Alex Krutchik, Correspondent (@AlexKrutchikFS on Twitter)
TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) – The Florida State Seminoles baseball team started the season on the right foot with a 9-1 victory over the Xavier Musketeers, behind a great pitching performance from Tyler Holton, and a quick start on offense.
Manager Mike Martin, whose team started in a 0-1 hole to start the season last year, was happy with the early production from both sides of the ball tonight.
“Tonight’s ballgame was a good start, a little bit better than last year…It wasn’t a great beginning last year,” Martin said. Martin is entering his 39th year as the skipper for FSU. “ I was very proud of the way the young men approached the game. Had some key hits, but let’s face it, we had some outstanding pitching.”
Holton, who leads all returning players nationally with 144 strikeouts last season, was dominant throughout the game. After allowing the first batter of the game to reach on an error at third base, Holton proceeded to retire the next 12 batters he faced. In the fifth inning, Xavier second baseman Sam Flamini doubled off Holton to give the Musketeers their first hit of the game. Holton struck out the next two batters but then walked catcher Nate Soria. That’s when Mike Martin and a team trainer came out to look at him and pulled him from the game.
Martin said it was tenderness in his throwing arm, and it’s a problem he had back in high school as well.
“He acted like that’s exactly the way it felt (when it happened in high school). So, therefore, he’s gonna have to take some time off,” Martin said. “Once we get the diagnosis, we’ll know what to do.”
Holton finished with 4.2 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts.
The Seminole offense was off to a hot start, scoring two runs in each of the first two innings. Much like last year, the Noles found ways to get on base without getting many hits. They were walked a total of 10 times. Of the 28 baserunners FSU had, 13 of them reached via walks or hit-by-pitch.
Junior college transfer Mike Salvatore reached base first for the Seminoles after getting walked. Junior left fielder Jackson Lueck was walked immediately after. Rhett Aplin got the Noles’ first hit of the season on a single to center, but the Seminoles would have to wait for their first run of the year, as Salvatore was thrown out at the plate. Xavier pitcher Trevor Olson hit Drew Mendoza to load the bases and walked Cal Raleigh to bring Jackson Lueck home for the first run of the season.
The Seminoles continued their offensive output in the third when designated hitter Nick Derr hit a solo home run for FSU’s first of the year. He went 2-for-3 with two runs.
Another offensive explosion came in the sixth inning. With two outs, Mendoza reached on a single, followed by walks for Raleigh and Derr. With the bases loaded, J.C. Flowers hit a line drive off shortstop Chris Givin’s glove, driving home Mendoza and Raleigh. Then, freshman Reese Albert came in as a pinch-hitter, and delivered a single to center, driving home two more runs. Four new Seminoles got hits in their debuts. Aside from Albert, Rafael Bournigal, Cooper Swanson, and Jared Herron all collected hits today.
“It’s great for our little camaraderie for our ballclub. A couple of guys got their first taste of D1 baseball, and started off their career with a base hit,” Martin said. “That part of it is always fun for the coaches.”
Junior pitcher Cobi Johnson entered the game for the Seminoles in the eighth and retired six of the seven batters that he faced. Of those six batters, he struck out four. This was the first time Johnson has pitched since injuring his arm in April 2016. Johnson was happy with his season debut.
“I’m just so happy to be able to compete again and be pain-free up there on the mound. I’m just so happy I could cry,” Johnson said.
The Seminoles take on the Musketeers again Saturday at 1 p.m. Cole Sands will take the mound for FSU.