6th Ranked Seminoles Move to 6-0 in Preparation of 5th Ranked Gators

The Seminoles completed a 3 game sweep of the Hofstra Pride over the weekend and did so rather effortlessly.  Florida State scored 40 runs on a 41 hits while the pitching staff did their part in allowing only 3 earned runs over 3 games. 

Game 1 was originally scheduled for Friday afternoon but the team from New York was unable to fly out due to winter storms forcing a Saturday double header.  Ace Sean Gilmartin took the mound and pitched a solid 6 shutout innings while throwing a total of 73 pitches with 53 of them being strikes.  The Seminole offense provided a 12-0 lead so Coach Martin took advantage and allowed his bullpen to get much needed work.  Geoff Parker was the first man out of the bullpen and after walking the first 2 batters he faced he managed to settle down and record 3 straight outs with no damage done.  Hunter Scantling and Tyler Everett closed things down by pitching an inning a piece. 

The Florida State offense continued to hit in with Sherman Johnson taking player of the game honors by going 3-4 with 6 RBI and his first homerun of the season.  As a team the ‘Noles continued to show excellent plate discipline by working the count and earning 9 walks, Hofstra pitchers only had a 47.9% strike rate compared to FSU's 64.9%.  Florida State finished off the Pride to a score of 13-1.

Game 2 was scheduled for only 7 innings and Florida State wasted no time by putting up 5 runs in the first 3 innings.  Mike Martin went with his optimal lineup, Tapley at DH, Johnson at 3rd and Gonzalez at 2nd.  Sherman Johnson continued his hot hitting by going 1-1 with 2 walks, 3 RBI and his second homer of the day earning him ACC Player of the Week honors.

The highlight of the day was another excellent outing from John Gast.  The junior lefty pitched 5 innings of shutout ball allowing 2 hits, 2 walks and striking out 6.  Brian Busch and Andrew Durden each pitched a perfect inning out of the bullpen in route to a 13-0 victory and the first shutout for the Seminoles since 2008.

Game 3 saw Robert Benincasa take the mound as a starter for the first time in his college career and it came with mixed results.   The Pride scored 2 runs in the 1st thanks in part to an infield error and the freshman having control issues by walking in a run.  Benincasa was able to work through the 2nd inning unscathed but was on a short leash in the 3rd and was pulled by Martin after allowing a single and a walk to start the inning.  Tyler Everett stepped up by immediately picking off the runner on second and ended the inning with a double play, the junior pitched an additional 2 innings giving him 6 shutout innings out of the bullpen the season.  The next 4 innings saw 5 new comers to the FSU pitch, 3 freshman and 2 transfers, combined for 2 earned runs on 2 hits and 4 walks.

Freshman Justin Gonzalez continued to impress and prove that he is a viable option to start at second base going 3-4 with 4 runs scored and 4 RBI.  There were 5 Seminole hitters that finished with a multi-hit game en route to a 14-4 win and series sweep.

Inside we will recap and highlight the first 6 games of the season and preview the UF game and beyond.

At this point in the season it is difficult to gauge what the future holds for this Seminole’s team, they have played as well if not better than expected.  While Georgia State is a decent team they are not to the caliber of a mid level ACC school and Hofstra is a team we should never lose to.  Moving forward Mike Martin should feel comfortable starting Justin Gonzalez at 2B, Sherman Johnson at 3B and Stuart Tapley at DH.  This is a defensive advantage for FSU and gives them the most productive lineup. 

As for pitching it would be foolish to throw inflated stats at you due to the inferior hitting that FSU has faced thus far so we will share an excellent breakdown by contributor DKfromVA on the staff’s performance to date.

 

The Florida State pitching staff gotten off to an up and down start over the first two weekends of play. Since it is so early in the season, individual player statistics will not be emphasized in this recap to the extent that they will be as the innings add up. Instead, we will focus on the early outings of the 2010 FSU pitchers, their mechanics and tendencies, as well as other general observations to this point.

#3 Sean Gilmartin

- Why is Sean Gilmartin one of the ACC’s (and therefore one of the nation’s) best pitchers? Consistency. Sean has a repeatable delivery, the same arm speed on each of his three pitches, and the ability to throw all three for strikes. Gilmartin can throw a fastball, a big 11-5 curveball, or a wicked changeup in any count, making hitters look foolish regularly. Gili’s first start began differently than he might have liked, but he was able to settle in and get through seven strong innings, earning the win while yielding 5 hits and 3 walks. His start against Hofstra was a six-inning outing in which he surrendered 5 hits and 1 walk while throwing only 73 pitches.  Sean’s efficiency allows him to go deep into games, and it will be relied on during this year’s season. He has added noticeable weight to his legs since last season, allowing for an increase in velocity.  Gilmartin is Florida State’s unquestionable ace, and is a legitimate All-Conference candidate.

