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Pitt rallies, FSU swept for first time in Martin Jr. Era

The Florida State Seminoles were swept for the first time under the helm of Mike Martin Jr. on Sunday, losing the final game of the series against Pittsburgh 9-7 in 13 innings. 

The Seminoles have now fallen to 2-4 on the season and have gotten off to one of the team’s worst starts to a season in recent memory. 

“It’s obviously disappointing, frustrating,” Martin Jr. began his press conference. “Pitt is a good baseball team and they are going to win a lot of games. We have to keep grinding and keep pushing to get better.”

After the bats were quiet on Friday and Saturday, they woke up a bit on Sunday as some midgame offense exploded to overcome an early three-run deficit. 

Catcher Matheu Nelson hit his fourth home run of the year off Pitt reliever Chris Pouliot, who looked rattled from the start of his relief outing. Three innings later, outfielder Elijah Cabell launched his first homer of the season that exited off the bat at 114 MPH and went 489 feet — probably further.

However, after Cabell’s home run in the sixth inning, the bats that had woken up for Florida State promptly hit the snooze button. 

The Seminoles only had six hits over the course of the game and left 17 runners stranded on base. The majority of Florida State’s offense came by the way of the walk, as batters drew walks 12 times.

But when it mattered the most, a lingering problem came back to bite the ’Noles when it really mattered. 

Florida State struck out 19 times on Friday night and then 16 times on Saturday. Through seven innings on Sunday, the Seminoles struck out only three times — making it appear as though those woes were behind them. In the final two innings of regulation and the first frame of the extra innings, they struck out seven times. By the end of the game, FSU went from having three strikeouts to 12.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had — well, yeah I’ve had them all — a majority of them in a rut at the same time before. That’s what we are in. We’ve got to thaw our way out of it,” Martin Jr. said.

No matter how you slice it, 47 strikeouts in one series is an abhorrent number.

Whatever confidence the Seminoles projected coming into the season, that confidence appears to be a bit shattered. The dugout remained mostly quiet while the opposing dugout were upbeat and loud, even while losing.

The pitching for Florida State was once again a disappointing, mixed bag. Conor Grady pitched nearly perfect after relinquishing three runs in the first inning. Davis Hare provided two good innings of work before giving up two runs in the seventh (inherited by Jonah Scolaro). 

Chase Haney entered to close in the 9th inning with a two-run lead and promptly hit his first batter. After a strikeout, Haney surrendered a home run to Pitt outfielder Nico Popa to tie the game and send it to extra innings — a two-run lead gone in just eight pitches.

Bryce Hubbart had an impressive outing in relief of Haney, totaling nine strikeouts in four innings of work. Unfortunately, Hubbart was left in the game for too long and was given the loss despite a herculean effort. 

‘A mixed bag’ does not quite reach the expectations and the hype surrounding the pitching staff entering the season.

The Seminoles led the Panthers 26-2 in the series, one of the two losses coming the last time the two teams met. 

With the sweep this weekend, former FSU pitching coach Mike Bell and his Pittsburgh Panthers won more games against the Seminoles than the program had previously won since their first meeting in 1983. 

The tone and swiftness of Martin Jr.’s postgame press conference says it all. This team needs to learn and get better.  

It doesn’t get easier, as the Seminoles have a quick turnaround before playing Mercer on Tuesday at 6 p.m. (ACC Network Extra) and then hosting No. 12 Virginia the following weekend.

Pitt used 10 pitchers in the victory, with Chase Smith getting the win. Jordan McCrum earned his second save of the series.

The FSU-Pitt box score can be viewed here.