Despite being the better team Florida State dropped the first two games of this "series" against Florida where their offense went uncharacteristically flat. The Gator pitching staff was in bend don't break mode as the Noles had their chances to score but in the end were only able to score one run in each game which is frustrating for a team that is 7th in the nation in scoring. Since that loss two weeks ago the Noles have been perfect, albeit some terrible competition while the Gators have had their shares of highs and lows.
Since defeating Florida State two weeks ago the Gators played an extremely impressive series against a top five ranked LSU where they swept them at home. Florida has gone 1-3 since that sweep which included a loss to a bad FAU team in extra innings and the first game of the Kentucky series in which they were drubbed by a 17-1 score. The Gators would go on to split the next two games with the Wildcats in a series where their pitching was horrendous.
Offensively the Gators are not a whole lot better overall since these teams last met. They are scoring more than half a run more overall on the season and are averaging over 6 runs per game since the last meeting. Hitters are striking out 40% more than they are walking and still do not hit for a whole lot of power. Taylor Gushue is Florida's best hitter and leads the team with four homeruns while Casey Turgeron is the only player that actually walks more than he strikes out.
The Noles going into this week leading the country in walks, 7th in run scoring and 8th in on-base percentage. As a team they strikeout only 14% more than they walk which is pretty remarkable especially when they hit for as much power as they do. The Noles are 20th in slugging overall and 2nd in the conference. Casey Smit has made the most of his playing time the past two weeks with other players suspended and injured. He is coming of his first ACC Player of the Week award and he is currently hitting .379 with a .518 on-base percentage.
Florida looks for Danny Young to repeat the "success" he had the first time they played, the left hander was only able to retire 8 of the 15 batters he faced but the Noles couldn't capitalize on baserunners. This marks just the third start for Young but he has been very successful in his 17 appearances as he has 21 strikeouts to 6 walks in his 23 innings of work. Billy Strode makes his first start of the season for the Seminoles and is a pretty unpopular decision among fans. The senior has an ERA approaching ten and a WHIP over two. The leash should be very short with Strode as it seems to be all or nothing with him this season in his 11 appearances.
Tensions could be running high given the events that transpired the last times these teams played.
I really hope nothing more happens as either team can't afford suspensions, Florida State takes on Georgia Tech this weekend while Florida faces South Carolina for first place in the division.
Tonight's broadcast can be viewed on ESPN3 starting at 6PM while Dustin and Ariya will be at the ball park with your play-by play. Losing this last game would certainly be disappointing as fans but please keep in mind it has ZERO bearing on the how the season will play out.