Florida State Baseball Hosts for the 29th Time: Tallahassee Regional Preview

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Tallahassee will host the first round of the Division I Collegiate playoffs for the 29th time in their schools history. Florida State welcomes in three teams that have been playing extremely well as of late each of them winning their own conference tournament. This regional sets up to be one of the most competitive so let's see what some of the nation's top college baseball writers have to say.

Rene (Renny) (Slidell, Louisiana): I see Mississippi State upsetting home team Florida State for the regional- yes? crazy? Been to the Box, Aaron?? Home field at it's best, chances LSU in World Series? Love your chats Rene

Aaron Fitt: Certainly not crazy - Mississippi State could definitely go in there and win that regional, even though I'm picking the Seminoles. (Guess I was lying when I said I wasn't going to give away my picks today!) And yes, LSU has an amazing home-field advantage. I love LSU's chances to get to Omaha.

ONE SEEDS ON WATCH
1. FLORIDA STATE
-- The Seminoles actually have a difficult opening-round matchup against UAB, but their biggest competition in the Tallahassee Regional remains Mississippi State. The Bulldogs played terrific baseball in the SEC tournament, particularly defensively and on the mound. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bulldogs -- not the Seminoles -- come out of this Regional.
HOTTEST TEAMS
1. MISSISSIPPI STATE
-- The Bulldogs played a terrific brand of baseball in the SEC tournament and hope to continue their ways in the Tallahassee Regional. Shortstop Adam Frazier was fantastic defensively, while State churned out premier arm after premier arm. This should be a fun team to follow this weekend.

- Kendall Rodgers

Inside we have a ton of information regarding each team as well as the venue and other important information.

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PARTICIPANTS:

#1 Florida State Seminoles - Tallahassee, Florida - Game Notes

The Noles are not exactly playing their best ball right now coming off of three loses in the ACC Tournament. All three losses were at the hands of very good teams, all of them making the postseason and the eventual champion Georgia Tech. Despite finishing 3-7 in their last ten games Florida State's body of work was still one of the best in the nation winning a record 24 conference games and earning the #3 overall National seed.

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Offense is one of Florida State's strengths and fortunately it has not been one of the reasons the Noles have struggled as of recent. Despite the lack of power shown in the last three weeks the offense has still kept on scoring nearly six plus runs per game against all opponents. Florida State exercises great plate discipline as shown in their high walk rate and them finishing second in the nation in total walks.

The Noles are led by ACC Player of the year James Ramsey (.382/.515/.673) and 1st Team ACC 1B Jayce Boyd (.395/.465/.527). These are two of the best hitters in the country, both being named finalist in the Golden Spikes award. The table setters for the Noles' offense are leadoff hitter Sherman Johnson who led the conference in walks and 2B Devon Travis who finished second in the league with 22 doubles. If opposing pitching can get past the five hitter, Stephen McGee and his impressive .444 OBP, with minimal damage they can take advantage of the bottom of the lineup, which has really under produced this season.

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When new pitching coach Mike Bell took over this season Seminole fans were excited about the possibility of once again having an elite staff. When those same fans heard the Friday and Saturday starting roles were going to consist of two freshman fans knew that that elite staff was a ways off. Expecting the worse, Seminole fans have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of lefty Brandon Leibrandt and righty Mike Compton, who was voted to the ACC Second Team.

When the Noles were playing their best ball they had a bullpen that could be counted on with an above average level of confidence. The issues recently have been due to an inconsistent bullpen, it is head coach Mike Martin's quick hook that has led to the exposure of this. The young starters infrequently make it through six innings which means that the pen pitches more than the starters do, this isn't a problem if you have a bullpen as successful as Florida but the Noles do not have that and this is why they finished the way they did. What Florida State does have is a lights out closer in Robert Benincasa who made it to the All ACC First Team. In 33 innings this season he has recorded 47 strikeouts while walking only five and only three of the twenty hits allowed have gone for extra bases.

Florida State pitching will not overpower you, very few pitchers even break 90 mph. But they do a good job of pitching inside, keeping the ball down and letting what has been a pretty good defense take care of them. If they can keep the walks down they will stay out of trouble and keep the Seminoles in the game.

