Baseball is back! The Florida State baseball team commenced its 2016 season Friday afternoon when the visiting Rhode Island Rams came to town. From early on in this one, the Seminoles looked the better team in just about every measurable aspect, as expected, and had the game wrapped up by the end of the fifth inning, when they led 15-1. When the game mercifully ended after 8 and a half brutal innings, the scoreboard read FSU 19, URI 1.
After each baseball game this season, you can look for us at Tomahawk Nation to post our 3 up, 3 down, our alternative to a game recap. Each game, we will point out three positive takeaways from the game (3 up), and a few things that the Seminoles could do better (3 down).
Spoiler alert: It was quite difficult to find three negative takeaways from Friday's win.
1. To say that Florida State was plagued by fielding errors last season would be an understatement. In 2015, the Seminoles committed 93 errors in 65 games. Early in FSU's season opener, it seemed like 2016 could be more of the same. URI's leadoff hitter looped a fly ball into shallow left field and there was a miscommunication between left fielder Jackson Lueck and third baseman John Sansone that allowed the ball to drop in between them, which was charged as a hit. From there, however, it was a completely different story. Florida State finished the game with no errors while Rhode Island committed six. The Seminoles looked the better fielding team by far, something that was often not true last season, even against inferior opponents. Although there were only a few plays that required more than a routine defensive effort to record the out, it's still a very welcome change for the Seminoles, especially considering the fact that only one infielder is in the same spot defensively as they were last year.
2. From the top to the bottom of the lineup, Florida State did just about everything right offensively. The Seminoles finished with 19 runs on 18 hits, drew 9 walks, and had built such a lead by the end of the fifth that it allowed head coach Mike Martin the chance to use many of his utility bench players. In all, 16 different FSU batters saw at least one plate appearance, nearly an entire second lineup, with only four of those not reaching base at least once. Among FSU's most productive batters were Gage West, who went 3-3 with a home run, a double, and 5 RBIs, highly-anticipated freshman Cal Raleigh, who took advantage of his opportunities and knocked in three runs, and John Sansone, who finished with seven plate appearances and went 3-5 with 3 RBIs. With 12 Seminoles registering at least one hit and 12 also scoring at run, there's little complaint to be had about Florida State's offensive performance in the season opener.
3. It wasn't always pretty but the Florida State bullpen pitched four shutout innings in relief of Mike Compton. Alec Byrd, Jim Voyles, Ed Voyles, and freshman Chase Haney each worked one inning and combined to allow no runs, two hits, two walks, and an impressive nine strikeouts out of the 12 outs they recorded. With the Seminoles replacing two key relievers from last season, this was a promising start to the season from the bullpen.
1. By looking at his stat line, you would believe that Mike Compton had a good outing in his 2016 debut. And, by many accounts you would be right. After all, he went five innings and allowed only one run on three hits, issuing just one walk and striking out two men. However, Compton got off to a rocky start, allowing a leadoff double to start the game on a ball that dropped in shallow-left field, which could be partially attributed to the fielders. However, Compton worked out of that jam and instead made his one true mistake pitch in the fifth inning when he left a fastball up in the zone which URI's Jordan Powell absolutely clobbered out of the ball park for the Rams' lone run. Overall, it was a good performance but against better competition, what Compton had on Friday may not cut it.
2. This team is definitely still working the kinks out, particularly in reading signs from coaches while running the bases. One striking example saw Raleigh miss a sign from assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. where he wanted him to execute a double steal, which Raleigh missed, leaving Ben DeLuzio to hang out to dry. However, as the season progresses and team chemistry improves, these are the kind of mistakes that will likely sort themselves out.
3. The one aspect of Florida State's offensive game that could be labeled as needs improvement was the Seminoles ability to make contact late in counts. Their impressive nine walks were somewhat countered by eight strikeouts, a facet that could be exposed by better opposing pitching as the season wears on.
Game two of the series against Rhode Island is scheduled for 2 PM on Saturday.