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OMAHA, Neb. -- Florida State calls right-handed pitcher Scott Sitz the "Bulldog" for a good reason.
After splitting their first two games at the College World Series against Arizona and Stony Brook, the Seminoles had the tough chore of getting through UCLA in yet another elimination game on Tuesday. Sitz, who hasn't been the most consistent arm fro the 'Noles this season, got the start, and the Seminoles needed a few strong innings out of him.
Florida State's "Bulldog" showed a strong bite against the Bruins, as he pitched an absolute gem on the way to a 4-1 victory to stay alive in Omaha.
"We all know the pitching was the key to the game, Scotty was just outstanding," Florida State coach Mike Martin said. "The sixth inning was the big inning where Scotty showed his nickname is evident. He was a bulldog. That was big for us."
From the start, it seemed like it would be a productive and good night for the Seminoles. Sitz had a very quick 1-2-3 first inning, including a strikeout. He also stringed together 1-2-3 frames in the second and third innings. Meanwhile, the FSU offense put up two runs in the first inning on consecutive walks to provide some cushion.
With an early lead, Sitz went to work against a Bruins lineup that struggled throughout the CWS.
"He definitely went breaking ball heavy against us. He struck out three guys on multiple breaking balls," UCLA coach John Savage said. "FSU has always done a great job of throwing breaking balls in any count, and we saw that tonight. He commanded his fastball enough and for whatever reason we couldn't get swings off of him. Like other nights, we had some poor swings."
Sitz avoided trouble for much of the contest, but a microcosm of the game occurred in the sixth inning. Clinging to a 4-0 lead, Sitz loaded the bases after a walk, double and hit-by-pitch. Then, things got testy when Cody Keefer lined an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-1, still bases loaded and no outs.
Perhaps in the past, Sitz -- and other FSU pitchers, for that matter -- might've had major issues working out of the jam. The righty, though, hunkered down and put together three-straight fantastic at-bats, striking out Jeff Gelalich, who went 1-for-12 in Omaha, Trevor Brown and Pat Valaika to end the inning. The Seminoles didn't look back from that point.
"One of the main pitches I used was my slider. That's the best I've thrown my breaking ball all year, honestly," Sitz said. "I had been working on it all year, and I finally found everything I was doing wrong and fixed it. I came up with some quality pitches tonight."
As a whole, Sitz struck out eight batters and allowed just one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings of work. He also threw 103 pitches, 65 for strikes.
"The main thing to me in terms of my development this year has been the off speed pitches. I've always had pretty good control with the fastball, but always had trouble with the changeup," Sitz said. "I kind of pushed it away from lefties and out of the strike zone. With the slider, I always kind of dropped off my arm. I've worked a lot on those two pitches."
One of the pitches Sitz best utilized against the Bruins was a split-changeup, a part of his repertoire that has slowly become more consistent as the season has progressed.
"I learned the slit changeup from Robert Benincasa, who learned it from Mark Appel last summer," he said. "One day I just started throwing that pitch, and it seemed to be working for me. With the slider, I've just been keeping my arm more straight."
After Sitz was lifted in the seventh inning, the Seminoles were able to piece together a strong finish with relievers Hunter Scantling and Robert Benincasa combining to throw 2 1/3 innings of shutout baseball.
While Florida State's pitching staff showed off some of the main reasons they've taken such a huge step forward this season, the Bruins, surprisingly, were the opposite of how they usually approach things offensively and on the mound.
The Bruins had another poor offensive night with the top of their lineup going a combined 3-for-14, while the pitching staff had a rough night from the start. Starting pitcher Zack Weiss, who hadn't thrown since the Los Angeles Regional, didn't get out of the first inning after walking three batters and allowing two runs.
As a pitching staff, the Bruins walked eight batters for just the fourth time this season, as the Florida State offensive lineup was very patient and wouldn't allow the UCLA pitchers to consistently attack the outside corner.
"You know, four runs. You can talk about walks, but it's four runs. You're right, I don't think we've had many in quite a while, that certainly wasn't playoff pitching," Savage said. "Zack got off to a rough start, but we gave up four runs and pitched out of some problems. Perhaps it was a little magic, it certainly wasn't how we drew things up."
While the Bruins' season comes to an end, the Seminoles have won two games in Omaha for the first time in 2000. They now have the tough chore of beating Arizona twice to advance to the CWS Championship Series.
Many times in past years, the Seminoles have relied heavily -- too heavily -- on their offense to pull them through. But on this night, crazy as it might sound, it was the pitching staff, particularly 3.99 ERA carrying Scott Sitz, that led the charge.
"This was a team win, but it was dictated by outstanding pitching," Martin said. "It was just one of those situations where everything fell right."
GAME IN REVIEW
PLAYER OF THE GAME: RHP Scott Sitz, Florida State -- Sitz hasn't always been the most clutch pitcher this season, but when the Seminoles needed him the most, he rose to the occasion. Sitz put together an absolute gem in the triumph over the Bruins. He struck out eight batters (walked one) and allowed just one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, one out shy from tying his career-high innings pitched. Sitz threw 102 pitches, 66 for strikes.
UNSUNG HERO: 3B Sherman Johnson, Florida State -- The Seminoles received an outstanding performance from starting pitcher Scott Sitz. They also got a huge night at the plate from leadoff hitter Sherman Johnson. Johnson drew two walks in his first at bat before recording a single and double. He also scored two runs in the game, essentially setting the stage for Florida State's offensive production.
GAME WAS OVER WHEN: The Seminoles captured a 2-0 lead in the first inning when UCLA starting pitcher Zack Weiss walked in a pair of runs. However, they really put things away in the fourth inning when they scored a pair of runs on a Jayce Boyd RBI bunt single, with the second run scoring on an error by UCLA third baseman Kevin Kramer. The Seminoles never looked back up 4-0 after four innings.
WHAT'S NEXT: With the win over the Bruins, the Seminoles stay alive in their quest for the program's first national title. FSU now moves on to face Arizona in the bracket final, and must beat the Wildcats twice to advance. It's a good bet that freshman left-handed pitcher Brandon Leibrandt once again will start. In his last outing against Arizona, Leibrandt allowed three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, the Bruins' season ends with a 48-16 overall record.