Trying to win the ACC Atlantic Division, No. 8 Florida State (44-11, 20-10) had to face rival No. 19 Clemson (37-17, 18-12). After being embarrassed in the first game, FSU managed to claw back and win the series, as well as the division.
Importance of Series
Three teams remained in the ACC Atlantic division entering the last conference series of the season. Florida State, Clemson, and NC State were all trying to secure that top spot in the division with two of them facing each other. You can’t get much bigger than this to end the regular season.
What to take Away from the Series
The Seminoles managed to scrap along and bring down a good Clemson baseball team, winning two-of-three. Even with their backs against the walls after dropping the first game and falling behind early in the third, FSU came away with a series win and showed tremendous amounts of character which will become useful as they enter the postseason.
Here is how each individual game broke down
Not a lot went right for the Seminoles to open the series against Clemson. Trying to get the pitching staff aligned for the ACC Tournament, Mike Martin went with Peter Miller to open the critical series. Miller did not last long as the Tigers jumped out to an early lead. Miller was pulled in the second inning after giving up two runs on three hits and two walks.
Martin then went with Bryant Holtmann to try and ease the pain for the Noles. Instead, Holtmann had one of his worst outings of the year, giving up four runs on four hits and a walk. Holtmann lasted 2.2 innings before the turn table of relief pitching continued for FSU.
To make matters worse for Florida State, their hitting was just as abysmal as their pitching was. The Seminoles were able to get on base, but unable to get the key hit and bring guys in. Florida State trailed as much as 8-0 in the game and barely made any noise until late in the game.
The Clemson win tied the Tigers with the Seminoles a top the Atlantic Division, causing the next two games to become even more dramatic for both teams.
MVP of the Game
Seth Miller – There is not a whole lot of good which came out of this game, but Miller was the main player for FSU to start the series. Miller finished 2-3 with two walks. Unfortunately for the Noles, no one was able to bring him in.
In a must-win game for the Seminoles and their hopes of winning the division, sophomore righty Luke Weaver shined. Pitching a career high 7.1 innings, Weaver held the Tigers scoreless until the sixth inning. Even then, Clemson could only muster a single run. Weaver scattered seven hits and walked two while striking out eight.
Weaver did not get much run support, but with his pitching performance, he got all the Seminoles needed to come away with the win. Florida State scored early, bringing in two in the first inning off a Marcus Davis bases loaded single. The only hit from Davis also turned out to be the game winning hit.
During the fourth and fifth innings, Florida State had the opportunity to extend their lead. In each frame, the Noles began with a leadoff double. In each frame, Florida State stranded that runner on base.
With the win, FSU retook the lead in the Atlantic Division. They stayed a half game ahead of No. 9 NC State while giving themselves a full game lead over Clemson.
MVP of the Game
Luke Weaver – Florida State got the exact outing they needed from Luke Weaver. The righty was able to go deep for the Noles and prevent much of anything for Clemson. Weaver (6-2) lasted 7.1 innings, striking out eight. He scattered seven hits and walked one, only allowing one run to come in for the Tigers. All this on 112 pitches.
Trying to clinch the Atlantic Division, The Seminoles only needed to come away with a victory of rival Clemson. The Tigers were trying to get the division for themselves, but needed help with an NC State loss. The latter did not come into play as the Seminoles pulled away in the sixth and seventh innings to grab a 6-1 victory over the Tigers, securing the division title in Tallahassee.
FSU starter Brandon Leibrandt wasn’t perfect, but he was able to get the job done for the Noles. The lefty went five innings, scattering nine hits, and allowing a single run which came in the first inning. Leibrandt walked a couple and got into some trouble in the fourth and sixth innings as Clemson loaded the bases against him. Fortunately for the Seminoles, CU was unable to capitalize on the opportunities given as they stranded 13 during the game.
It was a sweet send off for senior Seth Miller. Entering the game as a pinch hitter for Bret Kneif, Miller’s only hit was huge for the Seminoles. During his second at-bat of the day during the sixth inning, FSU held a slim 3-1 lead over Clemson. Miller then ripped a 1-2 pitch to up the middle for a 2-RBI single. The Seminoles would not look back as they cruised to a win after the insurance runs came in.
The Seminoles had four players with multiple hits during the game as DJ Stewart, Stephen McGee, Jose Brizuela, and Giovanny Alfonzo each finished with two hits apiece. Each of the four also scored a run with Alfonzo leading the way for the team, scoring twice. Another game highlight watching Jameis make a throw on a Clemson runner trying to advance to third...bad idea.
The win secured the Atlantic Division for Florida State as well as the No 2 seed in the ACC Tournament. No. 3 Virginia, No. 6 Virginia Tech, and No. 7 Georgia Tech will play in the same pool as Florida State. On the other side of the ACC bracket is No. 1 North Carolina, No. 4 NC State, No. 5 Clemson, and No. 8 Miami.
MVP of the Game
Billy Strode – As much as I wanted to give it to Seth Miller and his 2-RBI single which helped break it open (on Senior Day as well), this one was mainly about lefty Billy Strode. Entering with no outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning, Strode had to do the impossible with Clemson threatening. Somehow, some way, Strode got out of the jam with no harm done. Over the next four innings, Strode held the Tigers scoreless, giving up four hits, and striking out two.
Florida State faces No. 2 North Carolina on the road in a non-conference game Monday at 6 p.m. This game is in place of each team have multiple cancellations against other opponents during the season. The Tar Heels have already clinched a National Seed and it appears the Seminoles have as well. With a win over UNC, the Noles will be certain of a Top 8 seed.
North Carolina boasts an impressive 45-6 record and a clear favorite to win the ACC Tournament next weekend.
All-time, the Tar Heels have a losing record against the Seminoles. FSU is 63-28 against the Heels with the series tied at 15 when played at Chapel Hill. Florida State lost their last season series, dropping two-of-three, in Tallahassee back in 2011. However, the Noles beat UNC the last time they played on the road in 2010. Either way, this last game before the conference tournament will gage how prepared each team is for the upcoming regional schedule.
The ACC Tournament schedule was announced earlier today and the Noles are the opening game.
Wednesday, May 22
Game 1 - #2 Florida State vs. #7 Georgia Tech, 11:00 a.m.
Game 2 - #3 Virginia vs. #6 Virginia Tech, 3:00 p.m.
Game 3 - #4 NC State vs. #5 Clemson, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 23
Game 4 - #3 Virginia vs. #7 Georgia Tech, 11:00 a.m.
Game 5 - #1 North Carolina vs. #8 Miami, 3:00 p.m.
Game 6 - #2 Florida State vs. #6 Virginia Tech, 7:00 p.m.
Friday, May 24
Game 7 - #4 NC State vs. #8 Miami, 11:00 a.m.
Game 8 - #6 Virginia Tech vs. #7 Georgia Tech, 3:00 p.m.
Game 9 - #1 North Carolina vs. #5 Clemson, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 25
Game 10 - #2 Florida State vs. #3 Virginia, 11:00 a.m.
Game 11 - #5 Clemson vs. #8 Miami, 3:00 p.m.
Game 12 - #1 North Carolina vs. #4 NC State, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 26
Game 13 - Bracket A Winner vs. Bracket B Winner, 1:00 p.m.
A full preview to come later in the week.