After striking out pinch-hitter John Gianis to clinch a 3-2 victory over North Carolina State with his teammates pouring onto the field in celebration, Florida State closer Robert Benincasa had a feeling of satisfaction he hadn't felt all season.
The win locked up the top-seed in next week's ACC tournament for No.1 FSU (42-12, 23-6 ACC) and evened up its three-game series with the 13th-ranked Wolfpack (38-14, 19-10 ACC), who took game one 10-5 on Thursday night.
"Tonight was probably the most excited that we've been after a game and after a win, just because it was a grind," Benincasa said. "That wasn't an easy game right there. Our hitters fought, the pitchers threw well, we had three guys, me Brandon (Leibrandt), Gage, (Smith) all threw well, everybody battled. So I think the feeling in (the clubhouse), being all happy and everything was more just because we just walked away from a battle out there."
FSU took the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly from James Ramsey, his second of the game, to score Jose Brizuela.
N.C. State had tied the game at 2 in the top half of the inning on back-to-back doubles by Logan Ratledge and Trea Turner off of reliever Gage Smith. Brizuela responded with a leadoff double that dropped just inside the left field line. After Sherman Johnson was hit by a pitch, Brizuela advanced to third on sac-fly by Devon Travis.
Ramsey brought him home on a line drive to left field that was just deep enough to score the go-ahead run.
"I thought our guys did a good job of situational hitting," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "Those are things that you spend time on, but they're not simple to do. It's a credit to our guys. We wanted this badly. We really, really wanted this badly."
FSU starter Brandon Leibrandt allowed just one earned run on two hits and two walks in five innings of work. He struck out four and threw 96 pitches as the N.C. State lineup grinding out each at bat.
"They're pretty balanced," Leibrandt said. "They've got a lot of guys that can hit. Some guys that you've got to focus on when they're on the base paths. To do what we did tonight was special."
Leibrandt was relieved by Smith in the top of the sixth leading 2-1. Smith allowed one earned run on five hits, no walks, and stuck out one in his 2.1 innings of work.
After inducing a ground out and giving up a double, Smith was replaced by Benincasa in the top of the 8th. The junior retired all five batters he faced, striking out two, as earned his 13th save of the season.
"(Pitching) Coach (Mike) Bell and I talked before the game and said if we get into a situation that we are going to use Benny for five, maybe six outs, we'll do it if we have to," Martin said. " We know we can give him tomorrow off and he'll have three days before he pitches again. He only threw 22 so we're allowed to use him tomorrow. He's such a competitor, he just wants to compete, he wants to be a part of it."
The win snapped a late-season skid for FSU, who had lost five of its last six going into Friday night. Ramsey said the difference for the team tonight was that it played with more aggression and as if they had a bulls eye on their back
"We went out there today that was our goal, to play to win," Ramsey said. "To play good defense, get a good pitching outing and turn our defense into offense. It was very clean game all around, that's a really, really good team over there so we're pleased to get out with a win."
Mike Compton (9-1, 2.95 ERA) will start Saturday's rubber match for FSU at 1 p.m. on Saturday. N.C. State will go with Anthony Tzamtzis (5-3, 2.91 ERA).
FSU will be the top seed in the ACC Tournament for the ninth time in school history.
James Ramsey and Robert Benincasa were named semi-finalists for the Dick Howser Trophy on Friday afternoon. The award is presented annually to the top college baseball player in the country. Past FSU winners include Buster Posey and J.D. Drew.
FSU will be looking to clinch its 11th straight home series over the Wolfpack on Saturday. FSU has never lost a home series to N.C. State.