Strong Start Not Enough For Jacksonville In Loss To No. 5 Florida State
Drew Luther had three hits, scored a run and added a RBI (Photo by Skip Tapp)
Drew Luther had three hits, scored a run and added a RBI (Photo by Skip Tapp)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A strong first three innings by the Jacksonville offense wasn’t enough to hold up against No. 5 Florida State as the Dolphins dropped their 2014 home opener 12-6 on Tuesday night in front of a capacity crowd of 3,000 at Sessions Stadium.

“I appreciate the fans coming out and giving us a great atmosphere tonight,” said Tim Montez who was making his home debut as Jacksonville’s Head Coach.

“This is the type of atmosphere I think this program is going to have from this point forward. We just have to keep improving our fundamentals all the way across the board and focus on trying to get better each day. If we do that then we’ll see how it plays out when we come to conference play.”

Riding the momentum of win at No. 19 TCU on Sunday Jacksonville (1-3) banged out a season best 11 hits and was primed to take down their second straight ranked opponent.

At first glance it appeared that Florida State (4-0) might blow the game open early as three consecutive walks to start the game  loaded the bases. Sophomore Parker Perez (Winter Springs, Fla.), who was making his first start for the Dolphins, nearly escaped the jam with a 1-2-3 double play, but a wild pitch and a two-out single staked the Seminoles to a 2-0 lead out of the gate.

“Parker struggled a little out of the gate,” Montez said. “I think the game sped up on him and he wasn’t able to slow it down. He continued to battle however and our guys did a great job of coming back after that first inning. That is the character that we need to have on this club throughout the year, to keep battling and being able to answer back.”

Answer back they did.

Leading off for the Dolphins, shortstop Angelo Amendolare (Edgewater, Fla.) set the tone for the night when as he lined the second pitch he saw into left field for a base hit. Senior Drew Luther (Fullerton, Calif.) continued his hot bat from Sunday as he followed with a single to center setting up sophomore Connor Marabell (Jacksonville, Fla.). Marabell ripped a double off the wall in left to score Amendolare and bring the Jacksonville faithful to life early in the ball game. A fielder’s choice by Seth Dewitt (Jacksonville Beach, Fla.) scored Luther and tied the game at 2-2 after one.

The Dolphins came out swinging again in the second, scoring three runs on three hits with RBI coming from Luther, Marabell and a sacrifice fly by Dylan Dillard (Kissimmee, Fla.) to give Jacksonville a 5-2 lead. The Seminoles used a double by DJ Stewart to add a run back in the top of the third, but once again the Dolphins had an answer.

Sophomore Nate Ricci (Madison, Wis.) leadoff with a double and eventually came into score on a bunt hit down the first baseline from designated hitter Garrett Ruckel (Jacksonville, Fla.) that pushed the Jacksonville lead back to three. The score would stay there  until the sixth when John Sansone lifted a one-out, two-run shot over the left field fence to pull Florida State back to within one

The Seminoles eventually took the lead for good in the seventh. Justin Gonzalez drew a walk to leadoff the inning and came around to score and tie the game on an infield single off the glove of reliever Zach Gordon (St. Petersburg, Fla.). With the bases loaded again later in the inning a failed pickoff attempt at third by the Dolphins resulted in an error and allowed Florida State to take a 7-6 lead it would not relinquish.

“When you’re facing the No. 5 team in the country you can’t walk nine batters and hit two,” said Montez. “You give up free bases like we did and you’re going to end up paying.”

After racking up nine hits in the first four innings. The Seminole relievers seems to have the answer for the Dolphins surrendering just two hits the remainder of the game. The Seminoles would add five in the top of the ninth to account for the final score.

“We didn’t pitch well tonight which is uncharacteristic of what we did this past weekend at TCU,” added Montez. “You can chalk this up as a learning experience. We’ll go back now and try to make some improvements and adjustments for the weekend coming up against  a very good Rutgers team.”

Luther went 3-5 at the plate with a run and a RBI as eight of the nine starters had a hit in the game for the Dolphins. Perez ended his night going four innings allowing three runs on three hits with four walks and three strike outs. Gordon (0-2) was charged with the loss as he went 0.2 inning of relief in the seventh inning. Bryant Holtmann (1-0) earned the win for the Seminoles.

Jacksonville continues the 12 game home stand this weekend against Rutgers starting at 6:30 pm on Friday night.