The Florida State Baseball team is coming off a disappointing regular season finish losing the last two games of the season versus Clemson at home really hurting their chances of a National seed. The Seminoles did win game one against the Tigers which earned them the Atlantic Division crown and the #2 seed overall. The ACC Tournament starts today and runs through Sunday and for those who are not familiar it is not your typical tournament style of play. The top 8 teams in the conference make the tournament and then are divided into 2 separate pools. Florida State has been paired with Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State in Pool B while the team with the best record advances to the finals on Sunday.
Inside we will preview each game and how the Seminoles matchup...
It is pretty apparent the teams that comprise Pool B have really good offenses which will give teams with excellent pitching the advantage. Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State all have an OPS above .800 and they all score over 6 runs per game. While North Carolina State's offense isn't at the level of the others they are still very potent and above average in all categories.
Good pitching is the key to success in college baseball and this is pretty apparent by the numbers above. The clubs with the 8 best pitching staffs in the conference all made the tournament and are all around league average or better in most categories. Georgia Tech is probably the most dangerous team in the conference having one of the best offenses and pitching staffs in the ACC as they boast 3 starters who made the All Conference Team. The Clemson Tigers pitching staff has improved over the course of the season and now has 3 starters who have a legitimate shot of pitching a quality start every time out. The Seminoles and Wolfpack are similar in that they have only one legitimate starter and hope to win all other games by committee.
GAME 1 - #2 Florida State Seminoles vs. #7 North Carolina State Wolfpack
Wednesday May 25th - 7 PM - Durham, NC
TV: Live on FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Florida, Comcast Mid-Atlantic
Robert Benincasa has been used primarily in a reliever role until last weekend when he faced Clemson and lasted less than 3 innings allowing 5 earned runs and allowing half of the batters he faced to reach base. Cory Mazzoni should be considered the Wolfpack's ace and gives them a definite advantage in this game. Mazzoni had recent success against the Noles as he faced them 2 weeks ago pitching 6 innings allowing only 1 earned run on 6 hits (all singles) while striking out 8 and only walking 2.
In the recent series against NCST the Noles offense scored 10 of the 20 runs over the weekend against the Wolfpack bullpen so should Mazzoni give them a quality start their relief pitching isn't a sure thing. Even though this is a must win game for the Seminoles because the odds of them winning the following games are slim, they can't afford to completely exhaust their staff in this one game.
GAME 2 - #2 Florida State Seminoles vs. #6 Clemson Tigers
Thursday May 26th - 3 PM - Durham, NC
TV: Live on FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Florida, Comcast Mid-Atlantic Plus, NESN delayed to follow Red Sox
The Noles best chance of winning this weekend comes against Clemson because ace Sean Gilmartin is pitching. He has been one of the best pitchers in the country all season and was in contention for ACC Pitcher of the Year. While Gilmartin wasn't lights out in his last start against Clemson he still pitched an impressive 7 innings allowing only 1 earned run on 7 hits, striking out 6 and walking 2. Tiger starter Justin Sarratt faced the Noles last Friday and pitched well going 5.1 innings only allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, walking 2 batters and striking out 5.
As evidenced last weekend the Tigers and Noles both have excellent offenses that can score runs on just about anyone. The Seminoles need a strong performance out of Gilmartin so they can turn it over to one of the few bullpen arms that can close out a game.
GAME 3 - #2 Florida State Seminoles vs. #3 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Friday May 27th - 3 PM - Durham, NC
TV: Live on FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Florida, Comcast Mid-Atlantic Plus, NESN
Georgia Tech has an elite offense that will crush weak pitching, unfortunately for the Noles Mike McGee is not a legitimate threat to pitch well. In his starts this year he has struck out as many batters as he has walked and has had major control issues as well as a loss in velocity. The Yellow Jackets #3 starter just happens to be an All-Conference pitcher which gives GT the obvious advantage in this game. The Seminoles need to hope a lot of things go their way this game and Tech makes mistakes if they want to win and earn a shot at a National seed.
Florida State really hurt their shots of earning a National seed last week and without a strong showing in the Tournament they will more than likely lose out on one. If Florida State can beat North Carolina State in the first game without completely exhausting their pitching staff they have a good chance of winning game 2 putting them at 2-0 and facing GT for a shot on Sunday.
I didn't really give the Noles a shot of winning the tournament last year or advancing to Omaha but they did. It is absolutely possible that they can get hot and repeat but the caliber of teams they have to face this time around are a better and the talent lost last season will hurt too. I predict the Noles going 1-2 over the next three days with losses at the hands of State and Tech.
Hope to see everyone back here throughout the day as the first game starts at 11AM and tonight at 7PM for the live game thread.