jameis Winston drew walks to bring the winning run to the plate and keep hope alive with none out.

Then came pinch-hitter Casey Smit, who busted the game open by ripping an RBI double off the top of the fence in right field. The hit cut FSU's deficit to 4-3 and Smit represented the game-winning run on second base.

"My only job was to try to hit the ball hard somewhere," said Smit, who admitted he thought the ball, a slider offering from UCF's Zac Favre, was out for a home run when it left the bat.

After an intentional walk to load the bases, Seth Miller's fly ball in foul territory in right was deep enough to score Winston to tie it and advance Smit to third. The comeback was complete when Stephen McGee's deep single to center brought Smit home for the win.

"As soon as I saw Casey's hit, I was just starting saying to myself 'get me up, get me up,'" McGee said. Sunday was his first walk-off hit at FSU. "Just give me that chance, I'm going to do it."

With a man set to tag up at third, McGee's ball was deep enough for the UCF center fielder to concede, allowing it to drop and end the game. When it fell, McGee was mobbed. Water was flying and teammates were piling on.

"It was a great win for us," FSU coach Mike Martin said of his team's second walk-off win of the year. "Maybe not one you want to go home and smile about, but it's certainly one that you go home and you're proud of the ballclub for fighting and coming back and getting it done."

Minutes before the comeback, there was no jubilation in the FSU dugout after an ugly top half of the ninth.

Holding a 2-0 lead since the first inning, UCF chipped away with runs in the seventh and eighth to tie it. Then in the ninth, a pair of errors cost FSU dearly. Brizuela had a throwing error - his second of the game and 20th error of the year - with two out and no one on in the inning to keep UCF (26-22) alive. Later, second baseman John Sansone was charged with an error when he didn't get to second base quick enough for a force out that would have limited the UCF edge to 3-2.

"At the start (of the bottom of the ninth) you're upset, you're not happy because the runs that happened shouldn't have happened and you put it on yourself," McGee said. "But experienced baseball players will know you just have to have a short-term memory and you have to be able let that go. And that's what we did."

It seemed no suspense was in store as FSU grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning and had starter Scott Sitz cruising on the mound. But UCF chipped away with a Chris Taladay's solo home run off of Sitz in the seventh and a game-tying, pinch-hit RBI single from Jeramy Matos off of FSU reliever Gage Smith in the eighth.

UCF starter Brian Adkins gave up the two quick runs on FSU's three hits in the first, struggling enough for UCF coach Terry Rooney to visit the mound and get a reliever warmed up. But Adkins settled in form there, allowing just three more hits for the rest of his 7 1/3-innning performance.

Six of FSU's nine losses this season have come against left-handed starters.

Sitz was stellar once again with the solo home run as his only blemish. He was perfect through the first three innings and gave up just three hits over seven innings of work.

Closer Robby Coles (4-1) earned the win, his second of the weekend.

It marked the Seminoles' sweep of UCF and their seventh straight win since being swept at Virginia April 20-22. FSU has outscored its opposition (Jacksonville, Wake Forest, UCF) 50-18 during the streak.

None of those seven came in such a nail-biting fashion, however.

"That was one of those where we had a very poor top of the ninth inning but our guys showed what they are all about," Martin said. "They went out there and had good quality at bats and positioned themselves for success. We got it done."



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