The FSU baseball team entered Tuesday night in Jacksonville with a mission: redeem the 6-0 shutout that it was on the wrong side of two weeks ago in the first of three games against Florida this year. In some ways, the Seminoles proved to be successful but, in the end, they still came up just short, falling 3-2 to UF and allowing the Gators to clinch the season series. Here's what went well, and not so well, in FSU's narrow loss to Florida:
1. After a few mediocre innings of work from the usual Saturday and Sunday starters, the Florida State bullpen was in top form once again in Tuesday's loss. Mike Martin used four different relievers to make up for the lack of innings pitched this past weekend and those four pitchers combined to throw 5.2 innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball, striking out six while walking just one. Jim Voyles, Cobi Johnson, and Chase Haney all looked razor sharp, each going at least 1.2 innings and allowing no more than one hit. With the starting pitching emerging as a possible season-long liability, continued elite play from the bullpen seems to be a necessity going forward.
2. The freshman hitters in Tuesday's starting lineup, Jackson Lueck and Cal Raleigh, were both among the most productive Seminoles in the loss. Raleigh homered in the top of the first inning, his team-leading fourth homer of the year, and Lueck finished 2-4 with a double and a single. The two freshman finished a combined 3-6 (.500) and accounted for nearly half of Florida State's hits together. 24 games into the year, Lueck and Raleigh are both among the team's leaders in many offensive categories in their first year with the team.
3. After committing three errors in their first game against UF, the Seminoles looked much improved defensively this time around, finishing the game with no errors while Florida finished with one. This positive takeaway is amplified when seeing that FSU was challenged on multiple occasions, making impressive plays in the infield that led to outs throughout the game and showing exactly what this team is capable in the field when everything is clicking.
1. Situational hitting, situational hitting, situational hitting. I sound like a broken record at this point but dreadful hitting with runners on base and in scoring position was once again the biggest factor which contributed to the loss. Florida State finished with more hits (7) than Florida (5) but that was deemed irrelevant by poor situational hitting. The 'Noles opened up the game 0-7 with runners in scoring position and didn't improve on that much, finishing a miserable 1-10 (.100) with RISP. Over three straight innings on Tuesday (the fourth through the sixth), FSU had a runner thrown out at home to end an inning before stranding a man at third over each of the next two innings, which proved to be the difference. This can be explained by a young team still searching for consistency but that is no longer an excuse as the freshman have been the ones producing lately while the older players have been dragging the offense down, a shocking and undesirable trend.
2. There was a lot of speculation entering Tuesday about which pitchers Martin would use after missing two of the three planned games against NC State due to weather last weekend. It was known coming in that usual Saturday starter Drew Carlton would get the start. He looked good overall, only making one mistake pitch over his two innings of work. Still, the mistake pitch was taken advantage of to the tune of a two-run homer by Mike Rivera which proved to be the difference between a win and a loss. Next to pitch was Cole Sands, who has been the Sunday starter for the entire season so far. Sands lasted only 0.1 innings, allowing one earned run on one hit. In his brief time in the game, the moment seemed to big for Sands, who struggled with consistency and control in his first rivalry game appearance.
3. Florida took the Seminoles out of its desired style of play for the second straight game on Tuesday, striking out nine Seminoles while issuing just one walk. Add this to FSU's totals from the first game against UF and that makes a dismal 20 strikeouts to 2 walks, a 10:1 ratio. Not many teams exploit this against Florida State nearly as well as the Gators but this is something that must be addressed if this Seminole team wants to remain competitive against the top competition that it will encounter in parts of conference play and the entirety of the postseason.
It's little consolation at this point but Florida State did outplay the No. 2 team nationally in many different aspects on Tuesday. However, the Seminoles came out on the wrong side of the one that matters most, the run column. FSU is next in action on Friday in the first game a three-game series at Boston College. The 'Noles look to avoid the sweep by UF two weeks from tonight, April 12th, in Tallahassee.