Two days after dropping the series opener against Miami, the Florida State baseball team began the first game of its doubleheader with the Hurricanes Saturday afternoon. This game followed almost the exact opposite script of Thursday's loss as this time, UM scored in each of the first four innings, creating an 8-1 lead after the top of the fourth inning. FSU made it interesting down the stretch but it was too little, too late as the Seminoles dropped the second game of the series as well, 8-5. Here's today's three up, three down:
1. The bottom of the Florida State lineup, which has struggled in creating production for much of the second half of the season, was the only portion of the FSU order which was able to accomplish anything at the plate in the first half of Saturday's doubleheader. Jackson Lueck was moved down from his usual three-spot in the lineup down to sixth for the game and had a highly successful game, going 3-5 with two runs and one RBI. Steven Wells Jr., who entered Saturday with a .203 batting average and six RBI on the year in 40 games, also rose to the occasion batting in the ninth spot in the FSU order and adding two RBI to his season total, one by sac fly in the second inning and one by a fourth-frame single to left.
2. After a rough start to the game from the Florida State pitching staff, FSU trailed 8-1 and turned to little-used hurler Will Zirzow, who settled into the game nicely against the Hurricanes. Zirzow came into Saturday with a 6.30 ERA in 10 innings of work this year and threw three innings of one-hit, shutout baseball, stabilizing Florida State while the 'Noles began to chip into the Miami lead, cutting the 8-1 lead to 8-3 during his portion of the game. Although he has barely been utilized this year, Zirzow was far and away Florida State's most effective pitcher on Saturday.
3. Although a series loss to Miami is a disappointment regardless of what the final score says, the Seminoles did an admirable job of continuing to fight in their attempt to make this a game again. Florida State was down 8-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning but scored four unanswered runs to cut that lead down to 8-5 through eight frames. The comeback bid was not nearly enough to break back even but without the services of Cal Raleigh and Quincy Nieporte, who were both subbed out after FSU found itself in a big hole, there's a lot to like about the resiliency the 'Noles showed, particularly given the current skid that this team is on.
1. Cole Sands, the true freshman pitching in the Saturday role for the second straight weekend, looked outclassed for large stretches of his start in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader. At his best, he looked dominant, striking out a pair of batters in each of the first two innings. However, that high level of play was only shown in small stretches. He allowed a solo homer in each of the first two innings and then surrendered two more runs in the third. He was pulled in the fourth after allowing a leadoff single and forcing the FSU bullpen to once again pick up the slack for a brief outing from a starting pitcher. His five runs, all earned, on six hits in three innings of work showed that although his ceiling remains high, Sands continues to struggle in his search for consistency.
2. Miami completely shut down the top of the FSU lineup on Saturday, taking away the portion of the lineup which has carried the Seminoles' offense this year. The top four hitters in the 'Noles order finished the first half of Saturday's matchup a combined 0-16 with three walks and seven strikeouts, four of those coming from first baseman Dylan Busby. Add in the fifth batter in the Florida State lineup and that batting average skyrockets to .091 (2-22) . When the Seminoles' most consistent hitters aren't providing any help at the plate, it will lead to poor showings, particularly against the No. 3 team in the country.
3. Redshirt senior Mike Compton made his first appearance in over two weeks on Saturday, relieving Sands, who needed 85 pitches to go 3+ innings. Compton showed the rust of taking a few weeks off, allowing three runs, two earned, on three hits in 0.2 innings of work. With Compton healthy again, it begs the question of who FSU's main starters are entering the postseason. However, with his miserable relief appearance on Saturday, Compton's place in the rotation is very much up for debate.
With the loss, Florida State has dropped six of its last seven games and now sits at 33-19 (15-10 in ACC) on the year. The Seminoles' regular season finale is scheduled to begin at 3:10 and will see Ed Voyles (1-1, 2.81 ERA) for FSU go up against Miami's Danny Garcia (9-3, 3.19).