JACKSONVILLE (Tallahassee.com) — With Florida manufacturing runs and the Florida State bats in a slumber, Tuesday night's game between the rivals felt just like the one they played last week.
Until a wild eighth inning.
The benches cleared, four players were eventually ejected — including FSU star sophomore D.J. Stewart — and the 10,125 in attendance at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville stood, cheered and screamed as the Gators and No. 1 Seminoles had a good old-fashioned shoving/shouting match by the first-base line.
Florida wound up winning the game, 4-1, to clinch the season series, but not before the Seminoles showed some fight — literally and figuratively — in the final two innings.
"I think really there is no doubt that the testosterone and adrenaline kicked in," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "Those young men are very strong and very active. The hands got a little quicker and the motivation even rose."
With the Seminoles trailing 3-0 in the top of the eighth, Stewart hit a slow dribbler down the first-base line. Florida reliever Danny Young tried to field the ball and tag Stewart in the same motion. He didn't get the ball in his glove, however, and was then run over by Stewart, the former Bolles School fullback, who was running in the middle of the baseline.
Florida first baseman Zack Powers then charged at Stewart, got nose to nose and chest to chest, and began screaming at the FSU star. Stewart immediately pushed him with two hands and threw down his helmet before being pulled away by Florida State first-base coach Bryan Henry.
"The umpire threw him out for retaliating," Martin said of Stewart. "So that I don't say the wrong thing, I won't."
Martin, who didn't want to comment on the incident itself, said he expected to hear from the ACC today regarding Stewart's immediate future and whether he would be forced to miss any more action.
After the fracas, which delayed the game for about 10 minutes, the Seminoles seemed to finally find some life in their bats.
John Nogowski laced a ball down the left-field line that was foul by a few inches before grounding out to end the inning.
And Jose Brizuela led off the ninth with a towering home run to right-center field. Brett Knief followed with a line-drive single to left and John Sansone drove a ball to deep left-center that was caught by the Gators' Harrison Bader.
Freshman Gage West even worked a two-out walk to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth before Josh Delph hit a fly ball to left to end it.
"I was proud of this baseball team and the way that we fought," Martin said. "We certainly didn't back down from anything. And that makes every Seminole proud, because that's what we're all about."
Nogowski, who had one of FSU's three hits until the Stewart collision, said the energy flipped in the stadium after the benches cleared.
"That's kind of to be expected when something like that happens," Nogowski said. "We've got all the fight in the world. It doesn't necessarily take something like that to happen to kind of get the ball rolling, I guess. We didn't plan it like that.
"I'd be lying to sit here and say that doesn't get your blood boiling a little bit, but at the end of the day we've still got to get hits and score runs."
And once again, they didn't do enough of either against the Gators.
One week after losing 3-1 in Gainesville, the Seminoles once again managed just one run against their rivals, who started a pitcher in Justin Shafer, who had allowed eight hits in 22⁄3 innings on the year. He went four scoreless against the Florida State offense, which is fifth in the nation in scoring at 8.1 runs per game but has now scored just two total in 18 innings against Florida.
In fact, in the last eight games against Florida, the Seminoles have managed just 17 total runs.
"They pitched us well," Nogowski said. "We don't like losing to them. At all."
It wasn't as if the Gators (16-9) were blasting the ball all over the grounds either. FSU starter Peter Miller allowed just three hits in five innings, but gave up a run in the first on a bloop single — after walking the first two batters — and then two runs in the sixth on a 50-foot infield single, a wild pitch and two errors on sacrifice bunts.
"Unfortunately, I didn't pitch myself out of that jam," said Miller, who struck out six and walked five in his five-plus innings. "And that's how you lose ball games. I'm not real happy with the performance, but I have to move on."
Said Martin: "Peter Miller pitched very well. It's amazing. When you play a team as good as Florida, a couple of mistakes can put you behind the eight-ball. And we made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage."
FSU (19-5) returns to action this weekend when the Seminoles travel north to take on Boston College. The 'Noles and Gators will play the third and final game of the series on April 8 at Howser Stadium.