This will be the 7th straight year that the Seminoles have hosted a Super Regional, advancing to the College World Series 3 of the last 6 times. Florida State swept through regionals in dominating fashion and look to be playing the best baseball of all the remaining 16 teams.
The Indiana Hoosiers are making their first Super Regional appearance in school history after going undefeated as a host in their regional. Indiana becomes the first Big Ten institution to reach a Super Regional since Michigan went to Oregon State in 2007
This is just the 3rd time Indiana has ever made the postseason and did so by winning the Big Ten which is the rated 6th in RPI according to Warren Nolan. The Hoosiers had an opening game scare against Valparasio as they scored 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning which included a walk-off homerun for a 5-4 victory. From there they had little trouble dispensing of Austin Peay defeating them 15-6 and 6-1 in the final two games. Now for a quick look at the Hoosiers. Earlier in the week I wrote this article highlighting the Hoosiers as a team, in today's preview we will take a closer look at the individual players.
There is a reason that this Hoosiers team is the first team in five years to advance to a super regional, the baseball played in the Big Ten is not very good with the exception of a couple of teams. In the last three weeks Indiana has played just 4 games against a team ranked in the top 50 RPI, that was Nebraska twice in the Big Ten tourney and Austin Peay in regionals who they defeated twice. Florida State on the other hand has played 12 games against top 50 RPI teams going 6-6. Florida State is better prepared against a higher level of competition which will be a huge factor this weekend.
The Florida State offense is just a machine, regardless of turnover they consistently have one of the best in the country year after year and 2013 is no different. Playing in the toughest conference in the NCAA this season the Noles put up numbers better than league average and as witnessed last weekend have the ability to overwhelm weaker competition. The Noles have plenty of awards with one Freshman All American and two 2nd Team All ACC Player.
First thing I can say about this Indiana lineup is that they pass the look test. An unnamed coach told Kendall Rogers that Indiana has the lineup of a SEC team 1-9 and has 10-12 starter type players, I think that is a pretty ridiculous statement because the level of baseball between the 2 conferences is vast. The SEC sent nine teams to regionals, the Big Ten sent two. Indiana batters do have their fare share of awards though, one 2nd Team All-American and one 3rd Team All America, two 1st Team Big Ten players, one 2nd Team Big Ten Player and two 3rd Team Big Ten Players with a Freshman All Big Ten who is a reserve.
Comparing these two teams on paper they appear to be really good offensively and they both are. Both score over 7 runs per game but in slightly different ways. Florida State scores their runs with excellent plate discipline and hitting with power in timely spots, while hitting for less power than usual the Noles still have a slugging percentage 28 points better than league average. Their on-base percentage is one of the best in the country because of their ability to work the count and walk, almost 4 percentage points higher than the Hoosiers.
Watching them sporadically over this past weekend most of players 1-7 are big and strong which is why it is no surprise that they hit with large amount of power. A slugging percentage at .450 with an on-base percentage approaching .400 is extremely impressive and well above league average but the Hoosiers don't walk all that much and against a team that throws lots of strikes they could struggle. An OPS over 100 points higher than league average is nothing to scoff at though as this Indiana offense will make you pay if balls are left out over the plate.
One great aspect about this Seminoles lineup is their flexibility with hitters from both sides of the plate, the Noles can counter a left or right handed pitcher with a quality lineup. Since the Hoosiers are starting game one with a lefty on the mound we will look at the lineup that started the last time FSU faced a lefty, Sunday against Troy. High on-base guys at the top with power in the middle of the lineup is what you look for and that is what Florida State will throw at you.
Josh Delph returning to the lineup has paid huge dividends already with his ability to work the count and get on base. There might not be a hotter player in college baseball right now than Freshman All-American DJ Stewart, who went 7 for 11 in regionals and reached base 10 times, driving in 5 runs and scoring 6 times. The bottom of the lineup has been some cause of concern down the stretch but fans hope that Alfonso can continue his hitting as he was on base 5 times in the last two games of the regionals.
Much like the Noles lineup this team is extremely flexible, a balanced lineup of 4 left and 4 right handed hitters makes pitching matchups extremely difficult. Unlike the Noles this team strikes out more than it walks which means they rely on their hitting to get on base, something that could prove difficult against a pitching staff who has a low hits per nine and limits their walks.
This Indiana lineup looks extremely formidable, its not all that often you see 3rd Team All American who hits .400 and bats 6th in the lineup. Catcher Kyle Schwarber earned 2nd Team All American and his slugging a gaudy .665 with a team leading 17 homeruns on the season. His excellent plate discipline makes him the most difficult out in the lineup. This bottom of the order can also be exploited due to thei weaker bats, keeping Justin Cureton off base is crucial as he has been successful in stealing bases 21 of 28 times this year.
The Noles have some good options off the bench here, with a lefty on the mound it is possible that Winston could get a start but I feel that Martin feels the offense is better with Delph leading off regardless of who is pitching. When facing a right handed starter you will for sure see Seth Miller in the lineup and playing centerfield, the senior is having a great season and his numbers are a little down because he is awful against left-handed pitchers. Casey Smit is an option at first base when a right hander is on the mound but Coach Martin said recently he likes the way Nogowski has swung the bat against righties.
Nick Ramos was named to the Big Ten All Freshmen Team despite limited playing time. There is a lot of flexibility here from the Hoosiers but I have a hard time seeing what the unnamed coach said about being 11 or 12 players deep. Outside of a pinch hitting situation I wouldn't expect to see any of the players make their way into the lineup.
Both of these staffs have pitchers with a handful of awards, both of their game one pitchers were named All Conference 2nd team while the game two pitchers were both named to 1st team. The Hoosiers have an All Conference Freshman who could get a start if the series goes to three games and a shut down closer who earned All Conference honors too. Strong starting pitching and workhorses in the bullpen who can be extended past one inning is overshadowed by the high scoring offenses that both of these teams possess.
