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3 up, 3 down: FSU comes up flat in season-opening loss to VCU

It was one to forget for the Seminoles.

Florida State catcher Cal Raleigh
Larry Novey

The Florida State baseball team got its season underway on Friday night and the highly-touted Seminoles left plenty to be desired on the diamond. For the first time since 1998, FSU dropped its first game of the season, falling 3-0 to the visiting VCU Rams in a dismal game which saw the ‘Noles acculumate only a single hit. What went well — and not so well — in FSU’s disappointing season-opening loss?

3 up

1. Starting pitcher Drew Carlton’s outing was a mixed bag. He surrendered two earned runs over 5.2 innings, just one recorded out short of a quality start. He also struck out four while allowing no walks and one hit-by-pitch. However, he also gave up nine hits. The saving grace for Carlton was that only one his nine hits allowed was an extra-base hit.

The truth of Carlton’s pitching performance is that it was far from perfect, but on most nights with this Florida State offense, two runs in about six innings of work would be considered doing his job as the starter

2. About the only thing that went especially well in FSU’s season opener was a stellar fielding performance which saw the Seminoles put together an error-free outing. Quincy Nieporte, serving as the replacement first baseman while Dylan Busby is forced to play third, held his own even dealing with some hard-hit balls his way.

The two new outfielders, J.C. Flowers in center and Rhett Aplin in right, also showed flashes of great defense. Aplin judged a fly ball which ricocheted off the wall perfectly, holding the runner to a single and Flowers showcased his cannon of an arm, nearly earning an outfield assist on a near-perfect throw to third base. If nothing else, this was a welcome aspect of the Seminoles’ opening game loss.

3. Chase Haney picked up right where he left off a season ago. The sophomore reliever, who made 31 appearances out of the bullpen as a true freshman, was called on in a tough situation in the seventh inning, facing runners on the corners with one out. He proved up to the task, retiring the ensuing two batters by strikeout and popout to keep the deficit reasonable and maintain the possibility of a comeback.

3 down

1. What can even be said about FSU’s offensive performance? This team, praised by just about everybody as one of the best offensive teams in recent Florida State history, laid an egg in the season opener.

The Seminoles finished the game with one hit which came with one out in the first inning from Jackson Lueck. After that, FSU saw 26 consecutive plate appearances without a hit to close out the game.

But that’s not to say that the ‘Noles didn’t have opportunities. They drew three walks and also had a hit-by-pitch, one of each came from second baseman Matt Henderson, and VCU committed a trio of errors. However, with every opportunity that arose, the offense proved incapable of taking advantage. FSU finished the game 0-10 with runners on base, 0-7 with runners in scoring position, and 0-9 with two outs. The Seminoles were admittedly unlucky with some well-hit balls directly at VCU players throughout the night and as head coach Mike Martin said after the game, “That’s baseball.” Still, it was an offensive night to forget for FSU.

2. Carlton’s outing was hardly bad, although nine hits in 5.2 innings of work is definitely above what he should be allowing to the likes of VCU. Instead, the real mistake was the coaching staff’s decision to bring in Steven Wells Jr. as the first reliever out of the pen.

Wells, who is working as a pitcher as well as an outfielder this season, was called on to make his first appearance on the mound in nearly two seasons. Suffice it to say, it showed. Wells got out of the sixth without a problem before struggling mightily in the seventh. He hit the first batter of the inning, threw a wild pitch, and gave up two hits, showing the true extent of his inexperience. Had it not been for a heroic appearance by Haney immediately afterwards, the one-run inning could have gone much worse for Wells and FSU.

Now, don’t take this as a criticism of getting newer pitchers experience in non-conference play. I just somehow don’t think that trailing in the later innings of the season opener is the best time to make the decision the staff did.

3. Perhaps the most surprising offensive aspect of the night was Florida State’s forgettable (and very un-FSU-like) strikeout to walks ratio. The Seminoles, year-in and year-out one of the most disciplined teams in the country, were guilty of chasing pitches throughout the loss, finishing the game with eight strikeouts to only three drawn walks.

Florida State returns to action on Saturday looking to bounce back against the Rams in a game slated for a 1 PM start.