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3 up, 3 down: Florida State bounces back to rout VCU

The Seminoles left little doubt after Friday’s poor showing.

Florida State left fielder Jackson Lueck
Larry Novey

After a disappointing Opening Day loss to VCU on Friday, eyes were definitely on the Florida State baseball team and how well it would bounce back on Saturday. The Seminoles responded well in just about every measurable aspect, coasting to a 12-3 victory over the Rams which was wrapped up well before the game’s conclusion. So much more went right for the ‘Noles on Saturday, but who led the charge? And where was there still room for improvement?

3 up

1. In last night’s postgame press conference after the Seminoles were one-hit by VCU in a shutout loss, Mike Martin made a prediction, saying that FSU would get more than one hit on Saturday. Suffice it to say, his prediction turned out to be incredibly correct.

12 runs on 12 hits was much more akin to what you would expect from this Florida State offense against a team like VCU. What makes it more impressive is the variety of ways in which the ‘Noles got it done.

7 different Seminoles had at least one hit, seven scored at least one run, and six knocked in at least one run. The same Florida State team that was 0-10 with runners on base in the season opener was 11-21 (.524) on Saturday.

The star of the show, however, was Jackson Lueck. Lueck, who had FSU’s only hit in Friday’s loss, finished Saturday’s game 3-4 with three RBIs and a run scored. His third-inning single gave Florida State its first runs of the season and snapped a 33-inning scoring drought dating back to the end of the 2016 season. It may be only two games into the season, but Lueck is off to the hottest start in FSU’s stacked lineup.

Rhett Aplin, who hit .444 with nine home runs last season at Seminole State College, made his impact felt as well with a fourth-inning homer, the first of the year for Florida State, which really seemed to break the scoring wide open.

2. Sophomore starting pitcher Cole Sands got his 2017 campaign off to a great start in Saturday’s win. His control looked improved from a season ago and very much looked the part of a future Friday starter. He definitely should have come away with the quality start nod awarded when a starter goes six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs. However, the FSU defense betrayed him in the sixth with a pair of errors and he was pulled after 5.2 innings of work.

Sands finished his outing allowing two runs, both of which were unearned, on four hits with a pair of walks issued and strikeouts garnered. If Sands, who was Florida State’s most inconsistent starter a season ago, is able to take his game to the next level and more regularly reach the later innings, it adds a special wrinkle to the Seminoles’ rotation.

3. Another big improvement that the Seminoles made offensively was in their plate discipline. After a Friday performance which saw the ‘Noles strike out eight times while drawing only three walks, FSU flipped the script in game two, walking nine times to four strikeouts.

Freshman designated hitter Tyler Daughtry led the charge in the category, walking four times in as many plate appearances and scoring three runs, while Taylor Walls and Cal Raleigh added a pair of free passes each.

3 down

1. With everything else going significantly better in Saturday’s win, the defense took a severe step back in the second game of the series. Less than 24 hours after an error-free game on Friday, the Seminoles’ corner infielders, looked out of place in the field.

First baseman Quincy Nieporte committed the first error of the season for Florida State when a hard grounder down the first-base line bounced off his glove. Dylan Busby, playing third, committed a pair of sixth-inning errors which led to a pair of unearned runs and prematurely ended Sands’ outing. Busby was also saved from what very well could have been a third error by a leaping catch and tag at first by Nieporte on an off-target throw to the bag.

Luckily for FSU, neither of these two project as the long-term starters at their respective positions once Drew Mendoza heals from his broken thumb. Still, a four-error game is hardly memorable for the ‘Noles.

2. For as strong a game as the Seminoles had offensively, many of the usual suspects were nowhere to be found on Saturday. The heart of the Florida State batting order, the 3 (Raleigh), 4 (Busby), and 5 (Nieporte) spots had a negligible impact on Saturday. The three were a combined 2-12 (.166) in the win with a pair of runs, two RBIs, and two walks, both of which came from Raleigh.

Including last night’s game, the trio is a combined 2-21 (.095) so far this season. Although this is quite lower than expected, it’s only a matter of time before these three, especially Busby and Raleigh, begin to piece it together. Meanwhile, it must be noted how impressive it was for FSU to drop 12 runs with such a minimal impact from some of its most potent weapons.

3. It’s hard to scrutinize a game like too intensely. What’s a third negative aspect from Saturday’s dominant win? It was a cloudy, overcast day which was not nearly as pleasant as the weather we saw on Opening Day.

The rubber match of this three-game series between the Seminoles and the Rams is slated for a 12:30 start on Sunday with probable starters of Tyler Holton for FSU going up against Brooks Vial of VCU.