TUESDAY, MAY 03, 2011
Baseball can't hold early lead in 8-5 loss to #6 Florida State
The JU baseball team has been adept at beating A-Sun foes but has struggled to post mid-week non-conference victories this season. The Dolphins nearly bucked that history on Tuesday before watching a three-run lead evaporate as JU fell to No. 6 Florida State, 8-5, at John Sessions Stadium.
The Seminoles broke a 4-all deadlock with a key two-out hit with runners on the corners in the eighth. Sherman Johnson pulled Chris Anderson’s 0-1 fastball through the right side, plating Justin Gonzalez for the go-ahead run that marked FSU’s first lead of the night. The Seminoles added key insurance runs in the final two innings, culminating in Gonzalez’s two-run home run in the ninth off Anderson (3-2) that proved valuable.
The Dolphins scored a ninth-inning run on Jimmy Howick’s infield single and put the tying run on before Daniel Bennett got the final strikeout to leave the bases loaded and secure his eighth save.
JU fell to 26-17 overall and 1-8 in midweek contests. Three Florida State relievers combined to limit JU to just two run in eight innings as the Seminoles (32-11) came back to record the sweep in the two-game season series.
“We did a good job of getting on them early but we didn’t go for the throat with the bases loaded,” said JU head coach Terry Alexander. “FSU is too good of a ball club to try and hold a one run lead and we couldn’t find a way to get that big hit and put the pressure on them. Now we have to focus on our main goal, which is trying to win a conference championship.”
Adam Brett Walker paced the Dolphins lineup with a home run, RBI and two runs scored. The sophomore’s third-inning blast was his 10th homer of the season, marking the second time in his first two collegiate seasons that the first baseman has hit double-digit home runs.
Alex Swenson drove in two runs and Taylor Ratliff went 3-for-5 with a run scored from the leadoff spot, upping his average to .360 to help the Dolphins go for its first home victory over FSU since 2007.
Robert Benincasa allowed just one run in five innings to save the Seminoles bullpen and Brian Busch (4-1) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win
JU starter Tony Mollica forged a reputation as a hard-luck hurler this season with the Dolphins averaging only 2.3 runs per start in support of the righty. But his teammates exceeded that total early with a three-run second for the early edge.
Walker lined a curveball down the leftfield line for a leadoff double to ignite the rally. A fielding error and a walk loaded the bases for Swenson, who pulled a two-run single through the left side to open the scoring against Seminoles starter David Trexler.
After Trexler plunked Chris Connelly to re-load the bases with none out, FSU head coach Mike Martin hooked him for Benincasa. The righty promptly walked Esterlin Perozo to force in a run and stake JU to a 3-0 lead. Benincasa settled down and recorded three straight outs to minimize the damage.
FSU got back two of those runs thanks to Rafael Lopez’s two-run single to left in the third to cut the deficit to one run and chase Mollica, saddling him with the no-decision.
Walker responded by launching a full-count fastball to the opposite-field that clanked off the bottom of the right-centerfield scoreboard for a 4-2 Dolphins lead in the third. The Milwaukee native now has 26 career home runs, surpassing Rick Scheetz (25, 1978-81) for sole possession of 10th place in program history.
But Florida State scratched out a run on Mike McGee’s fourth-inning RBI double and Jayce Boyd’s bunt single in the seventh that tied the contest at 4.
Nursing a one-run lead, Alexander brought in Chris Anderson with a runner on first and none out in the seventh, hoping to get an extended save effort from his closer. Anderson responded to the early call by working a strikeout and ground out around a stolen base, though Boyd executed a well-placed bunt to the mound’s left side to score Johnson with the tying run.
Anderson couldn’t shrug off his second blown save of the season, allowing Gonzalez to reach on a leadoff walk in the eighth. The Dolphins nearly got out of trouble thanks to two straight flyouts. Yet Gonzalez reached third on two stolen bases and scored the go-ahead run on Johnson’s single.
The Dolphins will be back in action on Wednesday at Florida A&M with first pitch slated for 6 p.m. Fans cal follow the contest through live stats by logging onto JUDolphins.com.