Scott Sitz set career highs for pitches and innings pitched to keep Florida State alive in the College World Series with a 4-1 victory over UCLA Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
Sitz (4-3) struck out the side with the bases loaded in the sixth inning to staunch UCLA's best scoring opportunity.
Sitz left with two outs in the seventh after Kevin Williams singled and Beau Amaral took a first-pitch ball on Sitz's 103rd pitch of the game. Sitz, a junior right-hander from Jacksonville, allowed five hits, walked one, hit one batter and struck out eight as a crowd of 23,409 watched on a warm Midwestern evening.
The Seminoles (50-16) play Arizona in the bracket finals at 5 p.m. Thursday. If Florida State wins that game, the teams would meet again on Friday. The Wildcats beat FSU 4-3 in 12 innings in the first round of the tournament.
"It was a team win, but it was certainly dictated by outstanding pitching," said Seminoles coach Mike Martin, who is in his 15th College World Series. "Scotty was just outstanding."
The key moment of Tuesday's game came in the sixth inning after the first four UCLA batters reached base to cut Florida State's lead to 4-1.
Sitz struck out the next three batters - all swinging. He bolted off the mound and was mobbed by his teammates. "I couldn't have told you if the last batter swung on the strikeout," Sitz said. "I had to go back to the dugout and ask our catcher (Stephen McGee) if he swung."
"His breaking ball was pretty good," said UCLA coach John Savage. "He went to it heavy with the bases loaded when he struck out the three guys."
UCLA starter Zack Weiss (3-3) could not get out of the first inning because of control problems. His woes started with a leadoff walk to Sherman Johnson. James Ramsey had a one-out single, then Jayce Boyd and Stephen McGee drew walks to force in a run and drive Weiss from the game.
Reliever Grant Watson followed Weiss' trend and walked Justin Gonzalez to force in the Seminoles' second run. A double-play grounder to first allowed UCLA to avoid falling into a deeper hole.
Meanwhile, Sitz was cruising through the UCLA lineup. He retired the first nine batters - four on strikeouts - before Amaral singled to lead off the fourth inning. After Amaral went to second on a sacrifice, Sitz got a pair of groundouts to end the inning.
The top of the Seminoles order set the table again in the fourth. Johnson, Devon Travis and Ramsey had consecutive one-out singles to load the bases and chase Watson from the mound for Ryan Deeter.
Boyd put down a bunt that Bruins third baseman Kevin Kramer overran. Kramer scurried back to get the ball and made a hurried - and wild - throw home. Johnson and Travis both scored on the play.
"I'd love to take credit for that, but Jayce read it on his own," Martin said. "Devon did such a great job of being heads up and rounding the bag. "
"I'd been struggling at the plate a little bit," Boyd said. "I told Meat (assistant coach Mike Martin Jr.), 'If that third baseman's even a step behind the bag, I'm laying one down.' I don't even think the pitch I bunted was anywhere near the strike zone, but I knew the element of surprise would have been gone if I would have let it go by."
The Bruins gave their fans some hope in the sixth. Kevin Williams drew a leadoff walk and Amaral followed with a double into the right-field corner. Tyler Heineman was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Cody Keefer followed with a single back through the box to get UCLA (48-16) its run.
But that's when Sitz slammed the door.
"That was probably the best I've thrown the breaking ball all year," Sitz said. "I'd been working on it all year; I guess I finally found everything that I was doing wrong and fixed it."
Hunter Scantling replaced Sitz and retired the four batters he faced. Closer Robert Benincasa struck out two in pitching a perfect ninth to get his 16th save and help the Seminoles maintain hopes of winning a first national championship in their 21st College World Series appearance.
Johnson, Travis and Ramsey, the top three hitters in the Seminoles lineup, had two hits apiece and combined to reach base 10 times.