Runs were tough to come by. And the much-anticipated debut of the 2020 Florida State baseball team was a flop.
FSU went through three pitchers in the ninth inning, with Tyler Ahearn walking in a pair of runners, as Niagara pulled out a 3-1 win over the Seminoles on Friday night to spoil the head coaching debut of Mike Martin Jr.
The Seminoles lost for the first time on Opening Day since 2017.
FSU also had just three hits, all singles, against a Niagra team that went 15-33 in 2019.
“Strikeouts, bad at-bats, overly aggressive when we shouldn’t have and passive when we should have been aggressive,” Martin Jr. said. “It falls at my feet.”
The late-game struggles ruined an exceptional night by FSU ace right-hander CJ Van Eyk, who tossed eight strikeouts in five innings. Van Eyk said he used his slider, a new fourth pitch, about 25 percent of the time and felt it was effective.
Antonio Velez tossed two scoreless innings, recording five strikeouts, and Chase Haney had a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
But the ninth went from a struggle to a disaster. Bryce Hubbart walked two runners to start the inning and it snowballed from there. Ahearn inherited the bases loaded with one out and walked in two runs, and Davis Hare then gave up an RBI single.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Seminoles went down in order.
FSU had just three hits – one apiece by Tyler Martin, Matheu Nelson and Jackson Greene – but generated seven walks. The Seminoles also struck out 12 times.
Tyler Martin scored in the bottom of the fifth on a well-placed bunt by Nelson, who deadened the ball perfectly down the third-base line. Martin reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on two-base throwing error by Niagra reliever Jacob Bruning.
FSU was in the third-base dugout. The Seminoles did not have their names on their jerseys, a new tradition from Martin Jr. … Cooper Swanson started at third and moved over to first in the eighth inning. Freshman Tyrell Brewer took over at third base. … FSU played well in the field with the exception of a bobbled routine fly ball by center fielder Reese Albert. Despite the runner reaching third base, Van Eyk was able to work out of the jam. … Neither team had an extra-base hit.
FSU plays Niagra on Saturday at 2 p.m. Junior left-hander Shane Drohan (3-1, 3.66 ERA in 2019) will be on the mound for FSU and Niagra will start left-hander Chaz DeLuca. Saturday’s game and Sunday’s noon game will stream on ACC Network Extra. Junior right-hander Conor Grady (9-6, 3.64 ERA) will be on the mound for the Seminoles.