Florida State entered the weekend in desperate need of a series win at 6-12 Notre Dame a week after losing a road series at Virginia Tech, squandering an opportunity against one of the weaker ACC teams.
This weekend proved to be different, though, as the Seminoles used spectacular all-around showings in each of Friday’s two games to outscore the Irish 16-5 over a doubleheader sweep to clinch a series win away from Dick Howser Stadium with an 8-2 win in the first game and a 8-3 victory in 13 innings in the second.
1. Florida State’s starting pitching, which has taken a step back of late, stepped up in South Bend with a pair of quality starts from the Seminoles’ two sophomore weekend starters, Cole Sands and Tyler Holton.
Sands, who started game one, put together a second consecutive impressive performance after a string of underwhelming starts which cast his future as FSU’s Friday starter into some doubt. Sands went six innings and racked up seven strikeouts, matching his career high set last week against Virginia Tech. It may not have been the most efficient outing as Sands walked two batters and needed 104 pitches to get through six innings. However, it was a very productive outing as he surrendered only one run for the second straight week, doing so while allowing five hits. Sands’ progress has been promising, especially considering how concerning the beginning of his season was. His earned run average has dropped all the way to a respectable 3.13 and he has firmly re-cemented his spot in the weekend rotation.
Holton, meanwhile, started the second game on Friday and had a return to form after he struggled against VT. His stat line is eerily similar to the one posted by Sands as Holton went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking one. His showing against the Irish is a tribute to the fact that his poor outing against the Hokies last weekend was an anomaly and not the beginning of a downward trend.
2. The Florida State batter in most dire need of a breakout game (or two) was Dylan Busby. Friday’s doubleheader turned out to be exactly what he needed as he parlayed success in the opener into production in game two as well.
Busby’s three-run home run in the fourth inning of Friday’s first game sparked Florida State’s offense, getting the Seminoles on the board after a slow start which saw them earn two hits over the opening three innings.
Busby hardly stopped there, however. Over the doubleheader, he was a combined 6-12 with a homer, two doubles, four RBI and three runs. The two-game performance raised his season batting average from .244 to .276, perhaps igniting the struggling slugger in the process.
3. FSU’s stellar starting pitching in both games was supplemented by solid relief work, especially in game two of the double feature. Friday’s finale proved to be the perfect justification for Mike Martin’s decision to move Drew Carlton to the closer role.
Carlton excelled in an extended bullpen appearance, racking up a season high seven strikeouts over 3.2 shutout innings. FSU’s weekend rotation is hardly perfect, but the positive progress shown this weekend paired with Carlton’s ability to give significant innings out of the ‘pen has me believing in Martin’s heavily scrutinized decision.
4. Due to our decision to put together one three up, three down for the entire doubleheader, I feel justified in sneaking in a fourth positive takeaway.
Over 22 innings played on Friday between the two games, FSU committed no errors, doing exactly what was needed to supplement the solid pitching performances thrown together by the Seminoles. Many young Seminoles continued to flash their versatility as freshmen Tyler Daughtry and Nick Derr split third base duties across the two games, both looking natural in the roles along with the rest of the Florida State defense.
1. Florida State’s offense struggled at times through Friday’s two games and a large part of this can be attributed to the miserable numbers put up by FSU’s 1, 2, and 3 hitters in each of the two games.
The top of the FSU order was a combined 3-30 (.100) over Friday’s two games. The trio may have scored three runs and knocked in two more, but they struck out six times with Taylor Walls earning four of the group’s six walks.
It may not have affected either of the games’ outcomes on this occasion, but poor showings from the top of the order, especially Walls and Cal Raleigh, who had finally started to emerge as who they were expected to be this year, would be an unfortunate trend to break into.
2. Situational hitting struggles from the Seminoles allowed the Irish to keep the second game close and force the extra innings. Florida State finished Friday’s finale 3-16 (.188) with runners in scoring position and an only slightly improved .211 (4-19) with runners on base. This led to expected missed chances and saw the ’Noles leave twelve men on base over the 13-inning affair.
Another issue which plagued FSU was its strikeout-to-walk ratio. In the first game, the Seminoles struck out eight times while walking just once. Game Two saw an uptick in free passes as Florida State walked nine times, but nine strikeouts combat that productivity significantly.
3. Whether or not Florida State and Notre Dame will be able to play the final game of this weekend set is very much up in the air as the weather forecast in South Bend for Saturday and Sunday are questionable at best. If they are unable to play, the Seminoles miss the chance to add another win to their conference record against one of the easier ACC opponents, further emphasizing how important the sweep of ND in Friday’s two games was.
The third game is scheduled for a 4:05 start on Saturday, but could be played on Sunday as well if the weather tomorrow will not allow it. Drew Parrish will get the start on the mound should the game be played.