There was significant buzz entering Tuesday’s matchup between the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles and the No. 5 Florida Gators in Gainesville. But for as much acclaim as there has been about this FSU team, particularly the offense, the Seminoles came up flat at the plate in a 1-0 loss to the Gators, marking the fourth consecutive regular season loss in Gainesville and extending FSU’s scoreless streak against UF to 31 innings dating back to last year’s super regional.
1. When sophomore starting pitcher Andrew Karp’s stuff is working for him, he is a lot of fun to watch. Tuesday was one of those nights.
He made it through seven full innings on 89 pitches, walking none while striking out 11, and allowing one earned run on five hits.
In all honesty, Karp’s one run he surrendered (and the fact that he was saddled with the loss) was quite unlucky. It came on a check swing which turned into a bloop over Taylor Walls and into the outfield. Other than that occasion, Karp was excellent in working out of the few jams he got himself into.
With speed topping out at 93 miles per hour and a nasty slider which had Florida hitters whiffing all night, Karp put together quite possibly his best outing of the year against the best team he has faced. It seems like just a matter of time before he is shifted into the weekend rotation.
2. In a stadium that has seen FSU put together some dreadful defensive play over recent years, Florida State’s play in the field was exceptional on Tuesday.
The Seminoles committed no errors in the loss, doing their part defensively even if they didn’t at the plate.
Tyler Daughtry excelled in another new position, third base, while Dylan Busby continues to look far more natural at first than he does at third. Additionally, it was Rhett Aplin, playing in left field, who had the web gem of the evening, a diving catch in foul territory in the first inning.
There are a number of reasons you could use to explain the loss, but defense was surely not one of them.
3. Florida State was kept in check very well on offense, managing just four hits. Three of those four hits, as it turned out, came from the bottom of the lineup, FSU’s seven, eight, and nine hitters, Nick Derr, J.C. Flowers, and Matt Henderson, each had one hit in the loss.
Derr and Flowers, coming into Tuesday with .333 and .283 batting averages, respectively, have been among Florida State’s more productive hitters so far this year. Henderson, however, who will be fighting for his starting spot once Drew Mendoza and Jackson Lueck are healthy, got a much needed hit to raise his batting average, which sat at .200 entering Tuesday.
1. As is to be expected in a game where a team only manages four hits, Florida State had limited opportunities to break into the scoring column. The defining factor between the two teams on Tuesday, though, was that FSU often squandered its opportunities with mistakes and questionable math decisions.
In the fourth inning, after he led off with a hit-by-pitch, Dylan Busby was picked off of first base after he was chased back to the bag on multiple occasions early in the subsequent at-bat. It was the second time in as many games where Busby was picked off of a base, making him stick out like a sore thumb on a team that has otherwise done very well on the bases this season.
In the sixth, Taylor Walls led off the frame with a single up the middle, FSU’s only leadoff hit all evening. From there, Mike Martin made the choice to bunt him over to second base. In a scoreless affair entering the later innings, this decision can’t be deemed a horrible one. Nonetheless, the math behind sacrifice bunting says that a team is more likely to score with a runner on first and no outs than with a runner on second and one out. The math proved right this time as Walls was stranded on third, the only FSU baserunner to reach third all night, and another chance went wasted.
2. Florida’s pitching staff, taught by head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to pound the strike zone, did exactly that on Tuesday. Florida State reached only two three-ball counts all evening and a FSU team built on a foundation of plate discipline struggled with pitchers attacking the zone.
The ‘Noles finished with no walks for the first time this season and never looked entirely comfortable at the plate. It was clear that the FSU coaches preached swinging early in counts to their team, but the shift in mentality proved unsuccessful as the team was able to create only minimal offense.
3. Considering the bottom of the FSU lineup accounted for three of the team’s four hits, the remaining six hitters were left with a combined one hit, which was Walls’. Florida State’s two through six hitters finished the loss a combined 0-16 with seven strikeouts. Tyler Daughtry and Busby had two strikeouts each while the other three had one strikeout each and Busby was the only one of the bunch to reach base, which he did by hit-by-pitch.
It may have been a single game against a very talented UF pitching staff, but Florida State will see little success in any instance where such a substantial chunk of the lineup was so completely ineffective.
BONUS UP: Mike Martin shared after the game that star freshman Drew Mendoza, who has not yet donned the garnet and gold after suffering a broken jaw in the fall and a broken thumb in spring practice, had the pins taken out and cast removed from his arm earlier on Tuesday. Martin was unable to give an exact timetable, but he said that Mendoza’s personal goal is to be ready two weeks from Tuesday, which happens to be the next time Florida State plays Florida.
That matchup, slated for March 28th at Jacksonville’s Baseball Grounds, will be the second of three times the two teams will meet during the regular season.
FSU has little time to dwell on Tuesday’s loss, however, as they stay on the road for an away matchup at Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday with a scheduled start time of 6:30 PM.