The Florida State baseball team were on the winning side of a truly bizarre game Wednesday night against the visiting Toledo Rockets. The final score itself, 3-2, would not tip you off as to how odd it was but digging a bit deeper exposes the absurdity. Most notably, FSU's pitching staff of Cole Sands, Cobi Johnson, and Jim Voyles combined to throw a no-hitter, the first by Florida State since 1998. However, defensive mistakes and poor situational hitting kept Toledo in the game until the bitter end when Matt Henderson laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that brought in Darren Miller from third for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Here are some takeaways, both positive and negative, from the Seminoles' narrow win.
1. How can the first positive takeaway be anything but the pitching staff that combined to throw the first Florida State no-hitter in almost 20 years? It started well with Cole Sands, who bounced back from rocky starts in each of his last two games to pitch three perfect innings, and ended even better with four scoreless innings of work by Jim Voyles. Those two, along with Cobi Johnson who worked the fourth and fifth innings, combined to allow only one walk and two hit-by-pitches while striking out eight Toledo batters. Although Toledo managed two unearned runs, little blame can be placed on the pitching staff that put together one of the most dominant pitching performances in recent memory.
2. Freshman Cal Raleigh continues to improve his play at the collegiate level, going 2-3 at the plate with a run and a walk drawn as well. After Wednesday's game, Raleigh's batting average sits at .333, good for 4th-best among Florida State's regular starters. Raleigh's defensive output cannot be ignored either as he threw out both of Toledo's attempted basestealers, doing well to remove Rockets from bases on the rare occasion when they reached.
3. Despite only scoring three runs in the win, the Florida State offense as a whole is not to blame for the close margin of victory. After all, the Seminoles managed 10 hits, drew five walks, and finished with a .345 team batting average. However, what FSU did offensively once runners were on base is a different matter that will be addressed in the three down section.
1. For the second time in as many nights, an error by Florida State shortstop Taylor Walls cost the Seminoles dearly. After a Walls error that allowed three runs to score in FSU's 12-3 win at USF on Tuesday, Walls fielded a two-out grounder at short and fired the throw low to Busby at first. The ball bounced and got away from Busby and two runs came in to score for Toledo on the play, giving the Rockets a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning that would hold until the Seminoles tied the game at 2 in the sixth frame. Although Walls has been the culprit this week, multiple Florida State fielders have emerged as defensive liabilities at times in this still young season.
2. Although Florida State's hitting was not horrible in the win over Toledo, the situational hitting left plenty to be desired. The Seminoles finished .250 (2-8) with runners in scoring position and .267 (4-15) with runners on base. The most dreadful hitting statistic for FSU was assuredly their knack for hitting into double plays. In all, the 'Noles grounded into three double plays, all in the early innings and all in rally-killing situations, an issue that may have doomed them on another day.
3. Now in the fourth week of the season, Florida State has established an unfortunate trend of playing down to the level of inferior opponents, particularly in midweek games. After all the Seminoles' too-close-for-comfort 3-2 win over the 1-11-1 Toledo Rockets comes exactly one week after their 14-inning, 11-10 slugfest with the Villanova Wildcats, who currently sit at 4-9 on the season. This is a dangerous precedent for Florida State to set with ACC play getting underway in just two days.
Speaking of ACC play, Florida State welcomes in 12-0 Georgia Tech on Friday for the first conference games of the season, beginning what could be the toughest stretch of the Seminoles' season.