The consensus number one ranked team in the country is looking to bounce back from losing two of their last three games. After losing the series finale on Monday night they traveled to Stetson for two games. Florida State played the first game extremely close with the Hatters until the 8th inning where they scored seven runs en route to a 9-1 final. Wednesday night's game was ugly to say the least, another poor appearance by Peter Miller and SIX errors by the Noles defense resulted in a 6-5 defeat, the first one run loss of the season. Florida State was due for some losses and the fact that they came so close together and one was on national television probably made the casual fan think less of this team. The Seminoles are still one of the best teams in the country this season and have already locked up a National Seed. Whether or not that is the number one overall depends on the next two series for the Noles.
Inside we will have a preview of the Clemson offense and the pitching probables...
The first thing that stood out to me when looking at Florida State's offense was how their conference and overall performance are virtually identical this season. This seems pretty unusual as season totals are usually better thanks in part to the series played against the likes of Hofstras and Rhode Islands. Florida State has played quality out of conference opponents, (UCF, UF, Stetson) so why are the numbers so close. I tend to believe that it's because the disparity between Florida State and any other team in the conference. Whether that is just the Noles over-performing, the ACC under-performing or a combination of both I think any team with a five game lead in a conference such as the ACC is a bit abnormal. But kudos to the Noles and their excellent coaching staff for once against having an extremely productive offense.
The top of the lineup continues to be the catalyst of this offense while the bottom four is ever changing but seems to becoming better as the season moves along. Devon Travis (.333/.398/.500) is recovered from a toe injury that sidelined him and Sherman Johnson is going through a power surge of sorts hitting his first two homeruns of the season against Maryland last weekend. Florida State has probably the best three/four hitters in the country in James Ramsey (.400/.533/.724) and Jayce Boyd (.399/.461/.543) These two are so difficult to pitch around thanks in part to Stephen McGee
who has been a great surprise and is tied for 10th in the country in walks and is second on the team to Sherman Johnson.
Clemson is far less potent than Florida State and has been disappointing most of the season, especially for a team that was predicted to win the division. In the past two weeks the Tigers' offense has been a little more productive as they are averaging eight runs per game and have won both weekend series over Georgia Tech and College of Charleston. Clemson is led by their best hitter in 3B Richie Shaffer (.351/.481/.600) who is project to be drafted in the first round come June. Other Tiger hitters to watch for are 2B Steve Wilkerson (.329/.377/.411) and CF Thomas Brittle (.328/.405/.477) with cleanup hitter Phil Pohl who has accounted for 7 of Clemson's 31 homeruns this season.
These two pitching staffs have had pretty comparable seasons so far. Unfortunately for Clemson they have had their share of injuries to this staff, luckily for the Noles they are still having those problems. Neither team has a ton of overpowering arms as evidence of their K:9 and K:BB ratio. One area where they Seminoles can take advantage of Clemson pitchers is their propensity to give up extra base hits, Florida State is currently in the top ten in the nation with 108 doubles. Clemson is really at a disadvantage this weekend as their best pitcher and Friday starter is out with a hamstring injury and one of their best closers, Matt Campbell is sidelined as well.
The Florida State rotation has really outperformed Clemson's remaining rotation this season. Despite the glaring difference in ERA, Clemson starters have an abysmal strikeout to walk ratio, something that the team with the second most walks in the country should absolutely take advantage of.
With the loss of Kevin Brady to injury the Saturday and Sunday starters have been bumped up a day. Junior righty Dominic Leone has been very bad this season. With a BB:9 over four and an OPSa of .820 the Seminoles offense should be able to get plenty of runners on base. Lefty Brandon Leibrandt threw six solid innings his last time out and continues to pitch well with a respectable K:9 despite the fact that he will not blow a fastball past you.
Kevin Pohle has had his struggles this season, especially in conference play. The sophomore righty is coming off a great start where he went seven innings allowing no runs, striking out five while walking only one. Now the offense of the Noles is much better than that of the College of Charleston so I would expect him to have trouble making it through this lineup more than twice. After a rough couple of starts Mike Compton has rebounded well in his last three appearance going five innings plus in each one.
Monday night's starters have yet to been announced but one would have to imagine that Florida State would go with freshman righty Luke Weaver while Clemson would throw junior righty Jonathan Meyer.
This is the "ACC Series of the Week" which is why it will be played on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with Monday's game being broadcast on ESPNU. The other two games will be available to watch on ESPN3. Of the last six series played at Clemson there have been five sweeps, three by Clemson, two by Florida State and the non-sweep series was won by the Noles. What does that mean for this weekend? Absolutely nothing, Florida State is the better team and should win the series but Clemson is only getting better as the season goes on so anything is possible.