Seminoles Look for Revenge Against Irish

Tomahawk Nation

Saturday's baseball game featuring Florida State and Notre Dame has been postponed due to severe weather in the Tallahassee area. The two teams will meet on Sunday, April 6 for a doubleheader with the first game starting at 10:00 a.m. and the second to start 35 minutes after the completion of game one.

UPDATE:

Saturday's baseball game featuring Florida State and Notre Dame has been postponed due to severe weather in the Tallahassee area.
The two teams will meet on Sunday, April 6 for a doubleheader with the first game starting at 10:00 a.m. and the second to start 35 minutes after the completion of game one.
The first game of the doubleheader will air live on ESPNU. (Game 3 will be audio only
Tickets for Saturday and Sunday's game against Notre Dame will be honored for both games of the doubleheader on Sunday.

I was but a "shunior" the last time these teams played each other, the year was 2002 and the Noles were the best team in the land. Florida State was the number one team in the country and had buzz sawed through the regular season, swept through the ACC tournament and had no problem winning their regional which set up a show down with Notre Dame for a trip to the College World Series. The Fighting Irish had a great season going, the best in their history, but no way they were going to stop the Seminoles juggernaut that had won 25 straight games and 3 All-Americans in their lineup and one on the mound.

That All-American had the worst start of his career in game one and the Seminoles saw their win streak snapped and were faced with a loss for the first time in two months. The Noles responded in game two with an 8 run first inning and would go on to win setting up a game three with the winner making the trip to Omaha. Florida State was shut out the first seven innings and would only score one run which led to Notre Dame going to the CWS for the first time since 1957 and ending one of the best seasons in Florida State history.

The fortunes of these two programs have gone in opposite directions since, the Noles are one of the best programs in the country with Omaha aspirations every season while Notre Dame has played in the postseason only 4 times since, none since 2006 and hasn't advanced past regionals. This season the Noles are again one of the elite who have won their last four games minus their best player, starting center fielder and were down a weekend starter and a couple other key contributors. Florida State has yet to lose a weekend series while the Fighting Irish have yet to win one, in fact Notre Dame has been outright terrible this season, they currently have only one win in conference play. That one win came against Wake Forest while they were swept by VT, NCST and Duke, only one of those teams will more than likely make the postseason.

OFFENSE:

The Noles faced a horrendous lineup last weekend against Boston College and it appears the one Notre Dame will bring to town isn't any better. Scoring less than half the runs Florida State does against a week level of competition shouldn't give the Irish much hope that they can score runs against a stout FSU pitching staff. The Irish are a free swinging team with virtually no plate discipline that doesn't hit for power, Notre Dame has been shut out more times in ACC play than they have scored 4 or more runs. The Seminoles sometimes go a couple innings without scoring but when their 27th out is recorded they somehow have manage to score 8 runs making them one of only 7 teams in the country that can say that.

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Individually there a not a lot of players that stand out for Notre Dame but first baseman Blaise Lezynski leads the .320/.379/.380 slash and leads the team with 18 runs driven in. If you are around my age or older and grew up a fan of baseball you will undoubtedly remember the Hall of Fame second baseman that played for the Houston Astros his entire career. The saying "Damn, I feel old" applies here as his two sons, Cavan (FR) and Conor (JR) both play for the Fighting Irish.

The Seminoles finally get back their best player in outfielder DJ Stewart who looks to continue his on-base streak of 51 games. The sophomore is batting .380/.496/.630 and is one of two hitters to have walked more than struck out. The other player is first baseman John Nogowski who has been hot of the past two weeks and is currently riding a six game hitting streak. Over those games the junior is 11 for 27 with 6 walks and 3 strikeouts, has scored 11 times and driven in 7 with 2 homeruns as well.

PITCHING:

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It is a shame that the Notre Dame offense is so terrible because the pitching is not all that bad. A sub four ERA puts them in the middle of the conference. The Irish should consider themselves lucky though because against teams with a potent offense they will be scored on. They are the third worst in the conference in BB/9 and K/9, behind only Virginia Tech and Boston College, a recipe for disaster against a team like Florida State.

Half way through the season and the Seminoles pitching staff has better numbers in conference play than overall. Yes the samples size is smaller and the level of competition is going to get tougher for the Noles as they continue through ACC play but it shows promise for the remainder of the season. Florida State is middle of the ACC in strikeouts per nine but are 2nd behind Virginia in walks which is vital to having an elite pitching staff.

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Notre Dame's ace took the loss last start but it wasn't because of his pitching, the right hander gave up an earned run in his 7 innings pitched with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts while scattering 4 singles. The senior rarely walks hitters but he also rarely strikes them which means he puts a lot of his fate in the hands of his teammates.

Luke Weaver is coming off his 2nd ACC Pitcher of the Week award this season, the junior threw the Noles third complete game of the season (second shutout) against Boston College. He dominated Eagle hitters no hitting them through 6.2 innings and allowed only one single.

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Michael Hearne has just entered the weekend rotation and has done so with mixed results, last week against Wake Forest he threw only 4.1 innings allowing 6 runs on 8 hits with a hit batter, 2 walks and no strikeouts. In a controlled start against Appalachian State he threw 42 pitches over 3 innings allowing only 4 hits with 4 strikeouts and two walks. The lefty earned a spot in the weekend rotation after an 8.1 inning relief appearance against Virginia Tech where he allowed only 1 earned run. His numbers look good but he has yet to face a lineup of Florida State's caliber.

It's been 2 weeks since Brandon Leibrandt last pitched, missed last weekend due to an illness, and it might be another. The junior suffered a knee bruise this week after taking a ball off of it in practice. If he does pitch and is as close to as sharp as he was against Clemson the Noles will be in good shape. The lefty pitched a complete game against the Tigers allowing only one run (unearned) on four hits. If he isn't able to throw look for Compton to fill in the Saturday slot like last weekend.

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Connaughton averaged 13.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3 assists per game this season for the Irish and I wish the Irish weren't so bad in basketball because he is a pretty good pitcher too. His season numbers are a result of one bad start in a very small sample size. The highly thought of high school prospect has been one of Notre Dame's best pitchers the past two seasons and poses a formidable matchup to whoever the Seminoles pitch on Sunday.

Mike Compton was on the wrong end of some bad luck last weekend. His defense didn't do him any favors committing three errors in the first six innings and of the 8 hits allowed, 4 of them never let the infield. It seems like forever ago when Compton threw the first complete game shutout for the Noles in over a decade but the redshirt sophomore hasn't really pitched all that bad. Not sharp but well enough to keep Florida State in the game, especially when the opposing Sunday pitcher is usually lucky to make it through the fourth inning. If Leibrandt does miss the first game I would look towards Bryant Holtmann who started last weekend against Boston College and allowed 1 run on 3 hits over 6 strong innings.

As said earlier the Noles have yet to drop a series this season and that won't happen this weekend. Florida State is the more complete team and should have their lineup almost back to full strength, DeLuzio was listed as a maybe for this weekend but I wouldn't want to rush back bruised ribs. A loss this weekend would be disappointing because of the way Notre Dame has played so far in league play but it wouldn't mean the end of the world.

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Tickets are selling well for this series but if you are not able to make it to the ball park all three games will be aired, Friday and Saturday at 6PM on ESPN3 with Sunday's game starting at noon on ESPNU. Dustin and Ariya will be at the park all weekend and we will cover the play by play right here.

Go Noles!

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