After winning a pair of midweek home games against Central Florida, the No. 11 Florida State baseball team (17-5, 5-1 in ACC play) stays home this weekend to welcome the No. 13 NC State Wolfpack (16-7, 3-3 in ACC) to Tallahassee for a top-15 showdown.
The Seminoles remain reliant on senior third baseman John Sansone, as they have been all season. He enters this weekend batting .404 on the season, a .505 on-base percentage, 36 hits (most in the ACC, 10th nationally), 31 RBIs (seventh-most in the nation, most in the ACC) and 26 runs (17th-most in the country, fourth-most in the conference). Sophomore shortstop Taylor Walls has also been a key contributor out of the leadoff spot, leading the NCAA in runs scored with 34 and sporting a .378 batting average, the second-best mark on the team.
NC State heads to FSU early in an eight-game road trip which kicked off Tuesday with a loss to upstart mid-major UNC-Wilmington. So far this season, the Wolfpack have struggled with consistency, an issues that has also afflicted Florida State. The Wolfpack have lost one game at home to a struggling Notre Dame team, lost a home weekend series to Boston College and dropped one game each to Old Dominion, Wright State, and Indiana State, two of which came in a weekend setting.
The Wolfpack are a power-heavy team with 23 home runs so far this season, second-most in the ACC and 16th in the country, through 23 games. The offensive versatility for NCSU doesn't stop there though as they also rank in the top 50 nationally in batting average, doubles, hits, and slugging percentage. One major aspect of the offensive game where the 'Noles will hold an advantage is in reaching base without delivering a hit, be it by hit-by-pitch or walk. NC State is a sub-200 team in both of those categories while FSU leads the nation in walks and is 7th nationally in drawing HBPs. When combining the two non-hitting methods, Florida State has had 173 baserunners via walk of HBP this year while NCSU has had 100.
NC State's biggest offensive threats are senior catcher Chance Shepherd, who leads the team in both home runs (7) and RBIs (24) even though his .297 average is not among the best on the team and junior first baseman Preston Palmeiro, the son of longtime MLB player Rafael Palmeiro, who leads the Wolfpack with 11 doubles and sports a .312 batting average on the year.
As a pitching staff, NC State allows enters this weekend exactly one earned run more per nine innings than Florida State (3.50 ERA as compared to FSU's 2.50 mark). Outside of that, the statistical difference between the two pitching staffs is negligible in most of the remaining categories with the Seminoles holding a slight edge across the board.
Friday's opener will see FSU's Mike Compton (3-1, 3.21 ERA) go up against NCSU's Joe Donnell (3-1, 2.64 ERA). On Saturday, Florida State's Drew Carlton (4-0, 3.08 ERA) will face NC State's Brian Brown (2-0, 3.33 ERA) and in the final game of the weekend, the Seminoles will toss freshman Cole Sands (3-2, 2.59 ERA) while the Wolfpack will use Johnny Piedmonte (0-2, 2.70 ERA).
One key area where NC State looks the superior team entering this weekend is in the field. Florida State owns a lacking 0.963 fielding percentage on the year, 12th in the ACC and 182nd in the NCAA, while NCSU's fielding percentage is almost an entire tenth higher at 0.971, 9th in the ACC and 84th nationally.
Both Friday and Saturday's games are scheduled for a 6 PM first pitch and Sunday's potential rubber match is slated for a 12:30 start. All games will be streamed on ESPN and the radio broadcast will be available both on 106.1 FM in Tallahassee and online at Seminoles.com. If you are unable to watch or listen, Tomahawk Nation will be in attendance at each game, providing updates in our game threads.