#21 Geoff Parker

- Burly Geoff Parker is a right-hander with definite talent and good stuff on the mound. The 250-pound junior throws from a ¾ release point and has a fairly quick delivery.  Geoff’s tendency for his body to get out in front of his arm is a contributing factor in his well-documented control problems. He boasts a fastball that is consistently gunned in the low 90’s, and he has reached as high as 94, along with a lively breaking ball and a changeup. Parker’s inauspicious start to the 2010 campaign against Georgia State was caused by several factors.  He was up in the zone a fair amount, got behind in the count far too much, and tried to reach for the 94 mph fastball too often. His release point issues with his curveball led to several instances of hitting batters with pitches. While his velocity is good, his fastball is a flat 4-seamer that is definitely hittable, and he had to bring it over the plate when he pitched from behind in the count. His second outing was not exactly what he would’ve liked, either. After two consecutive walks to start his 1 inning pitched, Geoff pitched out of the jam by locating his changeup. This was an encouraging sign, even though he still had to throw near 30 pitches in a single inning.

Parker’s performance this year might be the single largest factor in determining the fate of FSU’s post-season aspirations. The ‘Noles need Parker to be a reliable Saturday starter, and he certainly has the potential to be just that.  We will learn much about him when he takes the hill tonight against the Florida Gators. Among other things, Geoff needs to get ahead in the count to be successful tonight. When he throws strike one, he is able to dictate the at-bat, and hitters must swing at what he wants to throw. That’s when Parker’s electric stuff becomes visible.

#22 John Gast

- Newly trimmed-down John Gast is a pitcher I really like. Excellent mechanics with good rhythm are just part of what makes this guy a potentially very special pitcher. Gast has an excellent pick-off move, and he fields his position very well. Both of John’s first two outings showed that he is capable of working both sides of the plate with all three of his pitches. John was able to throw off-speed in fastball counts, and his efficiency was hailed after his first outing. However, I actually liked his second outing more, as Gast showed two valuable characteristics against Hofstra. He used his changeup very effectively, which plays a huge role in the success of a college pitcher. What I liked most, though, was that John pitched effectively inside. This is something that all FSU pitchers struggle with consistently, but Gast did it very well this past weekend. I am very excited about the future of John Gast and believe he can be a very dependable Sunday starter.

#24 Brian Busch

- Brian is living proof that pitching coach Jamey Shouppe will not force his pitchers to have mechanics in the same mold.  Busch has had shoulder troubles in the past and as recently as this pre-season, and I have more than a few theories as to why. He leads with his top half as he delivers, leaving his arm to catch up with his body. This puts tremendous strain on the shoulder. Busch also throws across his body from his 2/3-arm slot, leading to what Shouppe likes to call his "deceptive motion."  While his mechanics aren’t good, Brian will probably be an important pitcher on this season’s staff, provided he remains healthy. He is able to keep the ball down, and his motion allows him to release the ball at a point that is almost behind left-handed hitters. Look for Busch to be a key reliever, primarily against left-handed hitters in late-game situations.

#30 Hunter Scantling

- The 6’8" sophomore is an intriguing pitcher to watch. He struggles mechanically with an inactive front side, leading him often to not finish his pitches. Hunter’s stride could also be much longer than it currently is, but I believe both of these issues are somewhat due to the byproducts of being a 6’8" 20 year old kid.  Scantling does show impressive velocity, though, and his slider was very effective on the left side of the plate against Hofstra.  His mechanical issues cause him to be up in the zone quite often, but when he can throw his slider and his fastball for strikes, he can be effective.

#13 Robert Benincasa

- The highly touted freshman has looked nervous in the early season, but he is a very promising young pitcher.  Robert has an old-school motion, characterized by his slide across the rubber in his wind-up and his drop-and-drive delivery to the plate. His arm slot is nice and high, which creates a good downward angle on his pitches. He has a live arm and a very nice 12-6 curveball with a lot of depth to it.  There are a few signs of his youth that come through, though. Robert has tended to overthrow in his early action, and he also slows his arm speed on his changeup. His mechanics are solid overall, though, and I think Benincasa becomes a valuable contributor to the staff once he gains some game experience.

