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3 up, 3 down: FSU baseball battles back to sweep Notre Dame

Florida State dug itself an early hole due to some shoddy fielding but was up to the comeback task, scoring 11 runs over three innings to complete the weekend sweep of Notre Dame.

Taylor Walls
Taylor Walls
Tom Casazza

The Florida State baseball team got it done once again on Sunday, coming all the way back from trailing 5-0 after the first inning to win convincingly, 11-6, over Notre Dame, clinching the sweep over the Fighting Irish. Sunday's series finale followed a new story from the first two games of the series as the Irish matched the Seminoles with 12 hits, committed one error to FSU's three and still found themselves on the wrong side of the final score once again. Here's the three up, three down from Sunday:

3 up

1. For the third time in as many nights, the Florida State offense powered a come-from-behind win, using a few multi-run innings to make what started as a significant deficit into a comfortable win. Quincy Nieporte continued his unbelievable weekend, smashing his third homer in as many games, a two-run shot which tied the game at 5 in the fifth, giving him 10 RBI and four runs over the three-game set. Taylor Walls also delivered the dagger in the form of a grand slam, the first of his career, to put Florida State ahead 11-5. As a team, FSU knocked in 29 RBI over three games against a Notre Dame team that entered Tallahassee with a 3.95 earned run average. Just one week after the worst offensive weekend of the 2016 season, the Seminole bats are now producing from the top through the bottom of the lineup, using a domino effect of sorts, a necessity for creating long rallies. This lineup has emerged as possibly the biggest strength of this Florida State team and, when clicking on all cylinders, is among the best lineups in the country.

2. Even though he only lasted 3.1 innings and left the game with the Seminoles trailing 5-0, Cole Sands' stuff was decently good on Sunday when the defense behind him didn't do anything in its power to hinder his outing. He allowed five runs, all unearned, in a marathon first inning which saw nine Notre Dame batters come to the plate and FSU commit three errors. Sands did allow five hits in that first frame but he should have been out of it long before he finally was. With one run, two hits, and two outs in the first, Sands induced an easy grounder to second which seemed to destined to be the final out of the frame before Busby botched a gimme catch, extending the inning and leading to four more runs coming around for the Irish. Sands did turn the corner after the horrific first inning, retiring seven straight batters starting with the third out of the first and finished with five strikeouts in his 3.1 innings of work. The stat line for Sands is not overly impressive but his outing with no earned runs did bring his earned run average down nearly half a point to 4.38 and showed that when he is clicking, his stuff is still worthy of being a potential Friday starter in the future, a sentiment shared by FSU head coach Mike Martin.

3. Although Sands' outing was good on Sunday, he was outshone by the man who relieved him, fellow freshman Tyler Holton. Holton, who has looked decent in his occasional role as a midweek starter but has looked his best when being used as a long reliever, started his outing with a bang. He was thrown into the game with one out in the fourth and runners on the corners, promptly inducing an inning-ending double play to help Florida State escape with no damage done. From there, it was more of the same from the freshman. He finished with 4 innings of shutout, no-hit baseball with five strikeouts. With fewer midweek games played down the stretch, Holton's role will shift more to a long relief role in the final portion of the season and his recent play has made him one of the first options out of the FSU pen in that role.

3 down

1. To say that Florida State's defensive effort in the opening inning was lackluster would be an understatement on par with calling Cal Raleigh's freshman season just alright. The Seminoles committed their first error immediately after a leadoff single by ND and it only snowballed from there. FSU finished the first inning with a trio of official errors (and a handful more misplayed balls which were not ruled errors) which resulted in the Irish plating five unearned runs. The Seminoles' defensive effort has been much improved over the last few weeks but Sunday's final game of the Notre Dame series is an apparent speedbump on Florida State's road to increased defensive efficiency.

2. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Sunday's game was some poor injury luck for the Seminoles. In the first inning, centerfielder Ben DeLuzio had to come out of the game after tweaking his groin on a throw to home plate. Martin seemed to believe that it would not cause him to miss any time on account of a five-day period between games due to the players taking finals. Still, DeLuzio is the third Florida State outfielder to go down this week, after the suspension of Gage West and Darren Miller's decision to leave the team. Should he miss an extended period of time, the already-questionable outfield depth will only worsen. The more frightening of the two injuries on Sunday came in the ninth inning when bullpen star Jim Voyles took a line drive to the head, dropping to the ground before walking off the field under his power. After the game, Martin said that Voyles seemed fine but that he is going to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for a series of tests to confirm that there is no injury. For the team's sake, Florida State must be hoping that there is no lingering effect for Voyles, who has emerged as the steadiest arm out of a bullpen full of players who have overperformed relative to preseason expectations.

3. This third and final negative takeaway was nullified by impressive resiliency from this Florida State team but is still worth mentioning. The Seminoles found themselves in early deficits in each of this weekend's three games, allowing one or more runs in the first frame in each game against ND. Obviously, the awe-inspiring offensive play powered a comeback in each of the wins but, as evidenced by last weekend's series against Wake Forest, consistently playing from behind is dangerous and it's not always so simple to crawl back into games after facing an early deficit.

With the win, Florida State improves to 28-11 (13-4 in ACC) and, with Miami's series loss to Virginia, owns the best winning percentage in the entire Atlantic Coast Conference. The Seminoles are next in action on Saturday, hitting the road for a three-game set with the slumping Clemson Tigers, who most recently lost a home series to Georgia Tech.