OMAHA - Throughout the season Florida State has found ways to grind out wins.
Tuesday was a prime example as the No. 3 seed Seminoles eliminated No. 2 overall seed UCLA from the College World Series with a 4-1 win on Tuesday night.
Junior starter Scott Sitz turned in the best performance of his career as he struck out eight and allowed just one earned run on five hits.
FSU jumped out to an early lead on a pair of bases-loaded walks in the first and added two more runs on Jayce Boyd bunt in the fourth.
"We all know that the pitching was definitely the key to the game," said FSU head coach Mike Martin, whose club will face Arizona in its third straight elimination game on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET. "Scotty was just outstanding."
In the sixth inning Sitz worked himself into a big jam as he hit Tyler Heineman with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. After an RBI single by Cody Keefer, Sitz bore down to strike out the next three batters and preserve a 4-1 lead.
Sitz relied heavily on his slider to keep the Bruins off-balance all night, but went to breaking ball close to 10 straight pitches with the bases loaded in the sixth.
"It was tough," UCLA first baseman Trevor Brown, who was one the three batters to strike out in the inning. "Right when we felt we had that mojo going our way, and we got guys on and Keef had that hit with the bases loaded. We all felt like it was going to be a big inning. Like I said, we all got a little out of character and got a little too excited. We weren't as patient as we should have been at the plate."
Sitz came back out in the seventh inning to record the first two outs and left after a career-high 103 pitches. The junior righty was replaced by senior Hunter Scantling, who worked a perfect 1.1 innings before turning it over to closer
Robert Benincasa in the ninth inning.
Benincasa stuck out two in a perfect ninth inning to pick up his 16th save of the season.
FSU's patient approach at the plate paid off in the first inning as four its first six batters walked. Stephen McGee walked with the bases loaded and 1 out, ending the day for Bruins' starter Zack Weiss after just five batters and 26 pitches, 16 of which were outside the strike zone.
Weiss was replaced by reliever Grant Watson, who walked Gonzalez to give FSU a 2-0 lead. In all FSU walked eight times to raise its College World Series total to 16.
"They don't chase," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "We weren't in the zone, and that's a lethal combination."
FSU loaded the bases again in the fourth, this time it was Boyd who came to the plate with bases juiced. At that point in the game the junior first baseman was still searching for his first hit of the CWS. With Bruins third baseman Kevin Kramer playing back, Boyd dropped down a bunt that caught everyone by surprise.
The bunt was good enough to score Sherman Johnson from third, but Kramer overran the ball allowing Travis to come around and score from second base.
"I've been struggling at the plate… I told (Mike Martin Jr.) if that third baseman's even a step behind the bag, I'm laying one down," Boyd said. "I don't even think the pitch that I bunted was anywhere near the strike zone. But I knew the element of surprise would have been gone if I let it go by. Just try to lay down the good bunt so the pitcher couldn't field it. We got two run as cross with it and got two runners in scoring position after that."
Both bases-loaded opportunities were set up by the top of the Seminoles' order. Johnson (2 for 3 with a double, two walks, and two runs scored), Devon Travis (2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored), and James Ramsey (2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored) combined for six of FSU's nine hits and scored all four runs.
"I credit them a lot," Savage said. "They schooled some of our younger guys in my opinion, Weiss, and Watson a little bit. Not in a negative way… it's just that older hitters from Travis to Boyd to Ramsey to Johnson, they kind of got the better of the younger guys in my opinion, and that was the difference in the game."
On Thursday FSU will face its third straight elimination game as it faces Arizona, which defeated the Seminoles 4-3 in 12 innings on Friday. Martin said that freshman Brandon Leibrandt (8-2, 2.65 ERA) will again start for FSU.
"They're a great team, and we know that," said Johnson. "We're going to try to play better than we did than we played them the first time. We'll stay with our same approach with batters and pitching wise. But I think we'll try to play an overall better game."