#1 Ranked Seminoles Hit the Road Against Jackets

Ryan Syrkus

The top ranked Florida State Seminoles (26-6, 12-3) travel to Atlanta to face an unranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (21-13, 8-7) who are in the middle of an extremely inconsistent season.

Florida State is one of the best teams in the country and has yet to lose a weekend series which means more than any midweek loss to a rival. The Noles have the best record in the conference and a three game lead in the division over Wake Forest. They are in perfect position to finish the season strong enough to earn a coveted national seed which would ensure home field advantage all the way to the College World Series. There are currently no bad losses for this team as they are a perfect 17-0 against teams with an RPI of 50 or worse.

Georgia Tech isn't waiting til the postseason this year to lose games they shouldn't. So far the Yellow Jackets have series wins over Duke, Miami and North Carolina but went 1-5 against Wake Forest and Pitt. The series against the Panthers saw Georgia Tech score just five runs over the three game series. With all the talent in the state of Georgia it is pretty remarkable that GT and UGA don't have more success.

OFFENSE

This Georgia Tech team is not the high powered "Gorilla Ball" offense that we have come to expect year after year. The offense is good, not great like past teams have been, for as much as the Jackets strike out they don't hit for nearly enough power and are one of the worst in the conference at taking walks. This offense is comparable to the one that Florida State saw when they traveled to Clemson, except they don't hit for as much power.

Florida State on the other hand is the best offense in the ACC and arguably the best in the country. Kentucky's stats are inflated due to the huge numbers they put up on bad out of conference teams. If you compare the Wildcats conference stats to those of the Seminoles in conference the Noles have been more productive.

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I'm not sure how this Tech lineup was shut down by Pitt because the first five hitters in their lineup are having great season. The one through five hitters are all batting over .300 on the season, all have an on-base percentage over .375 and there is some pop with Matt Gonzalez and AJ Murray who both have double digit doubles on the season and four combined homeruns. Georgia Tech is near the top of the conference in stolen base attempts which is good for FSU because they are terrible at it. If they do their homework though I wouldn't expect many attempts or that percentage will only get worse.

Florida State is hoping their best offensive player is available this weekend as DJ Stewart is recovering from an ankle sprain that occurred last weekend against Notre Dame. The Noles are completely capable of scoring runs without him as John Nogowski (.306/.438/.495) and new everyday player Casey Smit (.380/.511/.451) have really stepped it up in conference play. Florida State is also looking for freshman star in the making Ben DeLuzio (.308/.381/.429) to get better now that his ribs have healed and continue to be a threat on the basepaths.

PITCHING

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Florida State walked 28 times last weekend against Notre Dame, the Yellow Jackets walk just as many batters as the Irish do so look for that to play a big role this weekend. That number is even worse in ACC games where they walks twice as many as Florida State. Tech also surrenders as many hits as Notre Dame so look for the Seminoles to have plenty of scoring chances.

The Seminoles strikeouts per nine is average but more importantly their walks per nine is extremely low, only Virginia has a better strikeout to walk ratio than Florida State this season. What is impressive about the pitching staff for the Noles this season is that it is better in the ACC than overall, now that might not be the case at the end of the season as they still have to face some pretty solid offenses before they year is up. A strikeout to walk ratio over three as a staff is excellent and hopefully a number that can be improved against the free swinging, undisciplined team they face this weekend. Of note the Seminoles will be without their closer Friday and Saturday due to some prior obligations.

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I'm not sure why Heddinger is the Friday night guy but on paper it appears to be a huge mismatch between these two starters. The right hander is walking nearly four batters per nine and giving up an exorbitant amount of hits, he has failed to pitch more than five innings in any start this season and has struggled as of late against lineups not nearly as potent as the Seminoles. Opposing him is Luke Weaver, who was just announced to the Golden Spikes Watch List. The potential first rounder is having another fantastic season and is coming off an excellent start in which he was on the wrong end of some defensive miscues and poor relief pitching. Florida State has the obvious advantage in this game.

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The lefty Stanton for Georgia Tech has had the most success this season in the starting roll and has excellent numbers. A very low hits per nine and above average strikeout to walk ratio should indicate that he will make the Noles work extremely hard to get on base. With Leibrandt still recovering from a contusion to his lower leg Compton will get the Saturday start for the third weekend in a row. Compton is allowing a lot of base hits this season, fortunately for him many of them are coming in the variety of singles. As long as hitters are making weak contact and not getting on base via the walk fans can expect continued success from the redshirt sophomore.

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Grimes is one of nine Yellow Jacket pitchers to make a start this season and has been an excellent Sunday pitcher. The right hander has four quality starts on the season and his numbers look worse than they are because of one disastrous outing he had against Miami where he allowed 6 runs on 10 hits and only 3 innings pitched. The Noles will once again turn to Holtmann for the third straight week and hope for similar results as his last two outings, 7 hits over 12 innings and only 3 earned runs. The probability of that is not as high though because the team he is facing in Georgia Tech is much better than the teams he last pitched against in Boston College and Notre Dame.

COVERAGE

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Florida State is the better team and should be able to win the series giving that they are stronger and more consistent on both sides of the ball. If the offense is allowed to do what they do best and is not handcuffed by pressure to score runs early by sacrificing outs they should be fine.

All games are actually televised for those who have CSS, if you don't you can still catch the games via ESPN3 on Friday and Sunday. Saturday will be televised on RSN affiliate channels, in Central Florida that means Fox Sports. Hope to see everyone in the game thread, win or lose.

Go Noles!

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