The Florida State Seminoles are in the same exact position they were in last year when facing Clemson during the last series of the season. Win only one game and claim the Atlantic Division title and a #2 seed in the ACC tournament. Last year the pitching staff struggled all weekend and the Noles were swept by the Tigers who finished with an identical record of 18-12 but losing the Atlantic crown. Both ball clubs are playing well over the past month, Clemson at 14-3 and Florida State at 13-3 with the 3 losses from FSU coming against Miami, UCF and NCST and Clemson’s were at the hands of WF, GT and VT. There is much more at stake than a division title for Florida State, a series win would strengthen their chances of earning a coveted national seed and hosting all the way to the College World Series. For further insight to this upcoming series let’s read what two of the most prominent national writes have to say.
Kendall Rodgers of PerfectGame
No. 16 Clemson at No. 5 Florida State: The Tigers have played an exciting brand of baseball the past few weeks and hope to increase their chances of earning an NCAA Regional host with a road series win over the Seminoles this weekend. FSU, meanwhile, has its sights set on a national seed and a series win over the high RPI Tigers would be yet another step forward going into the ACC tournament. There’s a lot at stake in this series.
Clemson heads to Florida State: There was a time not too long ago when it looked like the Tigers would struggle just to make the NCAA tournament. Now, they’re one of the nation’s hottest teams and have accumulated 37 wins and a 15-12 ACC record. In other words, it’s still a long shot, but the Tigers have a chance to seriously join the NCAA Regional hosting discussion with a road series win over Florida State. The Seminoles, meanwhile, are playing for a lot this weekend, too. They’re in the mix with North Carolina, Georgia Tech and plenty of others for a national seed and could use a series win over the Tigers this weekend. Both teams have much at stake when they take the diamond.
Aaron Fitt of Baseball America
Aaron Fitt: Follow-up to the last answer: obviously Virginia is a lock for a national seed, so I think Georgia Tech, Florida State and North Carolina are competing for one national seed, maybe two. Clemson has an outside shot if it can finish very strong, but that will be a tall order on the road at FSU this weekend. Tech has the edge over UNC by virtue of the head-to-head series this weekend and the standings, but at this point I still like Florida State's body of work a tad more than Georgia Tech's.
Josh (Auckland, NZ): Aaron, with ASU falling to Southern Cal this weekend, and with the jump in the RPI to #4, does this move Florida State off the National Seed bubble (In) category or will a series win over Clemson ultimately do that instead? Thanks.
Aaron Fitt: I think they need to win the Clemson series to move to the "safely in" category for a national seed. Those top ACC teams are too tightly bunched otherwise
Inside we will preview both the pitching and offense.
As you can see Clemson is a very good offensive ball club, ranking near the top of the ACC in offense translates to being one of the best offenses in the country. The Tigers will hurt you with extra base hits as they are an excellent slugging ball club, the obvious key is keeping runners off base. Clemson is not a team that takes a lot of walks so making them earn their base runners should be a major objective for Seminole pitchers. Shortstop Brad Miller is coming off his 3rd ACC Player of the week and his tearing the cover off the ball recently while amassing a .422/.478./.566 slash line in conference play. Other standout bats for the Tigers are senior LF Jeff Schaus (.356/.439/.500) and junior C Phil Pohl (.356/.422./.500). This offense will take advantage of poor pitching and should be able to score runs at similar rate to Florida State.
Going into the last weekend of the regular season and Florida State is again one of the best offenses in the country. The Noles offense does everything well and that is a credit to the fine job done by the coaches. The Seminoles have 3 hitters of their own that carry an OPS of .900 or better this year. Junior RF James Ramsey (.358/.424/.587), senior C Rafael Lopez (.329/.467/.439) and senior CF Mike McGee (.297/.444/.505) have carried this offense all year. The Noles are also hoping that the leadoff bat of Devon Travis (.306/.425/.439) will return this weekend stabilizing a lineup that struggles last weekend in his absence.
While in the top tier of the conference neither Clemson or Florida State have elite pitching staffs nor do they do anyone thing that well. Looking at the number Clemson does have a better overall pitching staff, they surrender less hits and walks than the Noles while striking out about the same number of batters per 9 innings. Unfortunately for the Noles the Tigers are pitching very well as of late. In that 17 game stretch where they went 14-3 the pitching staff has allowed 2.8 runs per game. Only once did they allow more than more than 5 runs in a game and they held the opposition to 3 runs or less in 13 of the 17 games including their last 10 straight. The Seminoles pitching staff is still in a great state of flux as they enter the last weekend of the regular season not having a concrete rotation. No team in the ACC has had worst starting pitching on the weekends than the Noles which has forced them to try out their 8th different pitcher of the year. In the same span that Clemson has allowed 2.8 runs per game the Seminoles staff is allowing 4.4 runs per game and allowed less than 3 runs in only half of the 16 games played.
Note: Season stats were used due to Clemson not posting conference only stats
Thursday May 19 - 6 PM - Tallahassee, FL - Radio: None FM - TV: None
Sophomore RHP Dominic Leone is a solid Friday starter who strikes out hitters at a high rate but fortunately for the Noles he walks a lot as well. Junior LHP Sean Gilmartin has been one of the best pitchers in the conference as well as the country. He is in contention for ACC pitcher of the year and an excellent start will very much help his chances.
Friday May 20 - 6 PM - Tallahassee, FL - Radio: None FM - TV: None
Clemson has the definite advantage with 5'-9” 170lb senior RHP Justin Sarrat, who has excellent command. Sophomore RHP Robert Benincasa is making his 2nd start of the season and the first in conference play. His body of work has been primarily in a reliever role so there is no evidence that he can be an effective starter but you would like to think if he could it wouldn’t have taken 3 months to figure that out.
Saturday May 21 - 1 PM - Tallahassee, FL - Radio: None FM - TV: FSN
Both teams will throw pitchers who have just recently moved into a starting role. Sophomore RHP Jonathan Meyer has thrown very well as a Sunday starter as the number below indicate.
Mike McGee has proven to be an effective starter in years past but has yet to prove he can be a valuable commodity moving forward.
First thing is that the sample size is small but it can give you an indication of how he as looked. Some pitchers get better as the game moves on, some get worse. Hitters seem to adjust to McGee after seeing him making better contact as evident by his H/9 and BABIP, this needs to improve if Florida State expects him to give them a legitimate chance of winning from this point on.
Clemson is a very good team and more balanced than Florida State. Despite playing on the road I think Clemson will win the series and if they manage to steal Thursday’s game the Noles could expereince a terrible case of déjà vu.
Live game thread will begin tonight at 6PM, come back for live updates.