By the time he entered the game in the top of the fifth, Gage Smith was already the walking wounded.
Gage Smith pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his fourth win of the season.
Smith, a redshirt sophomore pitcher, was the proud owner of nine fresh stitches in two different parts of his mouth, his badge of courage for a freak accident that occurred in the Florida State clubhouse during an earlier weather delay.
Despite his wounds, Smith still made his way into the game in relief of starter Scott Sitz, and throughout his 3 2/3 scoreless innings, he said he only felt the pain in his mouth whenever the Seminoles made a key defensive play to get out of an inning.
There were several of those Friday night that, along with Smith's fine outing, were a big reason for Florida State's 2-1 escape over UAB in the second game of the Tallahassee regional.
“He had a few stitches in his mouth two hours before the ballgame, and he goes out there and throws  pitches to keep his ballclub in the game,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “And that's just a real credit to him.”
As a teammate took a few slow practice swings in front of a mirror, Smith, a former standout at Tallahassee's North Florida Christian School, walked behind him, not thinking much of it. But as he made his way past, a longer, slower swing caught him right in the mouth.
A visit to the team training room – and a considerable amount of blood – confirmed the need for stitches.
“Yeah, it was gushing,” Smith said with a laugh. “I didn't look in the mirror or anything. It looks a lot worse than it feels.”
Judging by Smith's performance, it apparently didn't feel too bad. He allowed just three hits and a walk and struck out three to improve his record to 4-0. And he navigated his way through several jams and UAB rallies to keep the Blazers' offense in check.
Smith entered the fifth with a 2-1 lead, a runner on third and just one out. Thanks in large part to an exceptional play by third baseman Sherman Johnson, the fifth ended with two groundouts and FSU still holding the advantage.
He survived again in the sixth – when a double-play ended an inning that began with back-to-back singles – and the seventh.
That frame started well enough, with two quick outs. But then a bunt single that wouldn't go foul, a throwing error and a four-pitch walk had FSU in nervous territory.
Martin had pitchers warming up and made a visit to the mound, but, perhaps surprisingly, he elected to stick with Smith.
“I basically wanted him to know that that was fine, we had got the right-handed hitter coming up now and this is where we want to be,” Martin said.
“Every time he walks out there, I'm a little skeptical. I have no idea,” Smith said. “I always look down to the bullpen, but usually he gives the sign pretty early, and after he got about halfway (to the mound), I felt pretty good … I was confident I was going to (get out of the inning).”
He did just that thanks to a fine, unassisted double-play from shortstop Justin Gonzalez. A 1-2-3 eighth inning led to closer Robert Benincasa's 14th save in the ninth.
Friday was perhaps the brightest moment of Smith's young career. After redshirting in 2010, roster size limitations kept him from making a single appearance in 2011. But despite not throwing a single pitch for the first two years of his college career, Smith rejoined the team and, on Friday, made his 35th appearance of the season.
He owns a 2.82 earned runs average in 25 innings of work.
“I'm loving it,” Smith said. “I'm having fun. I feel good. I'm just glad the coaches gave me the opportunity this year to show them what I can do. It just feels good to have their confidence in me.”