Florida State (20-1) avoided an upset bid from Stetson (10-11) prior to their big showdown against Georgia Tech this weekend. Although the team looked far from perfect in the two game set against the Hatters, they still managed to come away with a couple more wins and show why they belong towards the top of every college baseball poll. As of March 18, FSU is ranked as high as 5th in NCBWA and USA Today (even getting a first place vote from USA Today) and ranked as low as 12th Baseball America. The only other poll has them sitting at 7th from Collegiate Baseball.
What to Take Away From the Series:
Although the Seminoles had an error filled Tuesday and almost dropped their second game of the season, they redeemed themselves in the Wednesday outing by pounding Stetson in almost every facet of the game.
Stetson, although not the top competition Florida State will face this year, is still far from the worst team on the schedule. All time, FSU now holds a 50-22 lead over the Hatters, but they have also dropped one against Stetson each of the past two seasons. Although Stetson did not make the NCAA Tournament last year, they did finish with a 61 RPI ranking.
The most important which came up form this series is that FSU is extremely resilient and they have pitchers, specifically Luke Weaver and Billy Strode, who are able to go deep in games in case they are called upon in a weekend series.
Importance of the Series:
These two games are important due to who the next team is. FSU already has critics cautiously judging this team due to their season ending injuries and their very weak schedule thus far. The Seminoles toughest ACC competition this year is this weekend against Georgia Tech and a month from now when they play Virginia. The games against Miami are looking less and less important now that the Hurricanes have dropped seven games and sit 5th in the Coastal Division. As good as Virginia Tech has been to open their ACC schedule (4-2), no one thinks they have the ability to knock off the teams above them (UNC, GT, and UVA). Other than those mentioned, the NC State and Clemson series are always important, yet both of them are 3-3 in ACC and have at least 6 losses overall.
Florida State plays the Yellow Jackets this weekend before going on the road against Florida in Jacksonville and up to Blacksburg, Va., to face the Hokies. Dropping a game to Stetson would have been a huge confidence blow going into their most important string of days so far this season.
Here is How Each Individual Game Broke Down:
This was not the way the Seminoles envisioned a midweek game against Stetson. Kevin Fagan was brilliant against FSU going 7 innings and striking out six. He only gave up three hits to the 26 he faced. Sadly for Fagan, his defense did not help him much towards the end.
Florida State was able to rally against the Hatters in the 8th inning after bringing in four runs on two Stetson errors, both of which were dropped pop flys in the outfield. Stetson had a 3-1 lead going into the 8th, but three hits and those two errors later, FSU was up by the final score of 5-3.
In his fourth start, Luke Weaver once again pitched well for FSU. The righty lasted 6.2 IP and struck out four, only walking one, and was credited for giving up two runs, however the second run was scored on a fielding error from DJ Stewart. Weaver did allow seven hits, most of which were singles, and he was able to pitch his way out of trouble, stranding six on base the entire game.
The Seminoles real turning point, other than the errors which allowed four of the five runs to come in, came from relief pitching being able to stop the bleeding. Weaver appeared to be able to complete the 7th inning, but Mike Martin went for a better pitching matchup and brought in Kyle Bird. He immediately gave up an RBI single and gave up another run from a throwing error by Jose Brizuela at third (Brizuela’s 10th of the year). Jameis Winston would enter the game for the last two innings and set down all six batters he faced to prevent an additional damage to be carried over into another inning.
MVP of the Game:
Jameis Winston – I’m giving it to Jameis mainly because what was mentioned in the line above. Winston prevented any extra damage to be done in another inning. Two fly outs, three groundball outs, and one strikeout, Winston did not struggle at all during his short stint in the game.
Things to Work On:
This is becoming scary as to how often I say this, but the errors are becoming ridiculous. Even though they’ve had worse games, these two errors this game caused runs to come across and was the reason FSU needed a rally late in the game. I give credit to the team wanting to come back and being able to do so, but that wouldn’t have been the case if both errors had not occurred in the previous inning.
After the nasty inning they had in the previous game, it only took two great innings for Florida State to put this game in the books.
Trailing 1-0 going into the 4th, FSU pulled ahead scoring four. Stetson brought in a new pitcher to replace their starter Tyler Warmoth, but this moved seemed to backfire quickly when Cameron Griffin gave up two walks to open the inning. In comes another Stetson pitcher, Josh Thorne. Before Thorne got the Hatters out of the inning, he gave up a sac fly to DJ Stewart, a two-run homer to Marcus Davis, and an RBI double to Stephen McGee. Only two of those runs were credited to Throne while the other two went to Griffin.
FSU would be at it again the next inning, this time putting up much more than four. Stetson would again make a pitching change, this time bringing in Brandon Diaz. Once again, the pitching change didn’t matter much as the Garnet and Gold got on with a Seth Miller walk…who then proceeded to steal both second and third base. Diaz would hit Giovanny Alfonzo and then be yanked. Another hit batter later and the Noles had the bases loaded. A single, a couple of bases loaded walks, and a sac fly later; FSU had already scored four in the inning. The big hit was a John Nogowski bases loaded triple. When all was said and done, FSU had four hits in the inning, left two on, and scored nine runs to bring the game to an insurmountable 13-1 lead.
Pitching wise, the Noles were great. Billy Strode was solid going six innings, giving up two walks, and striking out nine. Strode was tagged for an unearned run, but only gave up three hits. The bullpen relief was close to perfect as Brandon Johnson, Kenny Burkhead, and Dylan Silva recorded the last nine outs by facing 11 Stetson batters.
MVP of the Game:
Billy Strode – As much as I’d like to give it to one of the hitters, there are at least three or four deserving of it, I’m going with the starting pitcher. Strode had everything working for him and rarely had any problems in his six innings of work. Although he did have the bases loaded in the second, it was briefly and he was able to get out of it with no harm. The only negative he had was an unearned run in the 4th inning.
Things to Work On:
Once again, I’m going to say it was the error, but this time is by default. The error did lead to a run for Stetson, but it wasn’t any major harm considering what happened the next two innings for FSU. I was more impressed with how this game could have been an even bigger blowout as the Noles had a hit in every inning.
It’s not secret this weekend is big for Florida State. Georgia Tech (17-3, 5-1) is coming to Tallahassee, Fla., for a three game set beginning Friday. Similar to FSU in the first game against Stetson, GT struggled in their Tuesday midweek game against Georgia Southern. However, unlike the Noles, the Yellow Jackets did not recover and lost 5-4.
Georgia Tech is tied with North Carolina for the Coastal Division lead and already boasts wins over Virginia Tech and St. John’s.
Friday’s game is the highlight of the series as GT is expected to send their ace, Buck Farmer, to the mound against Brandon Leibrandt. Farmer turned down the Milwaukee Brewers last year to return for his senior year after he was drafted in the 15th round. Farmer currently sits at 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 44 Ks in his five starts. In comparison, Leibrandt is also 4-0 in five starts, but has a 3.64 ERA with 24 Ks.