The No. 7 Florida State baseball team kicked off its weekend series against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish with a dominant 12-6 win on Friday night. It was a well-played game by the team all around and that showed across the scoreboard as the Seminoles rolled to an impressive series-opener victory in their attempt to climb back up the polls. Here's what went well, and not so well, in FSU's win.
1. Early in Friday's game, Florida State seemed destined for another underwhelming performance from its starting pitcher. Fifth-year senior Mike Compton allowed a run in each of the first three innings on six total hits as the Fighting Irish were playing small ball to great success. However, something changed in the very next frame after the Seminole batters staked Compton to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third inning. He retired the three ND batters on five total pitches in the top of the fourth and needed just seven pitches to work a flawless fifth. These two innings of nearly impeccable baseball turned the corner for Compton and allowed him to get through 5.1 innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits. It was far from a perfect outing for the senior but after the rough opening three frames, his ability to turn it around and at least partially preserve the bullpen for the rest of the weekend is admirable.
2. Friday's win was a truly balanced performance from the top of the lineup all the way through the No. 9 hitter. All nine Seminole starters had at least one hit and seven different batters scored at least one run. The top of the lineup was especially productive as each of the first six hitters in the batting order reached base at least twice and five of the six scored two or more runs. The leaders of the Florida State offense were Cal Raleigh, who clobbered his team-leading eighth home run of the season (fifth of ACC play in 16 conference games) to provide one of his three RBIs, and designated hitter Quincy Nieporte, who hit his second home run of the year as part of his five-RBI performance, surpassing the four RBIs he had accumulated over his first 13 ACC games combined.
3. Florida State got off to a rough start defensively with an error by second baseman Matt Henderson on what FSU Head Coach Mike Martin called a "rushed throw". The error did prove costly at the time, with an unearned run coming in on the wide toss to first base but the mistake was deemed irrelevant by the final score. From that point on, the Seminoles were far and away the better fielding team, committing no errors in the remaining eight-plus innings while the Irish, the far-superior defensive team on the year, erred twice with each error bringing in an unearned run.
1. For as good as he has been throughout the 2016 campaign, freshman reliever Chase Haney had major trouble recording even one out in the series opener. Brought in for the top of the eighth inning, Haney promptly allowed a single, walk, and a hit-by-pitch, loading the bases with no outs and allowing the tying run to come to the plate in what was a 7-3 game in favor of FSU at that point. Haney then earned his only out, a strikeout looking, before he was pulled in favor of Alec Byrd. Byrd allowed two of Haney's runners to score and Haney's earned run average climbed nearly an entire point from 2.35 to 3.22. It's not time to sound the alarm for the southpaw submariner by any means but an outing of this poor caliber, especially given his exceptional play all season long, is a tad worrisome.
2. There were many things that the Florida State bats did well on Friday. One of the few they did not though was making contact when behind in counts, at times. The Seminoles struck out 11 times in eight innings at the plate with 10 of those 11 coming in the swinging strikeout variety. This has been an on and off issue for this FSU team but this stretch of the season would be an unfortunate time to lose the excellent plate discipline that the Seminoles are known for.
3. After such an impressive win, it's a struggle to find three negative things to share. Desperate times have caused me to point out the one aspect of situational hitting where the 'Noles struggled in the opening game against ND. Florida State finished 1-8 (.125) with two outs, consistently failing to extend innings. However, this issue was more than nullified by extraordinary situational hitting in every other scenario including batting .625 when leading off, .600 with the bases loaded, .571 in advancement opportunities, and .371 overall.
The win boosts FSU to 26-11 (11-4) on the year and, when paired with Louisville's loss at Boston College, allows the Seminoles to regain the top spot in the ACC Atlantic Division. The Seminoles return to action on Saturday with Drew Carlton (4-2, 4.57) facing off with Notre Dame's Sean Guenther (3-3, 3.88). First pitch is currently scheduled for 6 PM and there does not predict to be a weather delay as there was before Friday's start.