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Noles Make Their Case as an Elite Team

5th ranked Florida State managed to rebound after a bad outing and take two of three against 11th ranked Georgia Tech.

Florida State (22-2, 7-2) managed to rebound in more ways than one this weekend and make their case why they are one of the best programs in the nation. The Seminoles looked great at times and downright bad at other times, yet they managed to take two of three against Georgia Tech (18-5, 6-3).

Importance of the Series:

It should go without saying, but this series was huge. Georgia Tech is hands down the best competition Florida State has faced so far this year. Up until this point, no one really had a solid gage on this FSU team. Yes they’ve won and they’ve won big, but it was against inferior opponents. Being able to take two of three against the Yellow Jackets was big, not only because it was against another ACC team, but also on a national level to see where the Seminoles really stand against the nation’s best.

What to take Away from the Series:

You can put all the questions away about how well FSU would face against a top team. However, a few more questions came up during the Seminoles winning the series.

  1. How well can Florida State perform against elite pitching
  2. Will there be a change in the weekend rotation coming soon?
  3. What happened to Brandon Leibrandt since last season?

To try and answer some of the questions, FSU is a good hitting team, but Buck Farmer dominated them in the early game Friday. It’s only one game against a great pitcher, but it didn’t look good.

I would be surprised if there is not a change in the weekend rotation. Peter Miller did not fare well on Sunday and Luke Weaver is arguably the best pitcher this year for FSU. If Weaver can do well on Tuesday, I’d expect to see him as a weekend starter.

This last question doesn’t have a solid answer. No one expected Leibrandt to repeat the year he had last season, but not even making it out of the second inning is not good. Leibrandt is still one of the best pitchers FSU has, but there have been rumors and ideas floating around that Scott Sitz deserves the Friday starts with Leibrandt on Saturday. I can’t imagine Leibrandt going to Saturday starts, but it might be the wakeup call he needs.

Game 1
FSU 0 GT 10

Florida State faced questions of how well they really are since, for the most part, they’ve only faced weak opponents. This game did not help their cause as the Yellow Jackets rocked the Seminoles for a 10-0 shutout.

Georgia Tech’s ace Buck Farmer was brilliant against FSU, tossing 7 innings of two hit ball while striking out 7 Noles. The Garnet and Gold could not match Farmer’s effort as Brandon Leibrandt couldn’t make it out of the second inning. Leibrandt gave up four runs in 1.1 innings, all off six hits. Leibrandt only faced 10 batters.

Bryant Holtmann briefly calmed things down, going 2.2 innings with two strikeouts while giving up two runs. By this time, it was already the 4th inning, FSU trailed 6-0, and they faced a 15th round draft pick. It was almost certain of the fate the Seminoles eventually faced. Kenny Burkhead would only seal it the next two innings when he gave up an additional four runs to GT coming off four walks and four hits. Six innings down and Florida State was trailing 10-0 while showing very little life at the plate.

When all was said and done, the carnage left behind was a beaten and bruised FSU team trying to get ready for game two of the doubleheader less than an hour after the conclusion of the first matchup. FSU was outhit 13-3 and struck out nine times in the early game. This was also the first time FSU has been shutout this year.

MVP of the Game:

No one is really deserving of it this game since no one stood out in a positive light. The FSU defense was much better than they have been recently and they showed good effort with a few sliding catches and dive attempts. Unfortunately for them, the ball still managed to squeak by on most of their attempts.

The "award" itself should go to Dylan Silva though. It is possible GT wanted to finish the game and start the second, but Silva was the best pitcher the Noles had in this game. Three innings pitched, three walks, two strikeouts, and the important stat, no runs allowed.

Things to Work On:

Just about everything with this game. The Seminoles couldn’t hit, due mainly to fantastic pitching from Buck Farmer and company. FSU was just as bad pitching this game as their hitting was. Ten runs for the Yellow Jackets, only 4 strikeouts for the Noles. Florida State pitching gave up 8 walks. It was an ugly game all around.

Quote of the Game:

Mike Martin: "Obviously Georgia Tech is a beautiful baseball team. They’re the total package. I did not see a weakness in their club. I was very impressed with them. There is an awful lot of good clubs in this country and Georgia Tech is certainly one of them…Buck Farmer, he’s just, that was one of the best pitching performances you can find. He was something."

Game 2
FSU 11 GT 3

The Seminoles got exactly what they needed in the second game of the doubleheader. FSU got out to an early lead and Scott Sitz cruised most of the way against one of the nation’s best hitting teams.

Sitz managed to go 5.1 innings, giving up eight hits and two unearned runs. The righty struck out five and walked four. More impressing was his ability to get out of the jam. In just the first five innings alone, Georgia Tech stranded six on base. Some of this was due in part to Seth Miller and two fantastic throws from center field to get a runner at home plate. Miller’s two outfield assists came in the fourth and fifth inning.

Offensively, the Noles were hitting on all cylinders. FSU entered the sixth inning with a 7-0 lead and managed to have 11 hits and seven walks by the end of the game. GT still outhit FSU 13-11, but that just goes back to credit the Seminole pitching and defense in game two of the doubleheader.

DJ Stewart was bringing in guys left and right, most came off his grand slam in the fifth, as Stewart finished with six RBIs. Marcus Davis also had a good game, going 2-3 and scoring four runs. Davis also drew two walks. Similar to Davis, Josh Delph helped the team out by simply being on base. Delph scored three runs and finished 1-2 at the plate. Delph also had two walks.