#28 Tyler Everett

- Tyler is a junior reliever who has been serviceable in the early going. His delivery includes a bounce on his back leg before he strides, which is typical of someone with his style of pitching. His ¾ arm slot and closed stride creates a fastball that runs in on the hands of right-handed hitters. Everett’s stuff won’t blow hitters away, but he can be effective when he pitches to contact and does so down in the strike zone.

#33 Andrew Durden

- The JUCO transfer holds the closer position in the early season, and he is a classic fit.  Andrew drops onto his back leg and really explodes off of the mound. His delivery style is best described as a combination between Benincasa and Everett, as he is a drop-and-drive guy with good run on his fastball. Durden has good velocity on his fastball, and his slider is certainly ACC closer worthy. It’s tough to evaluate a closer when a team has a +60 run differential in 6 games, but we’ll find a great deal out about him very soon.

Other pitchers that have seen action this season include freshmen Scott Sitz, Corben Madden, David Trexler, Tye Buckley, and JUCO transfer Daniel Bennett. These guys have thrown sparingly, and will be evaluated at a later time.  The major concern that I have to this point is the inability of the staff to effectively pitch inside. It is very early, but this deficiency will be fatal for FSU’s pitchers if it isn’t corrected. College hitters love to be able to lean out over the plate and to extend their hands, and they will destroy pitchers who cannot keep them honest through utilizing the inner half. This holds especially true inside Dick Howser Stadium with the short porch in right field. The ‘Noles staff will be tested mightily in the coming weeks, and we will learn a lot about each member during this time.

 

The next few games should give fans a better idea of what we can expect throughout the rest of the year.

03/02/10 vs. University of Florida Gators, Tampa, Fla. 7:00 p.m. ET

The Florida State Seminoles get their first true test of the season when the take on rival Florida Gators at Legends Field in Tampa on Tuesday.  The 5th ranked Gators come into the season 5-0 and unlike the Seminoles they have already played a competitive series by starting the season with a 3 game sweep of the USF Bulls and needing extra innings to win the final game.  The Gators biggest loss from a 2009 team that won its division and advanced to the Super Regional was Avery Barnes (.438/.547/.985). The top returning hitter for the Gators is sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker, who led them in all three triple-crown categories, hitting for a .364 average, with 15 homers and 85 RBI. He was a consensus Freshman All-American, as well as the NCBWA Freshman Hitter of the Year, and Co-SEC Freshman of the Year.  On the mound the Gators will send out their #3 starter in Anthony DeSclafani.  In his one start this season the right handed sophomore had a 70 pitch outing against USF where he gave up no runs in 4.1 innings.  The Gator bullpen has been responsible for 15 of the 17 earned runs allowed this season and only one Gator start has made it through 6 innings so knocking out DeSclafani would give FSU a significant advantage.

For the 'Noles Mike Martin has decided to start  junior Geoff Parker who I would imagine is on a short leash which means #11 is not afraid to go to Brian Busch if needed.  This game will be a slugfest and I would expect 20+ combined runs with no less than 10 pitchers used by both sides.  For those who are lucky enough to have CSS it will broadcast live there and for those listening on the radio or viewing via Gametracker we can use this as a live thread.

03/03/10 vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater, Fla. 7:00 p.m. ET

The Florida State Seminoles play an exhibition game against the defending National League Champs.  This marks the first time since 2007 that FSU has taken on a pro team and is 2-7 all time against MLB squads with the two wins coming against the Yankees and Braves.  Mike McGee will get his first start of the season and let’s hope he doesn’t get knocked around too much.

03/05/10 – 03/07/10 vs. University of Georgia Bulldogs, Tallahassee, Fla.

The 25th ranked Bulldogs have bad memories of Dick Howser Stadium as that was the site of their 2009 exit to the regional tournament at the hands of Ohio State and Florida State.  Georgia returns only two out of their top six hitters from last season while the pitching staff lost their #1 pitcher and their closer.  If Florida State does not take 2 of 3 games this weekend it will be considered a disappointment.

We will be keeping a close eye on how FSU fares in the next week or so, they need to get all the kinks worked out because conference play starts March 12th against defending ACC Champs and current Baseball America #1 Virginia.

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