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June 20, 2012
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Florida State's Scott Sitz gave the best performance of his career on college baseball's biggest stage.
The junior known as "the Bulldog" by teammates allowed five hits and struck out eight in a season-high 6 2-3 innings Tuesday night, and the Seminoles eliminated UCLA from the College World Series with a 4-1 victory.
Known for tiring early, Sitz had not made it through five innings in six of his previous seven outings. This time he finished strong.
Sitz held the Bruins to two singles through five innings and struck out the side in the sixth after UCLA loaded the bases and scored its only run.
"No question the sixth inning was the big inning that Scotty showed his nickname was the `Bulldog,' " FSU coach Mike Martin said. "You get the team as talented as UCLA, and get a run in and get out of it, is just a credit to him. Of course, we knew that there were still nine outs left, but at the same time, it was a tremendous, tremendous lift for us."
Florida State (50-16) moves on to a Thursday game against Arizona. The Seminoles need to beat the Wildcats twice to reach the championship round for the first time.
No. 2 national seed UCLA (48-16) was knocked out a day after No. 1 Florida was eliminated from the opposite bracket.
The Bruins opened the CWS with a 9-1 win over Stony Brook, then were shut out 4-0 by Arizona before losing to the Seminoles. They scored one run in their last 18 innings.
"We're disappointed. We didn't play well, and I think everybody saw that," Bruins coach John Savage said. "The last two games, I don't know, you can't really put your thumb on it, but Arizona was better and Florida State was better. For whatever reason, we couldn't find it."
UCLA starter Zack Weiss (3-3) couldn't find the strike zone and was pulled after getting just one out. Bases-loaded walks in the opening inning produced the Seminoles' first two runs.
The Bruins scored its first run in 15 innings on Cody Keefer's bases-loaded single with none out in the sixth. Martin made a mound visit to check on Sitz (4-3) as the Seminoles' bullpen became active.
With the bases still full, Sitz struck out Jeff Gelalich, Trevor Brown and Pat Valaika, with Valaika swining and missing on a 79-mph slider.
"That was one of the main pitches I used in that inning," Sitz said. "That was probably the best I've ever thrown my breaking ball all year. I honestly have been working on it all year. I guess I finally found everything that I was doing wrong and fixed it and came up with some quality pitches tonight."
After Valaika struck out, Sitz pumped his arms as he trotted to the dugout, where teammates swarmed him.
"I don't think I've ever been more pumped up in my life," Sitz said. "I didn't know whether the last batter even swung. I had to go back in the dugout and ask our catcher if he swung. It was just an awesome feeling."
The mood was quite different over in the UCLA dugout.
"Right when we felt we had that mojo going our way, and we got guys on and Keith had that hit with the bases loaded, we all felt like it was going to be a big inning," Brown said. "We all got a little out of character and got a little too excited. We weren't as patient as we should have been at the plate."
Hunter Scantling took over for Sitz with two outs in the seventh after Kevin Williams blooped a single over shortstop. Robert Benincasa pitched the ninth for his 16th save.
Weiss, who hadn't pitched since a regional-clinching win over Creighton on June 3, walked three and gave up a single before Grant Watson took over.
Weiss came into the game having lasted more than five innings just twice in his last eight starts. He threw 29 pitches, including 16 balls, in the shortest CWS start since TCU's Kyle Winkler left without retiring a batter in a 10-3 loss to UCLA on June 26, 2010.
Weiss, Watson and Ryan Deeter combined to walk seven as Florida State loaded the bases in three of the first four innings.
The Seminoles went up 4-0 in the fourth after three straight singles loaded the bases. Jayce Boyd put a squeeze bunt down the third-base line. Kevin Kramer overran the ball as he tried to field it. Sherman Johnson scored easily from third, and Devon Travis kept coming around ahead of Kramer's wild throw to the plate.
Boyd made the decision to bunt on his own, seeing that Kramer was playing behind the bag at third.
"I don't even think the pitch that I bunted was anywhere near the strike zone," Boyd said. "But I knew the element of surprise would have been gone if I let it go by."
The loss ended a tough CWS for Gelalich, the Cincinnati Reds' first-round draft pick. The junior right fielder, who came to Omaha batting a team-leading .365, went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and an error against the Seminoles and was 1 for 12 with two errors in the Bruins' three games.
"We were on track, and we got off the track the last two days," Savage said. "It's disappointing, but this team had a remarkable year."