The Noles started off amazingly hot, winning close games at an unsustainable pace. That pace was derailed for two reasons, one their luck ran out and two their bullpen began to deteriorate. That is not to say that the Seminoles are washed up and their chances of winning are slim. Florida State has proven that they can handle good pitching and their approach at the plate makes them competitive and can keep them in most games. As we will see in the rest of the preview the Noles' chances of winning this regional are as good as any others.

#2 Mississippi State Bulldogs – Starkville, Mississippi - Game Notes

There might not be a hotter and more hyped team in college baseball right now than the Bulldogs. They finished out the regular season by sweeping Kentucky which put them two games over .500 in conference and a #7 seed in the SEC tournament. The started out the tournament by ripping Arkansas 9-1 and defeating national seed LSU 3-2. Kentucky beat Mississippi State in the next game but then MSU swept through the rest of the tournament by defeating LSU again, Kentucky and an equally hot Vanderbilt in the finals. The Bulldogs were on the verge of hosting a regional but instead were sent to Tallahassee where they pose a serious threat to Florida State, lets find out why.

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There really is only one way to describe the Bulldog offense...terrible. Fans know it; opponents know it and I bet if the players themselves were being honest they would say they know it too. Scoring less than five runs a game is pretty bad but Mississippi State is replacing a lot from a pretty good team last year. They lost six of the eight starters from last year's Super Regional team, one of the returners who was an All-American had a season ending injury and the other has been hampered by injuries his entire career. Basically this is a very inexperienced lineup; FSU fan should imagine what their offense would look like without the top four hitters in the lineup.

When you have an offense that has an OPS under .700 in almost every possible scenario the one thing you need to do is avoid giving the other team outs. Well apparently their head coach didn't get that memo as they have a horrific success on the base paths, 61% overall and 39% in conference is abysmal. We here at Tomahawk Nation loathe bunting, it's a very poor practice and newcomers please feel free to read this article as to why. That being said the Bulldogs like to bunt, they led the SEC with 63 sacrifice hits (1.03 per game) and in SEC play were second only to Alabama with 33 bunts. Mississippi State does excel at something, much like the Noles they like to walk. They lead the SEC in total walks and walked in 10.3% of their plate appearances. Unfortunately they tend to strike out a lot too, they led the SEC in total strikeouts and fanned in 17.4% of their plate appearances.

Players to watch for offensively are SS Adam Fraizer (.376/.484/.449) who also led the team with 48 walks to only 23 strikeouts. Fraizer was the only player on the team to hit over .300, the only player to have a slugging percentage over .400 and the only player to have an on-base percentage over .400, that really speaks volumes to the potency of this lineup. For reference Florida State has four players with an OBP over .400 and four players that have a .400 slugging percentage. First baseman Wes Rea should also be entertaining as one MSU fan put it...

He's a 280 pound first baseman who gets thrown out trying to steal a base about once per weekend. He can't hit a curveball, but will blast the everloving **** out of a fastball.

It is highly unlikely that the State offense is going to bust out this weekend, in their last twenty games they have scored five runs or more only four times. While offense might not be one of their strengths, pitching is a whole different story.

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The Mississippi State pitching staff is good, really really good, they put up the kind of numbers that you need to win a College World Series. The SEC and ACC are the two best conferences year in and year out so when you lead those leagues you are undoubtedly one of the best in the country. This season MSU finished first in ERA, xERA and FIP+; finished second in OPSa and finished third in WHIP, K:9, K:BB and BAa. All of these categories are very indicative of an elite group of pitchers.

First off there is Chris Stratton, SEC Pitcher of the Year and soon to be first round draft pick. He is no doubt one of the best pitchers in the nation and with 123 strikeouts to only 21 walks getting on base against him is quite the task. He has started eleven games this season and has recorded a quality start in ten of them, in his only loss of the season he pitched seven innings allowing only two runs, he also managed to strike out seventeen against LSU earlier in the season. John Cohen, head coach said that they are about 90% sure that Stratton will start game one versus Samford, so lets look at who will likely take the mound in subsequent games.

