A two-run triple in the top of the eighth by James Ramsey gave eighth-ranked Florida State (12-1, 1-0 ACC) the lead for good Friday night against Duke (7-9, 0-1 ACC) as the Seminoles opened ACC play with a 5-3 victory over the Blue Devils inside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
With the Seminoles trailing 3-2 in the eighth, Ramsey stepped to the plate with one out and runners at second and third and drilled a 3-2 pitch from Duke starter Marcus Stroman to the gap in right center for his second triple of the game to give FSU a one-run lead. He scored a batter later on an RBI groundout off the bat of Jayce Boyd for the winning margin.
"He really didn't have a great pitch to hit," said head coach Mike Martin on Ramsey's two-run triple in the eighth. "He just hit a pitch that if I could throw the ball there and expect someone to hit it, if they are going to swing at it, we are going to get people out 95 percent of the time. But Ramsey is just one of those guys that are uncanny when it comes to having fun in a fun situation."
"It was a slider," said Ramsey on the pitch he hit to give the Seminoles the lead for good on Friday night. "He is a great pitcher. Two competitors going at it, trying to lead their team to a victory; the biggest thing is trying to keep a simple approach. You have to shorten up in big situations and that is what I tried to do tonight. I thought if he was going to throw a strike I was going to try and doing something with it, if not I was going to pass the bat to Jayce, he is a great guy to hit behind."
Ramsey finished the game 2-for-4 with a pair of triples, two runs scored and two RBI. He was the last Seminole to hit two triples in a game as he registered two against Georgia State in Tallahassee back on February 21, 2010. Boyd also drove in a pair for his team leading seventh multi-RBI game of the season.
What began as a pitcher's duel in the ACC opener for both teams, both starting pitchers were dominant in the early going keeping their opponent hitless through the first four innings.
FSU starter Brandon Leibrandt did not factor into the decision as he worked 5.2 innings allowing two runs on three hits as he walked one and tied a career-high with six strikeouts. The freshman southpaw was perfect through three innings before Duke's Jeff Kremer drew a walk to start the bottom of the four. The Blue Devils' first hit did not come until the fifth when Grant McCabe singled to right.
"He spotted everything very well tonight," said Martin on Leibrandt's performance. "It was his best outing of the year. It was a shame that he did not get to factor into the decision."
Duke's Marcus Stroman was equally impressive despite suffering the loss as he dropped to 1-2 on the year. The senior right hander went 7.1 innings allowing five runs, four earned, on five hits as he walked three and struck out nine. He kept the Seminoles bats at bay until one out in the sixth when Ramsey gave the Garnet & Gold their first hit of the game connecting on his first of two triples to right center.
"What a great ball game," said Martin. "Leibrandt was right there with Marcus for five innings. It was a beautiful pitcher's duel going.
"You had to credit Duke; they did a great job of getting the key hits to put themselves in the lead and then we had some very, very good at-bats when we scored three in the eighth, a credit to our ball club."
The Seminoles took advantage of a Blue Devil error in the top of the first to grab the early lead. Devon Travis scored the first run of the game as he took a 1-1 pitch from Stroman off the brim of his helmet. He advanced to third on a throwing error by Blue Devil second baseman Matt Berezo on a ground ball off the bat of Ramsey and scored the first run of the game as Stroman unleashed a wild pitch.
McCabe registered the first hit of the game for either team in the bottom of the fifth lacing a sharp single to right center, but he was quickly erased from the base paths as Leibrandt picked him off first base. The freshman southpaw then recorded a line out and strikeout to retire the side.
Florida State added to its lead in the sixth when Ramsey hit a triple to right center for the first Seminole hit of the game. He scored a pitch later on a groundout to second by Boyd. John Nogowski followed with a single through the right side but was thrown out trying to steal second for the final out of the inning.
The Blue Devils came roaring back with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game. Angelo LaBruna led off the inning with a double off the blue monster in left. He moved to third on a single to right by Kremer and scored Duke's first run of the game as Berezo legged out what ended up being a fielder's choice groundout to short instead of an inning ending double play. After a Seminole pitching change brought on Hunter Scantling, Will Piwnica-Worms wasted little time in the batter's box taking the first pitch from the senior right hander to deep center for a triple scoring Berezo for the tying run.
Duke grabbed its first lead of the game in the seventh on a two-out single through the left side of the infield by Mike Rosenfeld. The Blue Devils posted three singles off Scantling in the inning, but the Jacksonville, Fla., native struck out the side to close the seventh inning.
Scantling (2-0) finished game one against the Blue Devils working 1.1 innings allowing one run on four hits and he did not walk a batter and struck out three.
After Florida State scored three in the bottom of the eighth off Stroman to take a 5-3 lead, Martin looked to Gage Smith and Robert Benincasa to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Smith worked a perfect eighth as he struck out two and ended the inning on a groundout to short. It marked the third straight game that Smith has appeared in the eighth and faced the minimum.
Benincasa pitched the ninth and allowed just one hit but struck out the side for his fifth save in as many chances on the year.
With the victory on Friday, Florida State secured its fifth straight win over Duke, while improving to 22-8 when playing in Durham.
"This game showed a lot about the character of our team," added Ramsey. "We are growing up real fast on the road this week."
Florida State and Duke will square-off in game two of the series on Saturday, March 10 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Fans can listen to the game locally on 100.7 FM and over the internet at Seminoles.com. Live stats will be available at GoDuke.com, while fans can receive updates on Twitter @FSU_Baseball.