The Florida State baseball team returned to action for its second ACC Tournament game in as many days on Thursday, setting out to improve to 2-0 in pool play against the eighth-seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who the Seminoles swept at home during the regular season. FSU made it 4-0 on the year against the Ramblin' Wreck with its 6-1 win which saw lots of things break well for the 'Noles. Here's what went well, as well as a little bit of what didn't go well, in their impressive victory:
1. As has been the case for most of this season, the top of the Florida State batting order led the way at the plate. The 1, 2, and 3 hitters (Taylor Walls, John Sansone, and Jackson Lueck completed Thursday's win going a combined 6-11 (.545) with a double, a homer, two RBI, five of FSU's six runs, and three walks. Sansone blew the game wide open in the third inning with his two-run bomb to left field which could have easily traveled 400+ feet had it not collided with a building. If FSU is to make a positive impact in the NCAA Tournament, it will likely be off the bats at the top of the order which have proven to be the Seminoles' most consistent all year long.
2. The roller coaster that has been Cole Sands' season continued on Thursday against Georgia Tech. Luckily for Florida State, this was the high part of the coaster where he is showing off some of his best stuff. Sands finished with five strong innings of work, allowing one run on three hits while walking one and striking out a pair of Yellow Jackets. If Sands, along with the rest of the FSU rotation, can find a collective groove at the point in the year, it could go a long way towards a lengthy postseason run for the Seminoles.
3. Reliable reliever Jim Voyles picked up right where Sands left off, entering the game in the sixth inning and throwing three innings of shutout baseball. Voyles did allow some GT batters to reach base, allowing a hit in each of his three innings of work. However, he prevented any baserunner from ever reaching second base in his portion of the game. Voyles' ERA now sits at 1.38 on the year and it would seem that he has not lost a step since missing two weeks after taking a line drive to the head against Notre Dame.
1. For as impressive as the top of the FSU order was on Thursday, the bottom of the lineup continued to prove unable to create much offense on its own. The six through nine hitters finished the win 2-14 (.143) at the plate with with no runs or RBI between them. Tyler Holton, who had taken only three at-bats in conference play before Thursday, had the sole extra-base hit of the bunch, a double which was his first hit against an ACC opponent. Still, the unit was brought down by 0-3 performances from Donovan Petrey and Matt Henderson. Should FSU want to knock off Miami and advance to the championship game, the Seminoles would almost assuredly need a stronger performance from the bottom of the batting order which has struggled to take some pressure of the talented bats at the top of the lineup for much of this season.
2. From here, my negative analysis gets a bit more picky considering this team gave me little to nitpick from the very solid performance in Thursday's win. Florida State committed a single error in the victory, an off-target throw from Cal Raleigh on a stolen base attempt. It hardly makes him a liability overall considering the pop he provides at the plate but Raleigh is far from a perfect defensive catcher. He has occasionally had issues blocking pitches and has not yet emerged as a reliable option in gunning down attempted base stealers, allowing two of three attempted base thieves to successfully steal on Thursday.
3. These past two days have been proof of the fact that this Florida State team is capable of winning away from home. This makes the road struggles that this team saw down the stretch of the season all the more frustrating to watch as a few road series wins against teams no more talented than those that FSU has beaten the last two days could have the Seminoles playing for a national seed instead of just a regional host in this week's tournament. Although the road success in Durham this week is welcome, the 'Noles could have benefitted greatly from some of it a few weeks ago when they lost two of three to a Duke team that didn't even make pool play of the ACC in this very same ballpark. As such, the ACC Tourney success is partially diminished by a feeling of what could have been.
With the win, Florida State improves to 36-19 on the year, inching closer to the 40-win mark that head coach Mike Martin has never come up short of. Additionally, the Seminoles are now 2-0 in Pool A of the ACC Tournament and are in good position to make a second-straight appearance in the ACC Tournament Championship. However, the Seminoles will have to go through top-seeded Miami to make it that far. The 'Noles and the 'Canes will meet on Saturday at 3 PM with a championship berth on the line.