Florida State entered Saturday's game against Southern Miss with the knowledge that the Golden Eagles could score runs at an incredible clip. After all, USM plated 14 runs in its Friday win over South Alabama including an impressive 11 runs in a single inning. FSU faced an early deficit, going behind 2-0 in the first inning before responding in an impressive manner, rattling off seven straight runs to roll to a 7-2 win over Southern Miss, leaving little doubt by the time the game was over. There was a lot to like about the Seminoles' winning performance and, admittedly, it was a bit of a struggle to rack my brain for three negative takeaways from a game where little went wrong. Regardless, here's today's three up and three down:
1. Much of Florida State's production on Saturday came from some unsung heroes of the roster. Steven Wells Jr., who came into the game with Southern Miss with a .188 batting average, one extra-base hit, and 10 runs batted in. However, he rose to the occasion in the win over USM, launching a three-run homer, his first of the season, off the scoreboard in left field in the second inning, kickstarting an offense that was facing a 2-0 deficit. The homer was Wells' first since his first career at-bat with the 'Noles in the opening weekend of the 2014 season against Oakland University. Wells was aided by the ninth batter in the FSU order, Matt Henderson, who added two RBI of his own. It was a night of production from some unusual suspects as their five combined RBI is a decent subset of the 22 they had all season entering Saturday. That being said, it was a welcome change from a team that, at times, has relied too heavily on the top of its lineup.
2. Freshman pitcher Tyler Holton made just his third weekend rotation spot in Saturday's win over Southern Miss. In the first inning, the stage seemed too big for him as he allowed two runs, both earned, on two hits. That all changed beginning with the final out of that first inning as it kicked off a string of seven consecutive batters retired. In the second through fifth innings, he faced the minimum number of batters. Head Coach Mike Martin seemed to take note of leaving Drew Carlton in the game too long on Friday, pulling Holton at the first sight of trouble in the sixth frame but Holton's outing was still outstanding. He finished with 5.2 innings of three-hit, two-run baseball, walking two and striking out six as he proved once again that he is FSU's most impressive strikeout starter.
3. Just one night after FSU struggled mightily in the field with three errors, the Seminoles showcased some exemplary defensive play in Saturday's win, leaving a zero in the error column with multiple Seminoles flashing the glove on various occasions. The defensive highlight was undoubtedly Henderson's spectacular stop which saw him range way to his left, dive to field the ball, and make the throw to first with time to spare. However, multiple other 'Noles also stepped up in the field, a positive sign for a team that has struggled with defensive consistency throughout the 2016 season.
1. Admittedly, this was a night where little went wrong for Florida State. The 'Noles fielded well, pitched well, hit well and did almost everything else well as well. However, there are a few minor issues worth discussing. First, FSU's inability to produce with runners in scoring position. The Seminoles finished the win a less than desirable 2-12 with runners in scoring position (.167). It was deemed a moot point by everything else that went right for FSU but on a different night, a failure to bring runners around to score could prove disastrous.
2. For as good as the FSU pitching staff performed against an offensively-loaded Southern Miss squad, the outing was bookmarked by control issues. Holton threw just 11 of his 24 pitches for strikes in the first inning, issuing two walks, and Jim Voyles lost the zone in the ninth inning, beginning the final frame with nine straight balls. He did salvage the inning after a mound visit from Martin, striking out the next batter before inducing a game-ending double play, but the lack of control both early and late is a bit worrisome.
3. Only one Seminole batter, Ben DeLuzio, was kept out of the hit column but it's hard to mark him as a down because he walked twice and scored a pair of runs. In digging for a negative aspect, it can be mentioned that five of the eight other batters had only one hit but even then, it's tough to mark a night where eight of nine members of the FSU lineup registered a hit as a poor performance. In all honesty, it was a very good night for the Seminoles and there doesn't need to be a legitimate third negative takeaway.
With the win, Florida State improves to 39-20 on the year, only one win away from reaching the 40-win mark for the 39th straight season. The Seminoles now are into the finals of the Tallahassee Regional and will await the winner of Sunday afternoon's Southern Miss/South Alabama matchup, who will have to beat FSU twice in a row. The first and possibly last of those two potential games is currently scheduled for a 6 PM start on Sunday with Cole Sands currently pegged as the starting pitcher for Florida State.