What a difference a week makes. Last week when the turnstiles across America started counting the fans coming into the ballpark, many people had different speculations about this Florida State team. At first it was how to fill the holes left from last year. Then with the injury to Mike Compton, it turned to how well the pitching staff will fare this year. Neither of those questions have been completely solved in the seven games played, but the team did put out some eye popping numbers and show what they are capable of this year.
What was one of the more anticipated early non-conference series on the schedule for the Seminoles quickly became a question of whether or not a game would even be played in full. Due to nasty weather in the area starting late Thursday night and continuing through parts Sunday night, the Friday opener against the Bulls was postponed until Saturday. Even with the game being pushed back, rain still hampered Dick Howser Stadium the following day causing two rain delays, albeit one which lasted all of two minutes, before the game was called in the 8th inning. What should have been a doubleheader was now a rain shortened game and another postponement. Luckily for the teams and their fans, Sunday’s weather was much brighter and clearer and the teams were able to squeeze in both games shortly before nickel-sized hail began to fall.
With the odd timing of the games being pushed back or delayed, Florida State still showed a lot of improvement from their first weekend. Once again, as expected, Brandon Leibrandt pitched a strong game one leading FSU to the 14-3 win. Once again, the first game of the series showed clutch hitting for the Garnet and Gold as well as patience at the plate. For the second game, Scott Sitz continued to show why he belongs in the starting rotation by putting up career numbers in the shutout for FSU. Lastly, and most importantly, Peter Miller bounced back from the sad start he had a week ago. Miller’s performance, although not statistically as good as the two before him, is arguably the best one of the series considering how much of a difference he made from one start to the next. At the very least, Miller’s outing was probably the most important to show that he should be the Sunday starter.
Above are some pictures of the action this past weekend against South Florida.
What to Take Away from the Series:
This team has much more potential than most people, myself included, had originally thought. As mentioned above and for weeks leading up to the season, this team was ripped apart by graduations and the draft last year. Much of their leadership had moved on and a plethora of new faces emerged in camp. However, the drop off in production is not nearly as bad as it was once thought it could be. This comes from some of the returners stepping up when needed, but mainly from the new guys in the clubhouse, essentially DJ Stewart and Marcus Davis.
The other big notation to take from this series is how the team was able to stay focused even with some distractions flying around. The weather was horrible for most of the weekend, yet they just went with it. During the few times they got in a jam, they were able to work their way out of it. Most importantly, they cut down on their errors from last weekend. In the three games against Rhode Island, Florida State had eight errors, five of which came from Jose Brizuela. In the three games against South Florida, the team had three errors, none of which came from Brizuela.
Importance of the Series:
Like last week, these early season games are used to get the team ready for conference play and to keep the fans happy. The Friday game against USF (1-4) was the first meeting between the teams since the Bull’s 13-6 loss in the 2002 Tallahassee Regional. Friday’s game was also the first time the teams have had a regular season matchup since 1989.
It was nice to see Florida State (7-0) come out strong against a school from a bigger Division I conference, but it was still against a team that missed the NCAA Tournament last year. South Florida finished with an 18-10 record in Big East play, 38-22 overall.
The series itself may not be overly important compared to some of the upcoming games for the Seminoles, but the performance shown was dramatically important to the team moving forward.
Here is how each individual game broke down.
The first game of the series was pushed back from Friday evening to an early afternoon slot due to the weather. It’s possible the extra day of rest helped FSU, because they came out swinging and knocked USF out of the game early.
At first, it appeared as if the Seminoles were going to have a missed opportunity to open the game. Josh Delph drew the walk to open the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Justin Gonzalez and DJ Stewart got two quick outs, leaving Delph at second. Stephen McGee sparked the team with a two-out RBI double, driving in Delph, and the team never looked back. Three consecutive two-out hits brought in three runs to give FSU the early 3-0 lead in the first. The inning came to an end when Seth Miller was caught stealing second for the final out.
In the third inning, leading 5-0 now, Marcus Davis continued his early hot streak with his second hit of the game, this time a solo home run to right. Davis would finish a perfect 4-4 on the day, collecting two RBI and three runs scored. He was a triple shy of the cycle.
