OMAHA, Neb. — As Scott Sitz’s mustache has grown this season, so has the importance of his outings on the mound.
A junior right-hander, Sitz and his ever-evolving facial hair took the mound in a must-win College World Series game against UCLA on Tuesday night, and sparked the Seminoles to a 4-1 victory.
After his masterful performance against the Bruins, there is no chance of seeing a clean-shaven Sitz in the near future. He struck out eight batters and held the Bruins to one run on five hits with one walk in a season-long 6.2-inning outing. Sitz tossed a career-high 102 pitches in the start – his second postseason appearance this season.
The outing was pretty impressive considering Sitz had not pitched more than 5.0 innings in six of his previous eight outings or seen live action since the opening game of the Tallahassee Regional against UAB on June 1.
Sitz cruised through the first 3.0 innings, not surrendering a hit until the fourth frame. UCLA’s only legitimate scoring threat was in the sixth inning, when the Bruins got on the board thanks to a RBI-single by leftfielder Cody Keefer.
The bases were loaded with no outs, and in the most crucial spot of the game for the Seminoles, Sitz showed his why his teammates gave him the nickname “Bulldog.” He struck out three consecutive UCLA batters — Jeff Gelalich, Trevor Brown and Pat Valaika – to end the inning for what will certainly be one the most memorable baseball moments of his career.
“You get the bases loaded against a team as talented as UCLA and get a run in and get out of it, [it's] just a credit to him,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “It was certainly big for us. We knew that there were still nine outs left, but at the same time, it was a tremendous, tremendous lift for us.”
“I was thinking to myself, that’s all they get because that’s what [pitching coach] Coach [Mike] Bell preaches to us, and if the bases are loaded, the most they get is one,” Sitz said. “I was just thinking to myself, this could be the last batter that I face, so I’ve got to get him, and I gave it my all. And after that third strikeout, I don’t think I’ve ever been more pumped up in my life.”
The key for Sitz in the sixth inning was his breaking ball as all three strikeout victims went down swinging on the pitch.
“The breaking ball is pretty good,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “[Sitz] definitely went there on the bases loaded where he struck out the three guys. Florida State has always done a good job of throwing the breaking ball in any count. And tonight we saw that. I think he commanded his fastball enough. For whatever reason, we could not get good swings off them.”
“[The breaking ball] was one of the main pitches I used in that inning,” Sitz said. “But that was probably the best I’ve ever thrown my breaking ball all year. I honestly have been working on it all year. I guess I finally found everything that I was doing wrong and fixed it, and came up with some quality pitches tonight.”
Sitz has collected 16 strikeouts in 11.0 innings pitched in the 2012 postseason. He has walked just three batters during the same stretch. For his career in the NCAA tournament, he has fanned 24 batters and walked only seven in 21.2 innings. Sitz is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in seven postseason appearances.
And, the mustache – grown on a bet by FSU closer Robert Benincasa – will keep on growing.