Seminoles Look to Bounce Back Against Hot Hokies

Ryan Syrkus

#2 Seed Florida State returns to the diamond for its second game of the ACC Baseball Championship tonight at 7:00 p.m. against #6 Seed Virginia Tech.

When the Seminoles took the lead in yesterday's game on what was basically a sacrifice fly that traveled about 120 feet the security of a national seed is what I immediately thought about. Florida State was 40-0 with the lead going into the 9th inning and closer Robby Coles had thrown over 500 pitches on the season to over 130 batters without surrendering a homerun. When all was said and done though the Noles were now 40-1 when taking a lead into the9th and their closer had now allowed two homeruns on the season as FSU suffered a 4-3 loss. The Seminoles are probably still one win away from securing a national seed with two games left to play.

Good thing the Virginia Cavaliers had already secured a national seed because they were embarrassed and nearly ten run-ruled yesterday by Virginia Tech. A six run 2nd inning and a four run 5th inning which included two Chad Pinder homeruns, one a grandslam, were more than enough for the Hokies. Joe Mantiply, VT's ace, was not all that sharp as he allowed 4 walks and 7 hits across 7 innings but the Hoos only managed to score 1 run.

Two really good offenses will square off tonight as the Noles look to get into the win column for the first time in the last two ACC tournaments and they have to like their chances given the pitching matchups.

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OFFENSE

Virginia Tech made it very apparent yesterday that they have a really good offense. The problem with their offense is that it can easily be shut down by good pitching, not only did the Hokies strikeout more than league average but they walked less than any other team in the league. Only Miami and Boston College had worse on-base percentages than Tech this season. The Noles on the other hand have a great balance on plate discipline and power. Both of these teams scored the same amount of runs this season but when the level of competition is better the approach that the Seminoles take usually results in a better end product.

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The Noles suffered a big hit to their offense yesterday as 3B Jose Brizuela (.320/.421/.459) was sent home from the tournament for a violation of team rules. Casey Smit (.301/.406/.373), who still has me enraged after his terrible bases loaded at-bat yesterday in a crucial situation will more than likely be his replacement. The Noles do still have 2nd Team All ACC outfielder DJ Stewart who remains extremely hot right now after a going 3-3 yesterday scoring 2 of the Noles 3 runs. Catcher Stephen McGee (.294/.458/.525) earned a 2nd team All ACC award this past week and leads the team not only in walks but slugging percentage too.

Shortstop Chad Pinder (.329/.412/.484) made his name known yesterday as he hit 2 homeruns, one of them a grand slam, as he had 6 RBI in yesterdays route. Pinder earned an 1st Team All ACC honor along with teammate and outfielder Tyler Horan (.349/.390/.629) who leads the team with 11 homeruns on the season. Mark Zagunis (.335/.435/.542) is not only a huge threat at the plate he is also their biggest base stealing threat with 16 on the season.

PITCHING

This came about at 4:12 PM, will update below accordingly.

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The Hokies pounded UVA's Friday night guy yesterday even though he probably isn't their best starting pitcher. Tonight they get to face Florida State's ace who is quietly having one of the best seasons in the nation and who they didn't face at all earlier in the season. Luke Weaver has been absolutely phenomenal this season as he boasts one of the highest K/9 this season among starters as well as strikeout to walk ratios. Virginia Tech pounded out 6 extra base hits yesterday, the righty has allowed only 8 extra base hits all season. In his last outing against Clemson the sophomore went 7.1 innings scattered 7 hits while striking out 8 and issuing only 2 walks.

As noted above Virginia Tech made the switch to Brad Markey because their head coach feels its a better matchup. On paper it sure doesn't appear that way, Burke is the better pitcher and with 1 win already in the bag I would throw the pitcher that gives you the best chance of winning and moving to 2-0. The right hander does an excellent job limiting free passes and has a respectable strikeout ratio but damn is he hittable. Allowing more than 11 hits per 9 innings is really terrible and hopefully something this potent offense can do a better job of taking advantage of since they struggled the first time they faced him. Back in March the junior threw 119 pitches in a complete game where he walked only 1 and had 4 strikeouts. He also allowed 2 doubles, a homerun and 11 hits total but was bailed out by terrible Florida State baserunning and 4 double plays. A line like that tonight will result in much different results. Markey may show some signs of rust as he last pitched on May 12th against Marist College where he issued 1 walk, 9 hits and 4 strikeouts over 6 innings.

Neither bullpen was taxed in the first tournament game, they all should be well rested. At one point in the season I would have said that FSU had the advantage in that area but given their performance in the last month I'm not sure that claim can still be made. Florida State managed to get through yesterday's game error free even though every time the ball is hit to the left side I hold my breath. The Seminoles defense has been bad all season but the Hokies defense has been equally as poor ranking below the Noles in fielding percentage.

Virginia defeated Georgia Tech in the early game today but the way pool play is set up the outcome had no bearing on Florida State's chances of playing for the tournament title. For the Noles to make it to the championship game they need to win out defeating VT today and UVA on Saturday, then VT needs to help out by defeating GT on Friday afternoon. This would put the Noles and Hokies at 2-1 with FSU advancing because of the head-to-head victory.

Florida State is the better of the two teams and has a pretty significant advantage on mound. The Seminoles offense does take a pretty big hit with losing one of their best hitters and the Hokies are swinging the bat better than just about anyone. I don't think yesterday's game has any lingering effects on the team and the Noles should be victorious tonight.

COVERAGE

All 13 games of this year's 40th annual ACC Baseball Championship will be televised for the seventh straight year with RSN, a regional network that includes Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, FOX Sports Net South, FOX Sports Florida and New England Sports Network, providing coverage. Selected other games will be available via Sun Sports and SportsSouth. Check local listings for more details. Sunday's championship game will air on ESPN2 for the second straight year.

All games will live-streamed via the Internet by ESPN3. In addition, all 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. games will be broadcast via satellite radio on Sirius XM 85. The 7 p.m. Wednesday (May 22) and Thursday (May 23) games will be broadcast on Sirius 93/XM 190. The Friday (May 24) 7 p.m. game will be carried on Sirius 111/XM 190, and the Saturday 7 p.m. game will be carried on Sirius 158/XM 190. Sunday afternoon's championship game will be carried by Sirius XM 91 (College SportsNation).

Fans can listen to all three games on the Seminoles.com All-Access player. Locally, fans can listen to the games on 1270 AM (Wednesday) and 100.7 FM (Thursday & Saturday). Live stats will be available through Gametracker.

We will have you covered with play-by-play right here, see you at 7PM

Go Noles!

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