Josh Delph was able to tie a career high with three RBIs and Jose Brizuela paced the Seminoles in patience as he got on base four times via the base-on-balls. As a whole, the team drew 11 walks and only struck out once, Justin Gonzalez on a 2-2 pitch in the second. The team did leave 10 men stranded, but that is bound to happen when they are always on base. Considering the amount they drove in, the ones left on base are not of any concern.
Pitching wise, once again Brandon Leibrandt came out strong. Leibrandt (2-0) struck out two in the first and got a groundout on an 0-2 pitch. Leibrandt was not tagged for any runs until the 5th inning on a SAC fly making it 8-1. The batter who came in hit a triple right before the SAC fly. The Bulls would score again in the following inning on a two-run homer coming by Austin Lueck from 3-2 pitch which was just a bad location Leibrandt paid for in the end.
Although Leibrandt got the job done, it could have been a much closer game if the defense played like it did last week. South Florida couldn’t get the timely hit they needed and FSU didn’t over think the routine plays like they did last week. Leibrandt would get himself in trouble, but settle down to get out of it. USF would end up stranding seven men in the game.
In the bottom of the 8th, with rain starting to loom, FSU went on a tear scoring five runs on four hits. Florida State had the bases loaded with two outs before the game was halted due to rain. After about twenty minutes of a rain delay, it was officially called with the Seminoles winning 14-3 in eight innings.
MVP of the Game:
Marcus Davis – Plain and simply put, this guy can hit. Davis went 4-4 with a double and a home run. Tack on a stolen base and a walk and it becomes clear as to who the star of the game was. Davis finished the game hitting .467 (7-15) on the season with three home runs and 6 RBI.
Davis G1 (via Ryan Syrkus)
Things to Work On:
Surprisingly, there is nothing too drastic that sticks out from this game. Florida State got the early lead in the first, all on two-out hitting. Consistent aggressiveness on the base paths brought in more runs in the second and third. At the same time, the aggressiveness is a high risk/high reward as the Seminoles were also thrown out trying to steal second and Justin Gonzalez was picked off at first, both of which ended the inning (1st and 3rd respectively).
Quote of the Game:
Mike Martin on the team’s reaction to the weather delays: "[The team] just roll with the punches and that’s what you have to do in this sport. When you think about it’s one of the few sports that goes through this. Name another one that sits around for three hours, unless it’s the Super Bowl and the lights go out."
Martin G1 (via Ryan Syrkus)
Florida State needed a No. 2 starter and they found a legitimate one in Scott Sitz. Toward the end of last year, Sitz (1-0) had amped up his play and started a nice stretch of games in which he left the team with the strong chance to win. Although he may not have factored into the decisions (UAB in the Tallahassee Regional and UF in Jacksonville), Sitz still pitched well.
That trend seems to have continued into this season. In game one of the doubleheader, Sitz went a career high eight shutout innings, striking out six. Tossing 99 pitches, Sitz gave up four hits and two walks. At one point in the game, he had sat down nine consecutive batters.
To aid in the performance by Sitz, FSU once again got out to an early lead. Due in part to two errors by South Florida, the Seminoles got four runs in the first. During that opening inning, USF starter Nick Gonzalez struggled to find the strike zone, hitting Josh Delph and Jose Brizuela, walking Giovanny Alfonzo, and tossing a wild pitch. Gonzalez would later settle down and strike out 10 Seminoles, but the damage had already been done.
Offensively, Florida State did not have the awe it did the night before, but they still capitalized on the extra outs given to them. FSU had timely hits in the 6th and 7th innings. John Sansone drove in two on a single after both runners advanced from a wild pitch by Justin Patrick. In a similar situation the next inning, FSU took advantage of a passed ball and John Nogowski’s hit-by-pitch. Jose Brizuela would get the two RBI double, making the score 8-0 in the 7th.
MVP of the Game:
Scott Sitz – Going a new career high 8 innings pitched, Sitz looks like he belonged as the number two starter. Granted, it was on a Sunday (his old spot last season), but his final line is just as impressive. Sitz only gave up four hits, walked two, and struck out six after facing 28 batters. He threw 99 pitches with 66 going for strikes.
To add to how impressive he has been in his last handful of starts, since the UAB game in the Tallahassee Regional last year, Sitz has only given up two runs in 23 innings of work. Since UCLA in the College World Series, he has gone 13.2 scoreless innings. It was an easy choice to pick "The Stache" as the MVP for this game.
