DURHAM, N.C. – Florida State junior roommates Sean Gilmartin and James Ramsey have had a hand in a number of Seminole victories this season, but none of were any bigger than Thursday’s 6-3 ACC Tournament win against Clemson.
Gilmartin kept the hot-hitting Tigers off-stride through six innings and Ramsey drove in four runs, including an opposite field, two-run homer over the Durham Bulls Athletic Park’s “Blue Monster” which gave the Seminoles all the runs they would need.
In addition to snapping a three-game losing streak, the Seminoles (41-16) stayed alive in their bid to successfully defend their 2010 ACC title. Equally important, they evened the season series against Clemson, which came into the ACC Tournament ranked No. 9 in the latest NCAA RPI.
It was a win the `Noles needed desperately after opening the tournament with a 7-0 loss to NC State.
“Every game at this point in the season is important,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “A lot of questions still [need] to be answered in the minds of the [NCAA] committee members. Certainly, this was one of those days that things went our way.”
FSU could bolster its case for a top-eight NCAA national seed with a win over Georgia Tech on Friday (3 p.m.), which is ranked No. 7 in the latest RPI. A win would also go a long way toward getting the Seminoles into Sunday’s championship game.
None of that would have been possible had the Seminoles not solved Clemson starter Justin Sarratt Thursday, before a crowd of 2,416.
Gilmartin limited the ACC’s top hitting team to seven hits and three earned runs through six innings, improving to 11-1 on the season. The junior left-hander struck out three and issued two walks, but allowed only a pair of hard-hit balls by Clemson batters. It was his second win over the Tigers in eight days.
“Clemson is a very good hitting ball club,” said Gilmartin. “They have shown the last two times that we have played them why they are the leading team in the ACC hitting-wise. I was talking to some of the guys on the bench after I was done and I don’t think I’ve seen a team that was on everything I was throwing, whether it was a ball or strike. They are very aggressive within the strike zone, they see the ball extremely well and they don’t make many mistakes.”
Neither did Gilmartin, who surrendered a well-hit, RBI single to ACC Player of the Year Brad Miller in the first and an ground rule RBI double to Chris Epps in the sixth.
Martin described Gilmartin’s effort as “beautiful baseball.”
Florida State’s offensive attack was quite attractive in its own right. The Seminoles unleashed a 13-hit attack – their best output in 10 games – and repeatedly came through in the clutch.
Devon Travis (2-for-5) singled off Sarratt to start the game, advanced on a walk and a sacrifice bunt, then scored on Ramsey’s sacrifice fly to center for a 1-0 lead. The `Noles broke the 1-1 deadlock in the fourth when Jayce Boyd laced a one-out single to right, advanced on Sarratt’s walk of Justin Gonzalez and scored on senior Stuart Tapley’s single to left.
The Tigers got runners to second in the second and fourth innings but could never break through against Gilmartin, who was at his best in the fifth with the Tigers threatening. Spencer Kieboom lofted a double into the left field gap but was stranded at third when Travis went behind the bag at second to pick a Phil Pohl grounder and fired across the diamond for the second out. Gilmartin then struck out Miller, the ACC’s leading hitter, to end the threat.
“Obviously a couple of breaks didn’t go our way, but we always play close games with them (Florida State),” Miller said. “All four games this year have been good battles, and it’s just one of those things where you have to capitalize when you can, and I don’t think we did that. They took the momentum from us a couple different times, and that’s tough when you’re playing them, not to capitalize on all of your opportunities.”
FSU carried that defensive momentum to the plate in the top of the sixth as Mike McGee (2-for-3) led off with a double before Ramsey drove a misplaced Sarratt fastball over the left field wall for a 4-1 lead. The blast knocked Sarratt (7-2) from the game.
“I think almost every time we had runners in scoring position we cashed it in,” Ramsey said.
Clemson didn’t go quietly, touching Gilmartin for two runs in the sixth on Epps’ ground-rule double that bounced over the center field wall and Jason Stolz’ sacrifice fly.
The Seminoles retaliated with two in the seventh, with Parker Brunelle leading off with a rare triple to left-center. With the infield drawn in and one out, Rafael Lopez knocked a ball through the right side for an RBI single and a 5-3 lead. McGee followed with a bad-hop single, setting up Ramsey for his second run-scoring sacrifice fly of the night and the final margin.
With Gilmartin’s day done, FSU turned to the bullpen tandem of Brian Busch and Daniel Bennett to close things out. Busch needed just 18 pitches to get through the seventh and eighth innings unscathed, thanks to the Seminoles’ fourth and fifth double plays of the tournament. Bennett worked a one-hit ninth for his 13th save of the season.
“It was a ballgame where we got contributions from others like [Brian] Busch and [Daniel] Bennett,” Martin said. “It was a well-played game on both sides and it was just one of those days that things went our way.”