Florida State had the week off because of exams but look continue their hot play from last weekend where they swept Wake Forest. The Noles hit well all weekend and received three quality starts from its weekend guys. Central Florida appears to playing really well too, winners of six straight including a series sweep of a good Houston team. The Knights have an RPI outside the top 100 so a series loss for the Noles would probably damage any shot they had left to be a National Seed.
Rarely this season has the Seminoles offense had an off night let alone an entire series. The Noles scored 26 runs on 30 hits against the Deacons and that was against a staff that isn't better than what FSU should see this weekend. The Knights just don't match up against the Noles in any facet offensively, they put up average offensive numbers in a moderately competitive conference.
John Sansone looks to continue his hot hitting as he is 8 of 19 (.421) over his last 5 games while Marcus Davis helped improve his conference numbers last weekend as he is 10 for his last 21. Jose Brizuela continues to be the teams best hitter with his team leading .938 OPS. There are a few hitters for UCF that having great season, Chris Talday (.353/.432/.462) and Erik Hempe (.329/.424/.491) standout and free-swinging (37K-14BB) Jeremy Matos leads the team in slugging (.514) and could pose a threat.
For the first time all season the bullpen looked really bad over a span of more that one game, against Wake Forest the relief pitching allowed 7 earned in 8 innings while the starters allowed only 2 runs over 19 innings pitched. The good part of that is the starting staff continues to pitch well and put FSU in a position to win every night which is a refreshing and new phenomena at Florida State. During their 6 game winning streak the Knights' pitching has been outstanding, they have allowed 11 runs in those games and have a only walked 12 with 41 strikeouts.
Right hander Luke Weaver is coming off another solid outing even though he did uncharacteristically walk 3 batters. Seven shutout innings of 3 hit ball with 9 strikeouts is a night that will get it done most of the time and hopefully he can have a repeat performance tonight. Right handed pitcher Ben Lively had been the Saturday guy this season for UCF but it appears that the Knights will counter with him against Weaver. As the numbers show Lively has been Central Florida's best pitcher this season. His last outing wan't his best as he only went 6 innings striking out 6 but walking 5 batters. Lively is no stranger to high pitch counts either as he has pitched over 100 pitches in his last 9 starts, throwing more than 115 pitches 6 times.
Leibrandt has pitched better as of late despite being the only starter last weekend to not go 7 innings. He was dominant against Duke and Virginia and as he had 17 strikeouts and 3 walks, if he can throw anywhere near that down the stretch Florida State looks very dangerous entering the postseason. Chris Matulis didn't appear to pitch poorly enough to warrant a move to the Saturday spot. He has pitched 7 plus innings in his last 3 starts, allowing only a combined 4 earned runs. He did have some control issues with Rice where he did walk 8 batters and much like Lively he can and will throw a lot of pitches. The left hander has thrown 120, 113 and 119 pitches in his last 3 outings.
Sitz pitched another gem last weekend, 8 innings with 4 hits, 1 walk and 8 strikeouts. Having an arm that is capable of pitching that effectively on Sundays gives the Noles the advantage every single time out. The senior right hander has definitely earned the honor of being on the Pitcher of the Year watch list.
The Noles are the better team and the UCF pitching staff hasn't faced an offense as good as they will see this weekend giving FSU the advantage. A sweep would be nice but UCF does have talent so a series win would be sufficient.
All 3 games are on ESPN3 for your viewing pleasure...see everyone back here tonight at 6PM