The Florida State Baseball team is coming off an impressive series win against an extremely talented North Carolina State team. With the win on Friday the Noles locked up the #1 seed in the tournament and ensured a National seed. If Florida State can win two games in this tournament I think they have a good chance to be the #1 overall seed in the country and at worst I think they enter as the #4 National seed.
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, Virginia and Georgia Tech in Pool A while the team with the best record advances to the finals on Sunday. For a complete bracket you can click here.
Inside we will preview each game and how the Seminoles matchup...
Florida State finished the regular season ranked #1 in the Baseball America poll, quite a feat considering expectations were not extremely high going into this season. Virginia is the only other team that is currently ranked and after a slow start have come on strong and are not the same team they were when the Noles swept them over two months ago. The Cavs have won 12 of their last 14 games including a sweep of Miami and series wins against Georgia Tech and Maryland. After winning the series against Florida State two weeks ago Clemson was embarrassed by being swept at Wake Forest suffering their first shutout of the season. In defense of Georgia Tech they have been hampered by significant injuries this season but they have still underperformed finishing the regular season six games under .500. Although underachieving isn't new to the Danny Hall coached team it just usually happens comes during the postseason.
Looking at the numbers in conference play it is pretty evident that Florida State has been much better than the competition. The Noles exercise excellent plate discipline as they walk at a rate much higher than the rest of the teams in the pool which is also reflected in their high on-base percentage. The Seminoles have also outslugged the other teams in their conference which has resulted in an OPS almost 100 points higher than league average and 70 points higher than the next best team. It's no wonder why the Noles have scored almost a full run per game better than the opponents.
That's not to say that the other teams don't have their share of good players. Clemson has one of the best hitters and potential first rounder Richie Shaffer. He was an All ACC first teamer along with teammate Phil Pohl and outfielder Brandon Thomas from Georgia Tech. Virginia was represented offensively by 2B Keith Werman and his 23 sacrifice bunts as well as 2B Steve Wilkerson and OF Thomas Brittle from Clemson. Sophomore outfielder Daniel Palka from Georgia Tech also was named to the second team.
In the nine games versus these three team Florida State scored 6.6 runs per game with a .315/.423/.432 slash line. They were 4-6 in stolen bases and struck out 15.4% of the time and walked an impressive 12.6% of the time. If the Seminoles can continue hitting like they did in the last few games of the season and similar to how they did earlier against these teams their offense should be able to keep them in each game.
Pitching matchups in the series could not have worked out any better for the Noles. Virginia has always been known for their excellent pitching and lucky for the Noles they do not face them until Saturday when the will more than likely be throwing their #3 guy versus the Seminoles' #2, Mike Compton. Florida State will miss two of Clemson's best pitchers in Kevin Pohle who is starting today and Kevin Brady who is still injured so being able to throw our "ace" is a huge advantage. Not all matchups can be ideal as we will see later in the matchups of today's pitchers.
Five of the twelve pitchers named to the All ACC team will be on display in Pool A including Noles' SP Michael Compton who is on the second team because coaches are lazy like sportswriters and use wins as a decision maker. Florida State's reliever Robert Benincasa absolutely deserved to be on the first team as did Tech's Buck Farmer who made it for the second year in a row. Virginia had two pitchers on the second team, SP Branden Kline and reliever Justin Thompson.
As you can see the Noles' staff did okay against the teams they play this week. Keep in mind that Clemson, Virginia and Tech all have above average offenses. If the pitching can keep each opponent under five runs or less they will have give this team to win any game.
GAME 1: Florida State Seminoles vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - Wednesday, May 23rd - 11AM
Florida State outscored the Jackets 22-12 in early April in a series sweep. In that series the Noles were on base almost 44% of the time and had eight extra base hits including homeruns from Travis, Brizuela and Nogkowski. The pitching staff held their own too allowing only eleven earned runs, striking out 22 and walking only nine.
Right hander Scott Sitz gets the start and the Noles are hoping he has a better outing than last time. Sitz went only 3.2 innings and while his numbers were not terrible he wasn't sharp. Florida State needs solid innings out of him as they can ill afford to use too much of their inconsistent bullpen this early in the tournament. Right handed pitcher Buck Farmer took a loss against the Noles earlier in the year but in no way was it his fault. He pitched a strong eight innings giving up only one run on five singles and walked three while striking out eight. Farmer wasn't extended too far in his last appearances against Miami where he threw 91 pitches in six innings, a repeat performance gives Georgia Tech the advantage in this game.
Georgia Tech is usually known for their free swinging powerful approach at the plate and while that philosophy hasn't changed the results have. Tech still strikes out quite a bit but doesn't walk enough to balance that out and while a slugging near .400 is good it is not what they are accustomed too. This is still a strong lineup and the Noles have faced ones better as of recent. As mentioned before they staff is going to have to hold this team to a couple of runs if they are looking keep this game competitive.
Today's forecast calls for rain but it appears that scattered storms are not going to move in until later this afternoon.
The winner of this pool is going to have to play some excellent ball and every team has a legitimate shot. I like the fact that Florida State gets to pitcher their Friday/Saturday guys for games 2 and 3, this strategy worked against NCST and if it works again this weekend the Noles could very well be playing on Sunday. Previews for the remaining games will come later in the week.