Kendall Graveman has been the Saturday starter all season but a recent injury has limited him. He is an effective sinkerball pitcher that relies on the ground ball but with his recent groin tweak he has had trouble getting any drop on his pitches because he can't drive through on the weight transfer. Graveman threw a bullpen session this week and looked good according to coaches, he will pitch this weekend but in what capacity is still unknown. Another possible starter is freshman Brandon Woodruff who has been spectacular in his six starts this season posting a sub two ERA with 26 strikeouts to only 9 walks. So what happens if injuries or freshman jitters get to these two pitchers?
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As you can plainly see the Mississippi State bullpen is absolutely phenomenal. In 270 innings this season they have been lights out led by Jonathan Holder who in 27 innings this year has yet to allow an earned run while striking out 28 and only walking five. Not to be outdone are relief guys Ross Mitchell and Caleb Reed who have combined for 87 innings of solid relief allowing only 15 earned runs, striking out 67 and only 25 walks.


All in all Mississippi State is a young and very talented team. They are a team to watch for in future years but not to be overlooked this season. They have the pitching to shut down even the post potent offenses. In 16 games against the top four offenses in the SEC (LSU, UK, AUB, UF) the Bulldogs pitching had a 2.67 ERA, 3.29 FIP+ and a 2.46 K:BB ratio. If the offense can score even a few runs they have an excellent chance of winning this series.

A big thanks to the members of SixPackSpeak.com for their honest and insightful scouting reports. Be sure to visit the MSU website for lots of great split stats.

#3 Samford Bulldogs - Birmingham, Alabama - Game Notes

The Samford Bulldogs are playing well winning the Southern Conference tournament and seven of their last ten games. While being a solid mid-conference team their resume probably would not have been good enough to make the field of 64 had they not received an automatic bid. But they did win their tournament and made it look pretty easy outscoring their opponents 40-15 over four games.

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The Samford offense is extremely potent and could prove to be a serious threat to opposing teams. They get on base at an excellent clip and when they have runners on they can hit for power. They finished the season 11th in the nation with 7.1 runs per game and 6th in homeruns with 62 bombs. While the Bulldogs won't be facing the caliber of opponents that they saw in the Southern Conference the numbers they put up against the Top 50 RPI are still very good.

The lineup features six players with an OPS of .800 or better including Brandon Miller (1.036 OPS) and his 23 homeruns, one more than MSU has as a team. Saxson Butler (.350/.441/.588) and Phillip Ervin (.340/.420/.545) are also key contributers to this team.

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Overall the pitching staff for Samford is average but when you take a look at how they fare against the Top 50 and 100 RPI teams you get a better gauge of just how effective or ineffective they are. Their strikeout to walk ratio goes down against top caliber teams and hits go up. As we have already seen there are some good offenses and some bad offenses in the grouping so depending on their opponents the Samford staff could be good enough to keep them in the game.

The horse that Samford will be riding in game one is their best pitcher in Josh Martin. The 6'-5" righty returned for his senior season after being drafted in the 25th round last season by the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 103.1 innings this season he has a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio and a .259 opponent's batting average against. A solid outing from him gives the Bulldogs a very competitive chance.

Samford is no stranger to playing good teams though, this season they split two games with Florida and two games with Auburn and won one game in the last series of the year against Oklahoma. This team does matchup well in this tournament and needs to be taken seriously.

#4 University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers - Birmingham, Alabama - Game Notes

The Blazers of Alabama-Birmingham finished the regular season four games over .500, six games under in conference and a RPI outside of the Top 100. But by playing extremely well in the Conference USA tournament they were able to sneak into the playoffs. Prior to their 3-1 tourney performance UAB had not been playing well finishing out the last ten games of the season with a 3-7 record.

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Much like Mississippi State the UAB offense is not all that prolific with an OPS just over .700 and averaging only five runs per game. Looking up and down the lineup it is really hard to find a player that stands out as a serious threat. There is not a single player in the lineup with an OPS over .800, designated hitter Ryan Prinzing is the only player on the team with an OBP of .400 or greater. Ivan DeJesus and Ryan Ussery are the only players that can boast a slugging percentage above .400, combining for seven of the teams 23 total homeruns.

