It was an afternoon for memorable first impressions Friday at Dick Howser Stadium.
For Marcus Davis, a towering, two-run home run in his first career at-bat served as a worthwhile introduction to the 5,354 in attendance.
For D.J. Stewart, Jameis Winston, John Sansone and a host of other newcomers, the first time in a garnet and gold uniform produced some solid results – and also some expected room for improvement.
And for the 2013 Florida State baseball team, a group that entered the season with perhaps more questions than answers, an 11-5, opening-day victory over Rhode Island provided Seminoles coach Mike Martin with more than a few reasons to feel encouraged at the outset of his 34th year in the dugout.
“When you start with an opening day with a lot of new guys, you're a little bit cautious of what to expect,” Martin said after his team's 15th consecutive opening-day victory. “After the nine innings I just saw, I was very please with the way we played. We had some very good at-bats. We showed good poise on the mound.”
Two new faces – Davis and Stewart – put their marks on the game in the bottom of the first. Stewart notched FSU's first RBIs of the season with a full-count, two-run double that scored Justin Gonzalez from second base.
Two batters later, Davis a left-handed junior college transfer who played as Florida State's designated hitter, launched a two-run homer over the fence in right field that extended the Seminoles' lead to 3-0.
“It's a great feeling,” Davis said. “You don't really realize how loud these fans get here.”
Marcus Davis' two-run home run in the first sparked FSU's offense.
As he made his way back to the dugout, chants of “Marcus! Marcus!” echoed throughout the stadium. Davis wasn't quite sure what to do until teammate Brandon Johnson handed him a hat and instructed him on FSU's curtain call protocol.
“I had no idea what it was for,” Davis said.
FSU added runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, but found Rhode Island within striking distance at 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth.
That ended, though, when sophomore Jose Brizuela cleared the bases with a two-out grand slam. It was Brizuela's third career home run, second grand slam and second consecutive home run on opening day.
The grand slam came after Rhode Island pitcher Brad Applin hit three straight batters to load the bases.
“He made a good pitch, it was really low and luckily I put a good swing on it and hit a home run,” Brizuela said. “It's a great feeling. I guess I'm making it a tradition (to hit a home run in the season opener).”
Sophomore Brandon Leibrandt earned his first win of the season, pitching five-plus innings and striking out five. The left-hander was pulled in the top of the sixth after surrendering a two-run home run that left fielder Jameis Winston appeared to misjudge off the bat. Winston leaped into the wall in an effort to make the catch but couldn't come down with it.
“Definitely good to get out of there with a 'W,'” Leibrandt said. “The offense we had behind me was (everything) you could ask for.”
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