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Hometown heroics help FSU take title

FSU 4, CLEMSON 2: East Lake's Marc LaMacchia gets the win in ACC clincher.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002

St. PETERSBURG -- Florida State sophomore right-hander Marc LaMacchia, a former East Lake High star, had been looking forward to his homecoming for the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament for weeks.

The wait was worth it.

LaMacchia masterfully shut down the Clemson Tigers as the Seminoles capped an undefeated run through the power-packed league with a 4-2 win in the title game Saturday night before 4,024 at Florida Power Park.

The top-seeded Seminoles (56-12), Collegiate Baseball's No. 1 team and winners of 22 straight games, won the league tournament in 1995 and again in 1997 at this ballpark, but consider what they had to do this time:

They beat Duke, then No. 6-ranked Clemson, No. 2 Wake Forest, No. 9 Georgia Tech earlier on Saturday and then the Tigers for a fifth time in nine days.

LaMacchia (10-1) provided the exclamation point.

He allowed one run on seven hits, struck out four and walked none in a seasonlong eight innings. He received a thunderous ovation from the hometown fans. Junior Dan Hodges sealed the win for his 11th save.

FSU took a 1-0 lead as senior designated hitter Blair McCaleb doubled down the rightfield line with two outs to score senior third baseman Ryan Barthelemy.

It was FSU's 19th two-out run against Clemson this season.

The Seminoles didn't need the clutch hit to take a 2-0 lead. Freshman shortstop Stephen Drew led off the third with a towering home run to right, his third of the tournament and 14th overall.

During this year's dominance of Clemson, the Seminoles had taken the fifth -- parlaying big fifth innings into two of their three wins at Clemson last weekend and then again here on Thursday.

They were at it again Saturday as McCaleb again delivered with two outs, singling up the middle off right-hander Patrick Hogan (2-1) to score Drew and sophomore leftfielder Tony McQuade for a 4-0 lead.

Clemson first baseman Michael Johnson led off the seventh with a homer to right and rightfielder Jarrod Schmidt followed with a single to left, prompting a team meeting on the mound. But LaMacchia's troubles ended when sophomore second baseman Bryan Zech dazzled the partisan FSU crowd with his glove.

He dived left to snag designated hitter Zane Green's hard grounder and start a double play. Zech had a pair of defensive gems as FSU eliminated Georgia Tech 7-4 hours before to make a winner of struggling junior Robby Read (8-1).

Read had allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning against No. 9-seeded Duke on Wednesday. Although far from perfect with five walks and a hit batter, he limited the Yellow Jackets to one hit and two unearned runs in five innings.

"I was glad to get out there and be able to put that outing behind me," he said. "You'll always have that doubt unless you get out there and prove it to yourself."

That game gave the Seminoles a margin for error against losers' bracket survivor Clemson (47-14). If FSU lost Saturday, it would have another shot at the title today.

Coach Mike Martin liked his chances with LaMacchia, however.

"Right now, he is throwing the ball very well," he said before the game. "He is a young man who in the last three outings has shown that he belongs with (Matt) Lynch, (Blair) Varnes, Read and the other guys who are now part of our rotation. ... We're excited to give him the ball."

LaMacchia pitched six strong innings last Sunday at Clemson, allowing three runs and six hits in a 9-3 win that completed an unprecedented FSU sweep there.

But the Tigers, who advanced with an 8-6 win against Wake Forest, figured it had to help them to have seen him so recently.

"He's a good pitcher and he throws strikes," said third baseman Jeff Baker, whose two-run homer in the seventh helped ensure the win against the Demon Deacons. "We have to be ready and try to put some pressure on him early and just go from there."

They didn't; couldn't.

Worth the wait.

NOTE: Seminoles Barthelemy, catcher Tony Richie and Lynch were named by the league coaches to the all-ACC first team. First baseman Jerrod Brown, the former Hillsborough Community College star, Drew, and outfielders McQuade and Nick Rogers made the second team.

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