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Coming in to this tournament the Blazers didn't have a good pitching staff, a weak strikeout rate coupled with a high walk rate really hurt them. What is even worse is that their best pitcher, Ben Bullard, injured himself during warm-ups of his final regular season start versus Tulane. He failed to throw a single pitch and is out for the entire regional with a strained rotator cuff. The UAB head coach said with regards to his rotation that they will start with Michael Busby and after that it is unknown.

"We're not a great team," UAB coach Brian Shoop said. "We don't have a .300 hitter. We don't have an all-conference player. We've been decimated on the pitching staff with injuries. At the same time, we're a good, competitive team.

I think this best sums up the Alabama-Birmingham team, while they shouldn't be taken lightly they really are a team that is overmatched against any opponent they face.

VENUE:

Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium

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There is the common belief that Dick Howser Stadium is a hitter's ballpark, this is in fact a myth. The reason so many runs have been scored over the years is because Florida State has a prolific offense year after year. The small dimensions if right field gives off the appearance that it is easy to hit homeruns to right, but once you realize there is a thirty foot screen that changes. Let's take a further look by looking at this year's home and away stats.

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Looking at these splits one would think that Mike Martin field is definitely a hitter's park. Yes, the Noles have tended to score a lot of runs and hit for tremendous power at home, but again I think that due to the fact that the Noles have an excellent offense. Scoring 5.3 runs per game on the road isn't bad and most teams would be happy to score that across the board.

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The pitching splits further the point that Dick Howser Stadium is in fact not a launching pad. As mentioned earlier the Seminoles' pitching is good but not great and the stats show that they pitch much better at home then on the road. Now I know most teams play better all around in the comfort of their own stadium but these stats seem to be a little drastic. If you notice the difference in hits per nine is negligible while the difference in homeruns per nine is extreme. Nole pitchers allowed homeruns with twice as much frequency outside of Howser than inside of it.

Next we will take a look into the analytical mind of Boyd's World and the Park Factors that he has compiled.

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So what do these numbers mean? "The numbers represent a percentage; a game scored in a park with a park factor of 125 will feature one-fourth more runs than the same game scored in a park with a park factor of 100."

Basically Florida State, Mississippi State and Samford all play in neutral parks while UAB plays in a park that is more conducive to scoring runs. Keep that in mind as you reflect back over the numbers and hopefully the myth about Dick Howser Stadium has been busted. For further information on Park Factors please visit the great website that is Boyd's World.

Lastly we invite you to visit one of our guest writer's blog where you can learn about the Ten Commandments of A Tallahassee Regional.

TICKETS:

Tickets information for the Tallahassee Regional is as follows:
Tournament passes are $50.00 for reserved seats and $35 for general admission seats. These are good for every game of the tournament. Single game reserved seats are $12.00 with single game general admission tickets priced at $10.00 for adults, $7.00 for youth and students. The stadium will be cleared at the end of each game.

All-Tournament Books for the 2012 NCAA Baseball Tallahassee Regional are now on sale via the Internet at www.seminoles.com. Tickets will also be available by phone at 888-FSU-Nole and at the Seminole Athletics Ticket Office between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Single game tickets for the Friday sessions ONLY will go on sale via the web (seminoles.com) beginning at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. In person and phone sales of single game tickets for Friday's games will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Single game tickets for games on subsequent days will go on sale on the web immediately following the last game of the previous day and at Dick Howser Stadium two hours prior to the start of the first game.

VIEWING:

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WEATHER:

6. Thou shalt plan for weather delays. The lightning detector at Howser goes off with any lightning from here to Omaha, there will be delays. - from Ten Commandments of A Tallahassee Regional.

The above statement couldn't be more true, weather in Tallahassee is predictably inconsistent. You don't know when it will storm but just know it will storm. Let's take a look at the forecast anyways.

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While the chance of rain seems low there is always a possibility of storms. Looks like it will be hot.

GAME THREADS:

Please join us tomorrow as we will present you with another article featuring more in-depth offensive matchups, pitching probables and a game thread.


Good Luck to all and as always Go Noles!

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