The Florida State baseball team arrived in Durham, NC needing to improve upon a 0-2 week which previously saw the 'Noles fall to Jacksonville and FGCU in underwhelming midweek performances. In Friday's series opener against Duke, FSU was not up to the task of righting the ship, falling 5-4 after a comeback bid came up short. Florida State outplayed the Blue Devils in a number of aspects, outhitting them 11-8 and racking up more extra-base hits. Still, it wasn't enough and the tough week for the 'Noles carried into their weekend series.
1. The Seminoles' loss in the series opener can in no way be attributed to the hitters at the top of the lineup. Taylor Walls, John Sansone, and Jackson Lueck, the 1, 2, and 3 hitters, respectively, each had at least two hits and at least one RBI. In fact, those three combined to finish Friday's game a scorching 8-14 (.571) at the plate with a pair of doubles and all four of FSU's RBI. Despite the knack for getting on base from these three 'Noles, they only totaled two runs between the three of them due to the struggles of the batters who followed them.
2. Florida State's one error on Friday is obviously imperfect but, compared to some defensive outputs in the past few weeks, the 'Noles will take only one error most any night. The sole error, a misplay by FSU third baseman John Sansone was deemed meaningless by the plays which occurred after it and resulted in no unearned runs. Still, fielding does remain one of the Seminoles' persistent concerns at this late point in the season.
3. Ben DeLuzio, who has struggled to find consistency throughout his career at Florida State, had a very successful night in the 9 hole in the FSU lineup. DeLuzio finished 2-4 with a triple and a double, scoring a run after each of these hits and moving his season batting average up to .255. With the threat that his speed on the basepaths provides, an increased ability to get on base for DeLuzio could prove to be a wild card down the stretch of the season.
1. For the first time this season, a pitcher not named Mike Compton was the Seminoles' Friday starter in the opener against Duke. Carlton started strong, retiring Duke in order on eight pitches in the first inning. From there, his outing went downhill in a hurry. Carlton surrendered a two-run homer in each of the next two innings, allowing the Blue Devils to take a 5-2 lead after three innings. Carlton did follow that up with a pair of scoreless innings on the hill but he allowed Duke to muster a two-out rally in both the fourth and fifth, allowing four Devils to reach base with two outs in those two innings. Perhaps most troubling of all was that Carlton, who has shown himself to be a dominant pitcher that can blow batters away, striking out a team-leading 56 batters in 61 innings entering Friday. However, Carlton gave his best Compton impression in taking his rotation spot, failing to record his first strikeout until the final out of the fifth inning. Putting it lightly, the starting pitching remains the biggest weakness of this FSU team, as has been the case for most of this season.
2. As good as the top of the Seminoles lineup was, the bottom of the lineup may have been even worse. Florida State's 4 through 8 hitters combined for only one hit, a single by Dylan Busby, finishing Friday's game with a miserable .050 batting average (1-20). When the top of the order is clicking as well as it was in the series opener against Duke, even marginally more production from the middle and bottom of the lineup could have made the difference in the result.
3. Another damning offensive statistic for the Seminoles on Friday was their inability to leadoff innings with baserunners. In nine innings, FSU saw just one leadoff man reach base (a single from Walls to lead off the first frame). Pair that with an equally rough .111 batting average with two outs in the inning and there will be problems galore, particularly when trying to come from behind. To point out how much of an issue this was, observe that 9 of the Seminoles' 11 hits came with one out. Although rallies can be fruitful in baseball, production from leadoff hitters and the ability to extend innings are a necessity for winning teams.
With the loss, Florida State falls to 32-16 (14-7 in ACC) on the year and also drops to 6-8 in true road games, exposing a real weakness of this team. The Seminoles return to action on Saturday, throwing true freshman Cole Sands (4-4, 4.02 ERA) against Duke's Trent Swart (2-2, 3.60 ERA) with a scheduled 1 PM first pitch.