Sitz G2 (via Ryan Syrkus)
Things to Work On:
Like the first game, there was nothing too shocking in the game. You could say that they need to cut back on their strikeouts, but they were also facing a pitcher that had a 2.63 ERA last year in 41 innings of work. FSU was still able to draw six walks and they took advantage of the wild pitch, passed ball, and two errors by the Bulls. This game was probably the best Florida State has looked all year even with the amount of strikeouts they had.
Quote of the Game:
Scott Sitz on what was working for him: "I think mostly just my slider. That’s been such a huge pitch for me. Getting out of jams or just being able to throw it for strikes. Throwing more consistently, that’s been the biggest thing for me."
Going off what was said earlier, what a difference a week makes. Last week, Peter Miller looked downright nasty, and not in a good way. Miller walked four giving up four runs, two of which were earned, and left the game after 75 pitches for his season debut. Not a good start for the junior righty.
This week, Miller (1-0) threw his best game in a gold jersey, or any other color jersey with anything FSU related on it for that matter. Miller tossed six innings of scoreless ball and struck out five, both career highs. He would keep the Bulls hitless until the fifth when Jimmy Falla led off with a single. Miller threw 73 pitches with 54 of them going for strikes. That’s an astounding 74 percent.
Unlike the first two games of the series, FSU did not get to an early lead. Florida State did not break through until the 4th inning on Ladson Montgomery’s RBI double. They would score again in the next inning with DJ Stewart’s 2 RBI double to right.
South Florida would start to threaten late in the game when Bryant Holtmann came in for FSU. Holtmann only faced two batters giving up a walk and a double. Both men were left in scoring position when Holtmann left, one of which made it home cutting the lead to 3-1. Gage Smith would get them out of the inning and leave two on base for USF.
Smith would struggle a little bit in the following frame, surrendering a hit and a run to the Bulls. Kyle Bird would enter the game to keep FSU’s lead intact. Jameis Winston finished off the game recording his first collegiate save, shutting down the three he faced on 16 pitches. The Seminoles would escape with the series sweep, winning game three 5-2.
MVP of the Game:
Peter Miller – Although DJ Stewart is well deserving of the honors (3-4 with 3 RBI), I’m giving it to Miller because his improvement from his last start. During his start against Rhode Island, Miller only last 75 pitches and hit with four runs. This game against the Bulls, Miller went a career high six innings with five strikeouts, only giving up two hits and walking one. Miller, for now, has secured his spot as the Sunday started. Luke Weaver can still compete for it, but Miller will continue to be the No. 3 guy if he performs like he did on Sunday on a regular basis.
Things to Work On:
This one is a bit of common sense, but they need to avoid getting in trouble by allowing men on base. Both Holtmann and Smith didn’t look as sharp as they did last week against Rhode Island. However, Smith and Bird got the outs when they needed them the most. It’s hard to nitpick every small detail the team does, but overall it was a very impressive outing in each game this weekend.
Quote of the Game:
Mike Martin on the team’s attitude during the doubleheader: "You win the first game today. You know you’ve won the series but yet there is no, ‘I’m satisfied.’ There’s that desire to win the next one. It’s something that makes all of us coaches that makes us extremely proud to be associated with a group that approaches the game that way."
Martin G3 (via Ryan Syrkus)
Florida State continues its 15 game home stand with a three game series against Villanova starting Friday at 4 p.m. The Wildcats enter Tallahassee with a 1-3 record. Just like FSU had this past weekend, Villanova has run into plenty of weather issues, having to cancel four of their games. It should be an easy weekend for the Seminoles as the Wildcats have lost games to Monmouth, Wagner, and North Carolina State by a combined score of 26-13; most of the runs against came against the Wolfpack in their 14-3 loss. Their lone win was 6-3 over La Salle.
On the injury side of things, John Holland is scheduled for surgery today, he has been battling a bad back. Justin Gonzalez sat out both games on Sunday with an injured hip. Mike Martin said that he has not been responding to treatment and will have a MRI this week. Martin didn't sound overly optimistic in the above interview. Gio Alfonso looked great in the field as his replacement but struggled mightily at the plate.
Hope you enjoyed the photo gallery at the top and the rest of the series recap. Here is a short video of some Seminoles having fun in the wacky weather in Tallahassee.
Hail G3 (via Ryan Syrkus)