Almost identical numbers with one major exception, the Seminole strikeout nearly 2 more batters per game than the Hoosiers. That is a pretty significant number, especially when you have two weak defenses, the advantage has to go to the team that does a better job of keeping the ball out of play.
There might not be a rotation left playing that is better than Florida State's right now. The 1-2 punch of Weaver and Sitz was dominating last weekend as they combined for no runs over 15.1 innings, struck out 21 and walked none. Luke Weaver is quietly having one of the best seasons for a pitcher and is virtually unhittable over the last month and a half. Scott Sitz's senior year continues to be impressive and as FSU saw last season he just seems to pitch better in the postseason. Call it a sophomore slump if you want but there are teams who's number one pitcher doesn't have the numbers that Leibrandt posts, if this does go three games you should feel confident with him on the mound.
Joey Denato is the power arm of this rotation but with his strikeouts come a high amount of walks, not good when you are facing a team that has walked more than anybody else over the past 4 years. Slegers is a pitch to contact type of guy and with a poor defense behind that could get him into trouble. Kyle Hart's last start was in the Big Ten Tournament while Coursen-Carr closed out the regionals, Indiana has yet to decide who would start a game three. The both have very similar numbers, a strikeout to walk ratio under 2 is not all that intimidating.
The bullpen was practically flawless over the regional weekend. The ideal situation for FSU us to have a starter make it through 6 innings, then hand it over to Gage Smith and Billy Strode (LHP). If the Robby Coles is handed the lead it is pretty much a sure bet that the Noles are headed towards a victory, Florida State is 43-1 when leading after 8 innings.
Scott Effross is a work horse as he averages slightly more than 2 innings per relief appearance. I am not sure how Efross gets it done as his K rate is pretty low and he limits the amount of hits allowed but he appears to be very solid out of the pen. Florida State would like to avoid closer Ryan Halstead at all costs, he is a true strikeout pitcher and the only arm on the staff with a K rate above 8 and a low walk rate. Luke Harrison is another arm the Hoosiers heavily rely and he has one of the best strikeout to walk ratios on the team.
DEFENSE AND BASERUNNING
Similar to Florida State the Hoosiers have had their issues with defense on the season with a fielding percentage at .965 which is pretty bad. The left side of their infield has a combined 36 errors and the Hoosiers committed 5 errors in their regional series that led to 4 unearned runs. Florida State comes into this game fielding .967 with a total of 34 errors from the left side of the infield. In their regional the Noles only had 4 errors, 1 came from Casey Smit who was playing out of position at 2B late in a game with a large lead. The other was on a catcher's interference from McGee, none of the errors led to any unearned runs.
Equally as bad is their baserunning, the odd thing about the Hoosiers is despite their inefficiency at it, 66-110 (60.6%), the still run, a lot. That is 40 more attempts than the Noles this season. Florida State appeared to be a little more aggressive on the basepaths last weekend but are still not a good running team, 43-70 for 61 percent. They will pick their spots as the IU catcher has only thrown out 18% of runners all year, half of McGee and his 36% success rate at throwing out base stealers.
SCHEDULE AND TICKETS
Like last week Florida State has set up a one stop shop for all your information needs but here is some general information.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Game 1: Indiana vs. Florida State - 12:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Game 2: Florida State vs. Indiana - 1:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Monday, June 10, 2013
Game 3: Florida State vs. Indiana (if necessary) - 1:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
All games will be televised by ESPN and will feature the broadcast crew of Doug Glanville and Mike Morgan.
Tournament books are $40.00 for reserved seats and $30.00 for general admission seats. These are good for every game of the tournament.
All-Tournament books for the 2013 NCAA Baseball Tallahassee Super Regional will go on sale via the Internet at www.seminoles.com beginning Tuesday, June 4. 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. starting Tuesday.
Single game reserved tickets are $18 and general admission tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for youth (5-18) and participating school students. Single game tickets will go on sale to the public at 5 pm on Friday, June 7.
One positive for Indiana is that they are used to playing on the road, including regionals the Hoosiers played just 22 home games this season. For reference the Seminoles just played their 38th on Sunday. Due to the weather many Northern schools start the first month of the season on the road playing Southern teams, of Indiana's first 15 games 11 were played in the state of Florida. However, playing in February and March is entirely different than playing in the heat of the day on a June afternoon in Tallahassee. With 3 days games this week the Hoosiers could have some issues, Savannah State players commented on how the heat fatigued them, that game started at 5 in the evening.
Not only will the Indiana have to deal with the weather the crowds at Dick Howser Stadium are some of the best in the country and support their team like no other. Last year's supers were electric and played a big part in the success the Seminoles had and the lack of success that Stanford had. Florida State matches up well against an Indiana Hoosiers team that played a pretty soft schedule (60 SOS) as the competition in the Big Ten is poor. They can pound their chest all they want about beating Florida earlier in the year but as it played out that was not all that impressive of a feat.
There is not one part of the game where Indiana is better than Florida State. Defense and baserunning is probably a wash with the edge going to the Seminoles in starting pitching, bullpen, offense and coaching. It seems like the sexy pick is the upset pick Indiana, to me that is a safe way to go because if they lose you can say they should of, FSU was the better team. There is a reason a Big Ten school hasn't made it to a regional in 5 years, last year everyone though Purdue would make some noise. The Boilermakers dominated the conference, had the best offense and pitching in the Big Ten, then lost to Kentucky as a regional host. All the advantages go to Florida State and I think they take this thing in two games and head to Omaha for the 22nd time in school history.