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#5 Florida State Seminoles Baseball Team to Host #1 Ranked Virginia Cavaliers: Series Preview

The Florida State Seminoles look to exact some revenge on a Virginia Cavaliers team that defeated them in the 2009 ACC Championship game en route to their first conference title since 1996.  The 2010 Virginia squad comes into Tallahassee ranked #1 overall in the Baseball America rankings and 3rd overall in the CBI Composite Poll right behind a Seminoles team that is ranked 2nd. 

UVA is an experienced squad that returns a ton of talent from last year's Omaha bound team and this weekend series will be Florida State's first true test of the year as they will see a combination of elite pitching and stellar hitting that rivals their own.  This is the marquee matchup of the weekend if not the entire year so lets take a look and see what those on the national scene are saying.

Baseball America's Aaron Fitt

Question:  With the opening weekend of the ACC coming up and a huge matchup of top 5 teams, Virginia @ FSU. Which team has more to prove here and who do you see winning the series?

Aaron Fitt: Virginia has more to prove - just look at all the detractors every week on this chat. People somehow don't think the Cavaliers are for real, even after their incredibly impressive run to Omaha last year (beating Strasburg, Irvine twice, Ole Miss in Oxford...) and the fact that they have nearly all the key pieces back from that team. Florida State is Florida State - that program is as rock-solid and established as it could possibly be. As good as I think Virginia is, you probably have to give FSU the edge at home this weekend - that's a really good team on any field, but at Dick Howser the Seminoles are incredibly difficult to beat. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Cavs go down there and hit a bunch of home runs to that short porch in right field and win that series. Virginia has lots of power, even though their home run numbers are depressed by their home field.

Yahoo Sports! Kendall Rogers

Question: I'm an LSU fan and I can understand why LSU isn't in the top spot based on their weak schedule so far, but I don't believe that Virginia is deserving. Why not some one like FSU who is also undefeated and has some better wins than UVA?
Kendall Rogers: Florida State has been extremely impressive so far this season, but a weekend series win over East Carolina on the road, which is in the top ten, is much more impressive to me than a home weekend series win over Georgia. Just my two cents.... would not have an issue with someone putting FSU ahead of Virginia. Just think Virginia is the more balanced team. The good news is we will have our answer after this weekend.

Question: FSU-UVA prediction?

Kendall Rogers: Giving me the nasty curveball on the outside corner already... I applaud you, sir. Give me Virginia two of three in a phenomenal three-game set.

Rogers also wrote a recent article on FSU Senior shortstop Stephen Cardullo - Florida State's Cardullo a perfect example

Inside we will breakdown pitching and hitting and give you insight into key matchups.

Pitching Preview:
There are many teams in college baseball that can hit but the teams that excel and usually make it deep into the playoffs are ones that can also pitch.  Of the 8 teams that made it to Omaha in 2009, 6 of them ranked in the top 10 in ERA (ERA is an awful stat I know).  To nobody's surprise last years FSU staff was bad while Virginia's was tops in the ACC and the nation as the stats below depict.

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So what can we expect from these pitching staffs in 2010,  lets look at the projected series starters.

Friday March 12th - 6 PM - Tallahassee, Fla - Radio: 1270 the Team/94.3 FM - GameTracker

Friday's matchup will feature two of the top pitchers in college baseball.  FSU will send out 2009 Freshman Pitcher of the Year Sean Gilmartin while UVA combats that with 2009 Freshman Utility Player of the Year Danny Hultzen.  Gilmartin had a great 2009 but as you can see below Hultzen absolutely dominated. 

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Game 1 should be a pitchers duel as both Sophomores have had stellar 2010 campaigns.

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Both lefties will undoubtedly face the best lineups they have all year and perhaps their careers so that makes your guess as good as mine to the outcome of this game.

Saturday March 13th - 6 PM - Tallahassee, Fla - Radio: 100.7 FM - GameTracker

Saturday should feature Junior lefty John Gast versus Junior righty Robert Morey. It is hard to put much stock into Gast's 2009 stats has he was very limited in action and was coming off of Tommy John surgery.

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Morey on the other hand had an excellent sophomore season giving UVA one of the most potent staffs in all of college baseball.  2010 has been much better for Gast while Morey has had command issues resulting in decreased strikeouts and increased walks, hopefully something a very disciplined FSU offense can take advantage of.

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It is important to keep sample size in mind when looking at this years stats and both pitcher could easily revert back to the way they pitched in 2009 giving UVA an obvious advantage.  If this matchup turns into a pitching duel I would give Florida State a slight advantage.

Sunday March 14th - 1 PM - Tallahassee, Fla - Radio: 1270 the Team/94.3 FM - TV - Sun Sports - GameTracker

While there is potential for games 1 and 2 to provide very little offensive output Sunday could turn into a slugfest.  Both teams are in search of a number 3 starter, UVA due to the loss of Andrew Carraway to graduation and FSU due to the loss of Brian Busch from the starting rotation due to arm issues.   The Seminoles send out Geoff Parker while the Cavaliers match him with JUCO transfer Cody Winarski.  We don't have 2009 numbers for Winarski and let's try and forget what Parker did last year and look to what both pitchers have done in 2010.

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Good thing for Winarski and Parker that their respective offenses score 11.6 and 13.6 runs per game every time they start.  Neither pitcher has gone further than 5 1/3 innings this season and neither has faced lineups as strong as they will which could leave the results of this game in the hands of the bullpen.

Bullpen issues have plagued Seminole teams in years past but in 2010 it is one of the many bright spots and could be a decisive factor in determining who wins this series. 

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With roughly the same amount of innings pitched FSU has the clear advantage on UVA. The Cavalier bullpen is giving up almost 3 more hits per 9 and walking a full batter more.  If starters get in trouble look for the Seminoles to utilize relievers Brian Busch and Tyler Everett who have allowed 1 earned run in 17 1/3 combined innings with a strikeout to walk ratio of 20:4.  If the Cavaliers make it to the 9th inning with a lead FSU will have to deal with closer Kevin Arico who has been nothing short of lights out, he has recorded 10 strikeouts and 0 walks in 7 innings pitched and is a perfect 4 for 4 in save opportunities.

Offense Preview:

It was said above that Virginia has probably the most balanced team in the nation.  We will start off by comparing Florida State and Virginia's offense in ACC play last year.

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As you can see UVA ranks at the top or near the top of every offensive category which is a major reason they were so successful last year.  Why should FSU be so concerned with what Virginia did last year?  Easy, they return all 10 starters from last year College World Series lineups, an astonishing 88.5% of the team's total 2009 at bats is back for 2010.  As mentioned in a previous article the UF team we faced had only 40.5% and the UGA team had only 30%.

Here is what that UVA lineup has done so far in 2010 as compared with FSU and the rest of the Top 10.

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The Florida State pitching staff is off to a great start but has come nowhere close to facing a lineup full of this much talent and experience.  This early in the season it is extremely hard to predict how each pitcher and hitter will react to the elite competition and to predict who will win this series would be a complete shot in the dark. That being said whoever does win this series should be considered the best team in the nation.