Florida State entered Friday’s opener against Oakland riding high. The Seminoles had won four straight games and were going up against a 1-7 team that seemed unlikely to put up much resistance. For a few early innings, however, the highly improbable became quite possible.
The ’Noles fell behind 7-0 entering the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to a slow start from the offense, and a very rough outing for starting pitcher Cole Sands.
Still, FSU’s volatile offense erupted to lead a major comeback which eventually turned into a blowout the other way as the ’Noles took home a 18-10 win over the Grizz in the first of three games between the two this weekend.
1. After an miserable start from Sands, Florida State found itself in need of its lengthiest outing from the bullpen of the season. Will Zirzow was more than happy to answer the call.
Zirzow entered and immediately helped FSU escape a jam. He did well to carry that momentum forward. Over three innings of work, he allowed just one hit, while striking out five, and left just one out away from recording the victory.
He may have lost control in his final inning, walking the last two batters he faced, but Zirzow remains, quite unexpectedly, one of FSU’s best bullpen options after throwing just 18.1 innings a season ago.
In a year where many of the expected steady arms out of the pen have struggled early, Zirzow’s development is a welcome addition to FSU’s pitching staff.
2. With an offense as stacked as Florida State’s, it seems that no deficit is insurmountable.
All seemed lost as the Florida State offense got off to a devastatingly slow start in Friday’s opener, mounting a run on two hits over the opening four frames while Oakland shot out to a 7-0 lead.
Starting in the fifth, however, that all changed. The Seminoles broke out for a total of 17 runs over the next four innings, turning what was once a seven-run deficit into an eight-run lead.
Key in the comeback was a throwback to classic Florida State small ball which saw the ’Noles score those 17 runs on eight hits. FSU took advantage of a weak Oakland bullpen, which was a significant step down from the Grizz’ starting pitcher to finish with 12 walks.
The big play of FSU’s comeback was saved for Quincy Nieporte, however. His grand slam, the big play of the Seminoles’ eight-run seventh inning, was another display of the step forward he has taken this year. He now has three homers, two of which were grand slams, and has racked up 15 RBI through the first nine games of the year, showing improvement in his stated goal this season to be a true slugger.
3. Florida State saw its greatest success in two-out situations in Friday’s win. All seven of the Seminoles’ first seven runs which evened the game up came with two outs on the board. In all, FSU finished going 5-13 (.385) with two outs, far above their .286 batting average for the game.
1. Through the first eight games, FSU’s starting pitching has been a strength. Perhaps all the built-up good karma the Seminoles had over the opening two weeks ran out on Friday, as Sands put together what was easily the Seminoles’ worst starting pitching performance of the young season.
He left in the fourth inning after recording no outs, allowing seven runs (three earned) on seven hits. He walked a pair and struck out two.
What makes a troublesome outing even worse was the fact that even when Sands was recording outs, he was doing so on hard-hit balls which showed just how much he didn’t have it in the series opener against Oakland.
Sands’ disappointing performance marks the first time this season that a Florida State starter went fewer than five innings. The opposition level may make this a bit more problematic, but until this becomes a trend, hope can remain that it was an isolated incident.
2. Sands was in little way aided by the defensive performance of his catcher, Cal Raleigh. The sophomore backstop, who had shown signs of improvement this season, especially in throwing out baserunners, took a step back Friday.
During Sands’ limited time in the game, Raleigh allowed a passed ball and had a pair of throwing errors which badly missed the target. From there, he straightened out defensively, while also contributing a key double as part of Florida State’s comeback. Still, it was an underwhelming showing for the Seminoles’ catcher.
3. In one of the truest displays of how inaccurate a representation of pitching prowess record can be, Ed Voyles went down as the winning pitcher.
While Zirzow threw three innings of shutout baseball, Voyles allowed three runs, all earned, on four hits in 1.1 innings of work after replacing Zirzow.
Voyles, one of FSU’s best relievers from a season ago (2.66 ERA in 47.1 innings), has gotten off to a tumultuous start to his 2017 campaign. After Friday’s outing, his ERA skyrocketed to 15.43.
As an entire pitching staff, this was a night to forget against a weak Oakland offense. 10 runs allowed is twice as many as FSU allowed in any of its first eight games.
Saturday’s game is slated for 1 PM and is projected to see southpaw Tyler Holton (2-0, 0.69 ERA) throw for FSU against Oakland’s Tyler Palm (0-1, 3.00 ERA).