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May 16, 2013

FSU drops series opener to Clemson 8-2

A short week prompted Florida State to shuffle its pitching rotation.

The shuffle caused by a short week of rest now has the Seminoles in a dogfight for the ACC Atlantic.

Clemson jumped all over FSU starter Peter Miller early, the bullpen couldn't stop the bleeding and the hitters went cold as FSU fell 8-2 at Dick Howser Stadium on Thursday night.

"When you get right down to it, we were outplayed," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "I thought that they took the game to us and that's something that I have not seen all year long as far as our team is concerned. There are no excuses."

Miller, normally effective as the Seminoles' midweek starter this spring, fought command issues from the outset. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings, giving up three hits, two walks and two runs. The bullpen didn't help matters, allowing six more runs in the next four frames to put the game out of reach at 8-0 by the sixth.

Miller (6-2), who had not made a start in nine days, was put into action on Thursday because of the Seminoles' short week. FSU played a three-game set at N.C. State that ran Saturday-Monday, and that was backed up with a Thursday start to the Clemson series. Because of the short week of rest, Martin decided to push his top two starters - Luke Weaver and Brandon Leibrandt - back to Friday and Saturday to give them their normal six days off.

Thursday's loss leaves the duo no margin for error if FSU hopes to take the series.

Entering Thursday, FSU needed to take two of three from Clemson to clinch the Atlantic Division title. The popular belief is that FSU could also cement a national seed in the NCAA tournament with two wins in the series. Instead, Clemson (39-15, 18-10 ACC) and FSU (42-11, 18-10 ACC) are now tied atop the division and will battle it out for the right to a No. 2 seed in next week's ACC tournament.

Miller was pulled with the bases loaded in the second for reliever Byrant Holtmann. Holtmann managed to strand the inherited runners, but found his own trouble in the third. The big blow came as center fielder Peter Miller misplayed a diving catch. They ball bounced under Miller and towards the fence leading to a two-run inside the park home run from Thomas Brittle, stretching Clemson's lead to 5-0. Holtmann allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings. Kyle Bird was next, allowing two runs - one earned - in the next 1.1 innings.

Martin said he didn't consider pitching Weaver on four days rest; he said he hasn't pitched anyone in back-to-back starts on four days rest "in probably 20 years."

While FSU's pitching proved ineffective, the bats couldn't fare any better. Clemson starter Daniel Gossett (9-3) gave up just three hits in six shutout innings on the way to the win. Florida State collected six hits and couldn't muster an extra base hit all night.

FSU's only scoring came in the seventh as a D.J. Stewart chopper found its way into left field for a two-run single.

"It happens, it's part of baseball," FSU shortstop Gio Alfonzo said. He and Seth Miller were the only two Seminoles to record multiple hits. "We've just got to come back tom ready to go and throw this one away. There's always tomorrow in baseball so it's not a big deal, nothing we're going to stress over."

The Seminoles take on Clemson at 8 p.m. ET on Friday in Game 2.

Notables:

Outfielder Josh Delph made his first home appearance since April 2, pinch hitting and grounding out in the eighth inning. He missed 18 games with meningoencephalitis, a viral infection. He pinch hit twice at Stetson on May 7-8.



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