In a pivotal rubber match between the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles and the No. 4 Louisville Cardinals which could go a long way towards determining which teams finishes atop the ACC Atlantic, Florida State bounced back from Saturday's dismal performance to bury the Cardinals, 16-5. There's little to dislike about the Seminoles' effort so negative points will be nitpicks but there was a lot to like if you are a Florida State fan. Here's the three up and three down from the pivotal win:
1. This weekend's series against UL proved to be an offensive roller coaster. The Seminoles plated 12 runs on 18 hits on Friday but managed only two hits in Saturday's loss. How this team responded on Sunday would be a testament of the moxie - or lack thereof - of this Florida State squad. To say that the Seminoles passed with flying colors still doesn't get across exactly how impressive they were in the series-clinching win. After two scoreless innings to begin the game, the FSU bats exploded for 14 runs over the next three innings. The scoring slowed significantly after the sixth simply because the 'Noles pulled nearly all of their starters. But those three innings of utter domination, which saw 14 runs score on 12 hits against one of the best pitching staffs in the country, were more than enough for FSU to separate itself from the Cards. Perhaps most notably, Florida State finished 13-24 (.542) with runners on base and 11-21 (.524) with runners in scoring position in an interesting case of FSU's Achilles heel becoming one of it's main strengths, at least for one game.
2. Entering this weekend, it was widely assumed that freshman pitcher Cole Sands would be pitching to preserve his starting spot in the weekend rotation against Louisville. He had allowed five earned runs in one inning of work against Texas Tech on Wednesday and had a number of other forgettable starts in the past month which contributed to his ERA climbing all the way to 4.56 ahead of his start against UL. On Sunday, however, Sands was dominant. He threw four innings of three-hit, one-run baseball against one of the best teams in the nation and looked like the far better starter in a pitching matchup against a first-round draft pick from last year's MLB draft. Safe to say his performance was exceptional enough to keep his Sunday starter spot for the immediate future.
3. After such a powerful, well-balanced offensive game, it's hard to highlight just one batter who stood out. First baseman Dylan Busby finished 1-4 but that one hit was a grand slam, the first of his career, which burst the game wide open, giving FSU a 5-0 lead. Other notable offensive performers included a three-RBI performance from John Sansone and two RBIS each from Taylor Walls and Cal Raleigh. Eight of Florida State's nine members of the starting lineup reached base at least once and six players had at least one run batted in. This proves to be sufficient evidence of the balanced offensive effort Florida State had on Sunday and, going forward, a balanced lineup could go a long way towards overcoming underwhelming games from the Seminoles' star players.
1. In an intriguing role reversal, Florida State's starting pitching excelled on Sunday while the bullpen struggled relative to its consistency over the course of the entire season so far. After Sands left with no runs allowed and a runner on first, Jim Voyles promptly allowed a double which brought around his inherited runner to score. Combined, the FSU bullpen allowed four runs on five hits over five innings of work. This is far from a miserable outing and proved irrelevant in the end result of the game but was also not the dominance that the 'pen has showcased when called upon for the vast majority of the 2016 season. To be fair though, much of this can be attributed to a very talented hitting team in Louisville that was not going to be held off the board for an entire game.
2. Florida State earned a combined nine walks as a team, which could easily have been one of the ups from today's game. However, it feels wrong to acclaim a team for nine walks when the players also combined for 12 strikeouts. Gage West, who got the start ahead of Darren Miller in right field, was the guiltiest party on Sunday, striking out twice in three at-bats but the discipline issues extended to the rest of the team. Multiple Seminoles ended at-bats early by chasing balls out of the zone for strike three and giving away opportunities. It did not prove costly on Sunday but 12 strikeouts in a normal game is much tougher to overcome.
3. Both FSU and UL saved its worst defensive games for the series finale, finishing with two errors each. Florida State's two errors, one each by shortstop Taylor Walls and right fielder Gage West, did not prove to be costly as neither led to an unearned run but, after a positive stretch showing signs of improved fielding, a step back now would be poorly timed for the 'Noles.