MVP of the Game:

Both DJ Stewart and Scott Sitz are worthy of these honors, however, Seth Miller is getting it for this game. No, Miller did not have the best day at the plate going 1-4, but he made two fantastic plays from center field to kill any type of rally Georgia Tech was trying to form. In both the 4th and 5th innings, Miller threw out a runner at the plate. The first was the third out and left two men on for GT while the second outfield assist became the first out in the 5th inning. This one was especially spectacular considering the runner started at third base before being tossed out at home.

Things to Work On:

The main "problem" which stuck out in this game was the amount of hits given up. Although it is nothing dramatic to be concerned about considering the offense Georgia Tech has, the Noles still gave up 13 hits. Another reason this isn’t much to be concerned about is the fact that FSU pitching got out of almost every jam they were put in. The Yellow Jackets stranded 11 in the nightcap of the doubleheader and the Seminoles did a great job coming back after what happened just hours earlier against Buck Farmer.

Quote of the Game:

Seth Miller on his defense: "[Throwing people out] is probably my favorite part of the outfield. Making huge diving catches are fun, but that happens more often than throwing people out. Especially to do it two times in back-to-back innings in one game, that’s kind of rare. It’s probably not as rare as my grand slams, but it’s still pretty cool."

Game 3
FSU 8 GT 6

Florida State still has questions to answer, but for the mean time, they shut up some critics with the way they rebounded from an early deficit.

Peter Miller did not have his best outing, only lasting 1.1 innings and giving up 5 runs (4 earned). The Seminoles trailed 5-0 heading into the bottom of the second. At this time freshman relief pitcher Jameis Winston gathered the team in the dugout telling them, urging them, "Get that look in your eye. Let’s go out and do our thing."

As soon as the Seminoles got to bat again, they got on base. FSU manufactured a run off a sacrifice fly to center and brought life back to a team who could have easily stayed down for the count.

Two innings later, in the fourth, another run would come in, this time off a Seth Miller single.

Slowly, Florida State chipped away at what was once a 5-0 deficit. In comes Seth Miller once again in the seventh inning, the score now 6-4. Men are on first and second with two outs. Miller then proceeds to take a 1-1 pitch to right center for a game tying 2-RBI double. Miller would finish the game 2-2 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored.

Enter the eighth inning, game still tied at 6 and a series victory on the line for both clubs. One out and two are on for DJ Stewart. A wild pitch advances the runners to second and third. On the next pitch, Stewart rips the ball up the middle for a 2-run single. FSU has their first lead of the game and Robby Coles would remain on the mound to keep the score at 8-6. Florida State wins.

MVP of the Game:

Bryant Holtmann – First off, Florida State did a great job coming back after being down 5-0 in the second inning. DJ Stewart had the winning hit, Seth Miller tied the game the inning before and the entire Seminole bullpen was phenomenal. Still, it was Holtmann who came in and shut down a scorching Georgia Tech offense. Holtmann went 3.1 innings, only gave up two hits and one run, and struck out five. That’s five of the 13 batters he faced who struck out. Holtmann’s performance kept FSU in the game.

Things to Work On:

Mike Martin mentioned that he has no definite answer just yet and that he would be meeting with Mike Bell during the week but you have to think the weekend rotation will change after what happened. Peter Miller struggled, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs (only 4 were earned) after facing 11 batters. Although Miller got in a few two-strike situations, he was unable to get that last strike and it costs the team a handful of runs. Miller also had a throwing error which did not help his case. Depending on what Luke Weaver does Tuesday in Jacksonville, Miller might become the new midweek starter.

Quote of the Game:

Mike Martin: "You just can’t say enough about what a great job the bullpen did. Every pitcher went out there and held the other club in check…Our bullpen did a great job of keeping them right there for the next six innings and that’s exciting for us. It goes to show you what a great job Mike Bell is doing with our pitchers."

Looking Ahead:

No. 5 Florida State is back on the road during arguably the hardest week of their schedule. They just took two of three against No. 11 Georgia Tech and are immediately rewarded with a neutral-site game against in-state rival Florida (11-14, 2-4) and a road trip to Virginia Tech (18-7, 5-4).

For now, the Seminoles will focus on the Gators.

This will be the seventh consecutive year the Seminoles and Gators face off in Jacksonville. So far FSU is 4-2 against UF in games played at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Seminoles have already beaten the Gators this season, 4-1, in Gainesville, but Florida recorded the last win in Jacksonville when Florida State fell 4-1 last year.

All time, the Seminoles have outscored the Gators 33-28 when the game is played in Jacksonville with the 2009 game being shortened to five innings due to rain. FSU also holds a 9-8 lead over UF in all-time neutral-site games.

Since facing Florida State two weeks ago, Florida has gone 3-4 with loses to No. 10 Kentucky and No. 2 Vanderbilt (all rankings are from USA Today and current as of March 18). Unfortunately for the Gators, this is just another game against a ranked team in their grueling schedule which also features Ole Miss, UCF, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Florida Gulf Coast in the next three weeks.

As mentioned above, it is almost expected that Luke Weaver will win a weekend rotation role if he can pitch well against UF on Tuesday. Weaver pitched well against the Gators two weeks ago, striking out five and only giving up an unearned run on three hits.

The first pitch in Jacksonville is set for 6 p.m. and will be aired on Sun Sports.