For the second straight Friday, Florida State fell behind early, this time trailing Boston College 5-0 in the third inning after the Eagles rallied for six hits in one frame on FSU starter Cole Sands.
Unlike last week, this deficit proved insurmountable due to a variety of issues which plagued the Seminoles throughout Friday’s loss, with FSU falling by a final score of 8-5 to the Eagles, snapping their nine-game winning streak in the process.
1. Friday proved a fortuitous night for a trifecta of key Florida State batters who have gotten off to slow starts to their 2017 campaigns.
Dylan Busby put FSU on the board with a fourth-inning two-run homer, his second of the year, and he saw his batting average raise to .241 by game’s end. Taylor Walls, a preseason All-ACC shortstop, entered Friday with a .209 average before he connected on his first home run of the 2017 season, a two-run bomb to right which helped cut into the Eagles’ lead. Cal Raleigh, who had the lowest of the batting average among regular starters at .204, came through with an RBI double which also helped cut into BC’s lead down the stretch of the game as part of a 2-4 outing which he hopes can turn his year around.
With ACC play now officially underway, the emergence of those three players just became much more essential, as evidenced by Friday’s losing effort.
2. For as bad as the FSU pitching staff was for the most part on Friday, the one bright spot was also the youngest player to enter the game. Grant Stewart, who rose to the occasion Friday when called upon in a tough late-game situation, has begun to separate himself from the rest of the freshman flock. He came into the game in the ninth inning with no outs and runners on first and second before he proceeded to strike out the next three batters. On the year, Stewart has allowed no runs in three appearances, striking out seven batters over three innings of work.
3. Florida State’s seven walks came from two players who excelled in patience at the plate, Tyler Daughtry and Matt Henderson, each of whom had three walks. For these players who have proven at least for now that they will not be bringing the power to the FSU batting order, the fact that they are able to reach base at will, both sporting over on-base percentages over .450 so far this season, is a welcome addition.
1. For as decent as the majority of Sands’ outing was on Friday, that third inning was a doozy. He never looked comfortable and gave Boston College extremely hittable pitches for the entire inning and the Eagles were happy to take advantage. They plated five runs, all earned, on six hits in that frame alone while managing only two in Sands’ other five innings.
Sands, who only walked one but struck out just two, failed to meet the eye test (or any test for that matter) for the second straight week. If Tyler Holton deals once again in Saturday’s early game, it’s hard to dispute that there may be a change atop FSU’s weekend rotation going forward.
2. Facing an early deficit, Florida State’s oft-potent offense committed many cardinal sins of batting which significantly hindered the comeback effort.
The Seminoles grounded into double plays galore, four in all. Three came in consecutive innings (third, fourth, fifth) immediately after falling behind. Two of those, the fourth and fifth inning offenses, came from the second batter of the frame right after a leadoff walk. The final and most detrimental double play came from Walls when he grounded into one with runners on first and second in a two-run game in the bottom of the eighth, wasting what turned out to be FSU’s last real chance at scoring.
FSU’s batters also found themselves swinging and connecting on pitches early in at-bats, which rarely led to success. This goes against not just the team’s mantra of plate discipline, but also contradicts the easiest way to get people on base and cut into a deficit. The ’Noles earned seven walks in the loss, but it could have easily been more if the offense had been a tad more patient.
In all, Florida State finished 1-7 (.143) with runners in scoring position, another way to negate the chances at overcoming an early deficit.
3. There were a number of options for how to handle this final negative takeaway. Florida State’s defense was suspect and one of the Seminoles’ most promising freshmen, Nick Derr, had a dreadful night. Instead, the final down rests on the shoulders of head coach Mike Martin.
In a 7-5 game with runners on second and third in the bottom of the 7th, Martin decided to pinch hit Matt Cavanaugh for Tyler Daughtry. Cavanaugh, although talented, entered Friday with only 10 at-bats on the year. Daughtry had already accumulated three walks in Friday’s game and now has 13 free passes on the year, second only to Walls. Instead, in his first clutch-time plate appearance, Cavanaugh watched strike three, retiring FSU with the two tying runners left in scoring position.
After the game when he was asked about the decision, Martin said it was a matchup decision to bring in Cavanaugh, a righty, over Daughtry, a lefty. Although that makes sense in theory, Daughtry has more walks this season than Cavanaugh has at-bats, calling this into question.
With bad weather in the forecast for Sunday in Tallahassee, the Seminoles and Eagles elected to play a doubleheader on Saturday instead. Game #1 is slated for a 1 PM start with game two scheduled for 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.