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April 27, 2014

Late rally falls short as FSU drops series to UVa

BOX SCORE: VIRGINIA 4, FLORIDA STATE 3

FSU had the bases loaded and one of its best hitters at the plate with a chance to take the lead in Sunday's eighth inning, but it wasn't a day for the Seminole offense.

FSU's bats never came alive in a 4-3 loss to No. 1 Virginia on Sunday, handing the Seminoles (33-11, 17-7) their first home series loss of the season.

FSU's best chance for runs came in the eighth inning, when the bases were loaded and Jose Brizuela up to bat. Brizuela is one of FSU's most reliable hitters with .312 average for the season, but he struck out to end the inning.

"We had a couple chances," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "They wouldn't let us."

FSU had the tying run at second base with no outs after a Jameis Winston bunt moved Ben Deluzio and Casey Smit over, bringing up the meat of FSU's lineup with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.

Virginia intentionally walked D.J. Stewart to load the bases and set up a potential double play, but reliever Connor Jones walked John Nogowski to bring in a run and cut the deficit to one, before Brizuela struck out to end the rally before it could turn the game.

That sequence was a microcosm of FSU's offensive struggles all game. The Seminoles managed just two hits outside of the third inning and only two runners advanced past second base all day.

FSU's one offensive combination came in the third inning, when the teams traded home runs. Kenny Towns started the fireworks for Virginia, blasting a solo homer in the third as part of UVa's three-run third inning to take the lead.

John Sansone answered for FSU, sending a towering shot into the parking lot beyond left field in the bottom of the same frame for a two-run shot. It was FSU's first home run since April 12, and just the 19th homer for FSU this season.

"We just couldn't string a couple big hits together," Sansone said. "That's what great teams do, which we think we are."

But FSU's offense was nowhere to be found for the rest of the game. FSU's usually patient approach at the plate was nowhere to be found. Virginia starter Brandon Waddell cruised through seven innings with just 85 pitches, or an average of 12.1 pitches per inning. Wadell kept that efficiency while only striking out four batters, and FSU went down in order four separate times.

"He just would toy with you," Martin said. "He would get a strike, maybe it's a 1-1 count and he'd throw the breaking ball out of the zone down. If we swung he'd come right back to it trying to get you to chase a pitch that you can't do anything with. He only struck out four guys, but it wasn't like we were ripping the ball all over the park."

In search of an offensive boost, Martin pinch-hit Jameis Winston for Josh Delph with two outs in the fifth inning and Ben Deluzio on base. Winston took a deep fly ball to center field, but the ball was caught for the final out of the inning. Martin said the switch was matchup-based as Delph had struggled against Waddell, a lefty.

"Jameis had been swinging the bat very well," Martin said. "I didn't hesitate. He put a good swing on the ball to center, and moved the runner over. He's starting to play more of a role for this ballclub."

FSU starter Bryant Holtman left the game in the third inning holding his arm in obvious pain. He did not return, and Martin said the extend of Holtmann's injury was not yet clear. Holtmann went 3.1 innings and allowed three runs, all in the third.

Peter Miller came on in relief for Holtmann without warming up, and went three scoreless innings. Miller allowed just one hit and quieted Virginia's bats to keep FSU in the game.

Virginia added another run in the seventh inning off a Mike Papi single. Martin yanked reliever Billy Strode after just one out after Strode allowed the run to come in. Dylan Silva and Gage Smith came on in relief to close out the game.

With the loss, FSU falls out of first place in the ACC, and is currently behind both Virginia and Miami in the conference standings.

"We got beat by a team that's been ranked No. 1 pretty much all year with the exception of a five weeks or so," Martin said. "As we say in the clubhouse, shut up and play."



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