The highly anticipated matchup of the #1 Hoos facing the #4 Seminoles in Tallahassee this weekend certainly lived up to its billing. All three games were well played, and two of them went down to the wire, with one even going into extra innings.
By winning the rubber match on Sunday, the Hoos took a series @FSU for just the second time ever. That solidifies them as the #1 team in the nation, and probably just about makes them a lock for a national seed come NCAA tournament time.
On Friday, Wahoo starter Nate Kirby matched FSU's Luke Weaver zero for zero through the first 4 innings. The Hoos got on the board first on 3B John LaPrise's first career HR in the top of the 5th. After FSU got 3 runs in their half of the 5th, the Hoos came back with one of their own in the 6th.
After the sixth inning, Kirby came out and Whit Mayberry came on in relief. Weaver would remain in the game into the 8th inning. However, the first batter he faced in the 8th was Mike Papi, who hit a huge, clutch, game-tying home run to RF. That would be Weaver's last batter.
In the bottom of the 9th, the Seminoles recorded a couple of one-out hits and, following an intentional walk, had the bases loaded with one out. With the winning run just 90 feet away, Mayberry struck out pinch hitter Ladson Montgomery and then induced an inning ending groundout from Josh Delph. Then in the top of the 10th, Derek Fisher came through with a big 2-out 2-run double of Heisman Winner/Closer Jameis Winston, putting the Hoos up 5-3. UVA's closer Nick Howard made quick work of FSU in the bottom of the 10th, striking out the side and the Hoos had taken a big step towards winning the series.
Saturday's game wasn't fun, with the Hoos likely wishing they were back in Charlottesville celebrating at Foxfield. They lost 7-0 as they never got anything going offensively (they did crank out 9 hits, but couldn't string anything together). The Noles, on the other hand, got to starter Josh Sborz in the 4th and 5th innings for all the runs they'd need.
Sunday was another wonderful game with the Hoos taking an early 3-0 lead in the 3rd inning and never trailing as Brandon Wadell pitched wonderfully. He went 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk and 2 runs while striking out 4. Kenny Towns hit his 2nd HR of the season with 1 out on the 3rd. Later in the inning, Mike Papi hit a 2-out 2-run double and the Hoos had their lead. FSU got 2 back in the bottom of the 3rd, but the Hoos got an insurance run in the 7th using small ball. Townes walked, advanced on a groundout, stole third and scored on Mike Papi's 2-out RBI single.
Connor Jones came in for the 8th and promptly got into trouble. He retired two batters, but walked 3 (one intentionally), including one with the bases loaded. With 2 outs and the bases loaded, Brian O'Connor turned to his closer Nick Howard. Howard did what he's done all year long and struck out FSU's cleanup hitter Joel Brizuela to end the inning. Howard would also strike out the side in the bottom of the 9th.
On the weekend, Howard faced 7 batters and recorded 7 strikeouts. On the season, he has 43 strikeouts in 23.1 innings and a 1.16 ERA. Kirby lowered his ERA to 1.62 with his performance on Friday. Waddell earned his 6th win of the season and lowered his ERA to 2.90. Sborz dropped to 4-3 and has a 3.235 ERA.
Coming into the series, we noted that FSU had a lot of strong left-handed batters. So, it's no surprise that the Hoos were successful in their games with a left-handed starter on the mound. Not all teams are so left-heavy, so Sborz will have better matchups in the future.
The Hoos have a mid-week game against ODU on Tuesday and welcome Georgia Tech to Charlottesville this weekend. The Jackets are having a somewhat disappointing season, at 25-16 along with just 5-8 on the road. The Hoos' final weekend series is the following weekend in Winston-Salem against Wake Forest.